PERFECT BLUE (1999)

 

Format: 81-minute feature

 

Rating: R (N, AC, AL, GV)

 

Type: Thriller

 

American Production: Manga Entertainment

 

Japanese Production: Rex Entertainment

 

Grading

 

Premise:

A-

Story:

A

Writing:

A

Character Design:

A-

Animation:

B

Artistic Merits:

B

English Dub:

B+

Musical Score:

B+

Songs:

B

 

 

Humor Content:

n/a

Action Content:

B

Drama Content:

A-

 

 

DVD Presentation:

A-

DVD Extras:

B

 

 

OVERALL:

A-

 

Synopsis

      (Taken in part from the blurb on the back of the DVD case:)

 

      Mima Kirigoe, an idol singer in a modestly successful pop trio called Cham, leaves behind her singing career to pursue a new career in acting. When she lands a difficult but key role in a sexually charged psycho-thriller called Double Blind, Mima’s life gradually begins to fall apart. Reality and hallucinations merge in a terrifying netherworld where innocence is lost and dreams become nightmares. Quickly descending into a dangerous state of paranoid delusions not unlike those her TV character is supposed to be undergoing, Mima discovers an Internet site containing information about her that is a little too personal, while an obsessive fan upset about her change of careers seems to her to be stalking her. Helpless and afraid, she is dogged by the image of her former identity as a pop idol while someone seems to be going around threatening and killing those associated with her. Or is she doing it herself? For Mima, the realities of the real word and that of her series are becoming hard to tell apart.

 

Quotes

      “Excuse me. . . who are you?” (Mima)

 

The Long View

      A taut, mind-bending psycho-thriller that would have done Alfred Hitchcock proud, Perfect Blue is the movie that put director Satoshi Kon on the anime map. It is an impressive journey into the growing psychosis of its central character and a harsh but probably realistic look at the realities of turning a singer who embodies childlike innocence into a mature actor. It is also a story that could only have been told in Japan and by Japanese creators, since some of the crucial elements of the story are peculiar to Japan. American viewers have probably seen parallels to the basic plot from U.S. productions, but the nature of idol singers has a distinct impact on the story and there is no equivalent to a Japanese idol singer in the U.S. music business.

      The depth of the storytelling is remarkable for a tightly-plotted production that clocks in at a mere 81 minutes. Though it does not use symbolism and subtext as much as some other great anime movies (see Princess Mononoke), Perfect Blue is replete with layered meaning. The quote given above is significant not only for being the first line of Mima’s acting career but also because it reflects Mima’s own internal struggle over her drastic career change; it neatly sums up the entire movie in just five words. The title, which refers to a clear sky, is also loaded with meaning. The end of Mima’s trials is marked by a prominent shot of a clear sky, which is an indication to the viewer that Mima has achieved the clarity of the “perfect blue.” Also listen carefully to the song lyrics and statements made by other characters (“it’s time to wake up from your dream now,” one of Mima’s fellow actresses tells her at a crucial point) for additional hidden meaning. The smooth blending of Mima’s real world into her TV show’s world is a clever trick that has been used before but is particularly effective here.

            The character designs for Perfect Blue are top-caliber, reflecting an artistic realism not commonly seen in anime. The animation and artistry beyond character design, while both good, are more solid than spectacular. Of note is one neat scene where we get a spinning panoramic shot of Mima which suggests that things, for her, are out of control (this is especially remarkable considering how tricky that must have been to do with animation) and the way the series occasionally flashes back and forth between two scenes and repeats others for dramatic effect. These are all tricks that have been used for decades in filmmaking, but rarely before had they ever been applied to animation. The English dub is quite good, especially Ruby Marlowe in the lead role, and the soundtrack is particularly effective except for the number in the closing credits. The songs performed by Cham at various points are catchy but not particularly exciting.

      Parents should be warned that Perfect Blue is not a movie appropriate for younger viewers. The story is one for adults, and the graphic content gets quite strong. Characters are seen being stabbed at more than one point, small amounts of nudity and foul language are peppered throughout, and there is a rape scene filmed as part of Double Bind which gets fairly intense. (The effect this scene has on some of the witnessing characters is quite telling.) Very little of this content is gratuitous, and I feel the movie would have lost some of its impact if this content were trimmed out.

 

DVD Extras

      The extras menu is titled “Mima’s Room” and made to look like a mock-up of a crucial Web site in the series, with features subdivided the way you might expect on a Web site; a neat approach. The extras include:

·  Cham – Includes both the English version of the theme song and an in-studio video of the recording of the Japanese version.

·  Some Photos I Took – A captioned gallery of still shots from the movie set to the creepy soundtrack. Worth a look.

·  My Favorite Videos/My Favorite DVDs – Video catalogs, NOT trailers

·  Meet Some Of My Friends – Short individual interviews with the English voice actors for Mima, Rumi, and Mr. Me-Mania (all set to scenes of the movie with voice-overs only, unfortunately), the seiyuu for Mima (in person, and she’s quite cute), and the director (in person). Questions range from the utterly inane fairly insightful, and I don’t understand why Mr. Me-Mania’s voice actor was included, since he actually has only a couple of speaking lines in the whole movie despite being one of the most prominent characters.

 

Principle English Voice Actors

Role

Voice Actor

Mima Kirigoe

Ruby Marlowe

Rumi

Wendee Lee

Tadokuro

Gil Starberry

Eri Ochiai

Lia Sargent*

Tejima

Steve Bulen

Mureno

James Lyons

Rei (Cham singer), reporter

Melissa Williamson

Yukiko (Cham singer)

Bambi Darro

Mr. Me-Mania

Bob Marx

Shibuya

Jimmy Theodore

Yamashiro

Sparky Thornton

Cham manager

Dylan Tully

prominent Cham fans

David Lucas, Kermit Beachwood

 

      * - also the writer for the English script and co-director for the English dub

 

 

 

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