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PERFECT BLUE

Review by Alex Haberstroh

Stars:  Junko Iwao, Rica Matsumoto, Shinpachi Tsuji, Masaaki Okura
 
Director:  Satoshi Kon
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1 (English and Japanese)
Video: 
2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Studio:  Manga
Features:  See Review
Length:  83 Minutes
Release Date:  April 25, 2000

“Excuse me…who are you?”

Film ***

For anyone who thinks of anime as merely “stupid Japanese cartoons” or “kid’s stuff,” Perfect Blue is an abrupt and shocking wake up call.  Referred to by many who have seen it as “Hitchcockesque,” Perfect Blue is as professionally done and suspenseful as any thriller that I’ve seen in a long time.   

From its opening shots, Perfect Blue is successful at leading viewers through a series of scenes which build a growing sense of tension over dramatic developments, along with a growing sense of apprehension over the degradation faced by the heroine.  Bright white lights hit the performers on stage; the crowd is just a moving black blur.  One pale figure stands out of the crowd, a sick pencil thin smile on his face, as he gapes at her with longing.     

Perfect Blue is the story of Mima Kirigoe, a fairly popular singer in a Japanese bubblegum group called CHAM (think Backstreet Boys or even the Spice Girls).  When Mima decides to lose her “pop idol” status in favor of starting an acting career, she is plagued with feelings of doubt and frustration as her dreams of acting begin with muttering one line on a cheap X-Files type rip-off soap.  As the movie progresses, the director emphasizes the dark and costly sacrifice of fame as Mima is forced to do more and more things that compromise her integrity, including a rape scene for the show and posing nude for a magazine.  All the while, she receives mysterious threats, and the people around her begin to turn up sliced to pieces.  Moreover, the bizarre stalker from the concert haunts her dreams and follows her during the day, and a website that claims to be her’s, knows everything about her, even down to what kind of milk she had for breakfast.  Is she crazy?  Is she responsible?  The director slides from scene to scene creating an almost dreamlike state which drags the viewer deeper and deeper into the oblivion of insanity.  The line of reality becomes blurred so much that, like Mima, the viewer doesn’t know what reality is, whether this is all a dream or a nightmare, and we are helpless to do anything but watch.

To provide any more detail would infringe on the plot and its incredible twists.  All in all, this is an incredibly done thriller that drags you in unsuspectingly and grabs you.  While the animation doesn’t show the production expense on the level of a Disney production, it never loses its focus in reality for the fantastic, shadows and lighting detail look incredibly realistic and at points you’ll forget you’re even watching an animated movie. 

Director Satoshi Kon has crafted a suspense thriller using the greater range that animation allows him.  There are no worries faced by a conventional movie on such issues as stunts, sets, and weather problems, here Kon is master and is free to do anything that’ll aid him to bring the viewer more into the story.  This is what made the film all the more special for me, as it does not take the typical approach of animated films, but is more raw.  Rooms are confining, lights are bright, shadows are malevolent, and shapes seem to lurk behind them.  

Beware though; keep in mind for those of you who have children.  This is definitely not Sailor Moon or Dragonball Z, this is a violent thriller rated “R” for good reason.

Video ***1/2

The video quality is generally pretty good.  Blacks are represented and the colors are generally true throughout.  There are no problems with grain.  All in all, this is a solid effort from Manga.  ‘Nuff said.  

Audio ****

The dual Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in English and Japanese are a great feature by Manga which I hope they can continue on their upcoming releases.  I was especially pleased by the Japanese track that makes good use of the surrounds, filling them with the occasional music cues, effects, or dialogue.  I didn’t notice too much of the .1 LFE track in use, but I guess the film really didn’t have much need for it.

I happily ignored the English DD 5.1 track in favor of the Japanese one, which I urge for others if you don’t mind reading subtitles, as Perfect Blue has poor quality English dubbing.  The result of the English track is nice sounding effects and music similar to the Japanese track, but ridiculous sounding characters that weaken the more suspenseful moments.  

Supplements ***

Manga in this disc offers some pretty cool supplemental menus based on the web page in the movie called “Mima’s Room.”  The first option is “CHAM,” which breaks down into two options called “In the Studio” and “English theme song.”  “In the studio” is just that, you get to watch the three actresses who sing the signature song for the pop group “CHAM” that is sung in the opening shots.  “English theme song” is a somewhat shoddy translation of the song to English. 

Next up are “Some Photos I took,” which is basically screen shots from the movie, with a description below of what’s going on.  After that was “My favorite videos” and “My favorite DVD’s,” which are both ads for other Manga titles.

“Meet some of my friends” is interviews with the cast, namely the actress that does the English dubbed “Mima,” as well as the actress who do the Japanese version, the English dubbed “Rumi,” the English dubbed “Mr. Me-Mania,” and finally the director.  Overall, the disc contains about 24 minutes or so worth of interviews.  I enjoyed the interview with Director Satoshi Kon the most, as he gives insight into reasons for certain animation layouts and designs.

Finally, as with most Manga releases, the disc is rounded out by a Links section if you want to learn more about Manga, and an acknowledgements page.

Summary:

In conclusion, Perfect Blue is an edgy and biting look at the underbelly of fame and the risks that come with it.  While some may view the movie as more on the “slow end,” with action points few and far between, I’d still recommend this for people willing to take a chance on a thoughtful suspense thriller that might just surprise them.