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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 5/15/00

Perfect Blue
1997 (2000) - Manga

review by Brad Pilcher of The Digital Bits

Perfect Blue Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/B/A-

Specs and Features

83 mins, unrated, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch 20:31 in chapter ?), Amaray keep case packaging, "behind the scenes" performances, interviews with voice actors and director Satoshi Kon, musical photo gallery, 2 hidden trailers, film-themed menu screens, scene access (14 chapters), languages: Japanese & English (DD 5.1), English (DD 2.0), subtitles: English

"Excuse me. Who are you?"

There are certain preconceptions most people have about anime. One of those preconceptions is that anime deals only with fantasy and sci-fi, particularly featuring cute or crazed creatures. While this is probably not surprising to most, it is an unfortunate testament on a style that could easily lend itself to many genres. With Perfect Blue, anime takes a step forward, crossing that boundary with a more modern psychological thriller.

It should be noted that this was originally intended to be a 90-minute live-action film, but production delays related to the 1994 Kobe earthquake led to a decision that the film be animated. The reality that the subject matter had never really been approached by anime before made all involved step back and attempt to secure the best in the business. When anime legend Katsuhiro Otomo read the script, he recommended that Satoshi Kon direct and all was laid in place.

The reason Perfect Blue isn't your typical anime, is because its subject is totally foreign to the anime field. There are no crazy monsters or military cyborgs here. The setting is modern day Japan, not a dystopian future. The characters are real human beings in every way. The theme of the movie is the psychological impact of fame and an analysis of dementia. That anime could pull this off well is not doubted, but it was never really tried before.

The story follows Mima, who is a member of the pop group Cham. When she makes a decision to leave the group to pursue a solo acting career, her life begins a downward tumble. Her agent makes a decision to take her away from the pop idol image, and lands her a role in a sexually charged and violent TV series. The role is small and involves a rape scene that quickly sours her image to the public.

The discovery of a web site supposedly (but not actually) written by her, makes her increasingly worried about the dangers of her fame. Hallucinations soon set in, as she is increasingly regretful of her decision to leave Cham. They're driving up the charts and she's been reduced to nude photo shoots. That people close to her begin dying is almost a side issue, as she increasingly becomes detached from the world around her.

The last third of the film features a mix of hyper-editing that increases the confusion as to what is real and what is not. It doesn’t help that the ending is something of a let down. You have to walk away from the film scratching your head, trying to make sense of what you’ve just seen. But make no mistake - this is a solid psychological play.

Perfect Blue may get pigeonholed by fans because of it being atypical anime and unusually violent. The nudity probably doesn't help either - this is not a flick for kids. But I think it's worth seeing. It definitely broadens the anime horizon, and it’s definitely a breath of fresh air from your typical Hollywood fare.

The video on the disc could have been much better, unfortunately. The animation here is actually not as good as many other anime titles on the market now. Ghost in the Shell, for one, simply blows it away on many different levels. But Perfect Blue doesn't actually require groundbreaking animation. It just requires solid animation, and it gets it. What this disc doesn't get is a very good print. There's plenty of defects and grain to be seen here, and the colors are sometimes oversaturated. The oversaturation is minor, but it's unfortunate that a film so distinct and new in approach couldn't get better treatment. The audio is better, but not in any way earth-shaking. The American dialogue track is actually as good or better than the Japanese here from an acting standpoint, and that's unusual. Interviews with the voice-actors further show how much thought was put in by the Americans, and how naive and inexperienced the Japanese voice-actress for Mima was.

The disc's extras are done well. High profile Manga titles actually seem to get a good treatment on the supplement side. Ghost in the Shell, for example, was teeming with material. Perfect Blue has an equally solid set of extras, featuring the aforementioned interviews and some behind-the-scenes footage of them recording songs. The American theme is available for listening, along with some still-frames from the movie. There are actually two trailers, one for the film itself and one for other Manga titles. They are both semi-Easter-eggs, and can be found by clicking on the links section.

Don't let the bubble-gum pop feel of the first few minutes fool you. This film is dark in subject matter and in no way bubble-gum-like in its style. It's a psychological thriller, and a good one at that. I don't agree with those that make comparisons to Hitchcock. It may take a Hitchcockian approach, but it is nowhere near his level. Still, pick it up as it will broaden your anime boundaries and give you something very un-Hollywood for your collection.

Brad Pilcher

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