Perfect Blue

Mima Kirigoe is a pop idol in the band "Cham" who is quitting singing to pursue an acting career. She starts out with a small role in a murder mystery, but the producers like her work and there's a lot of pressure on her to make it as an actress now that she's left the music industry. As her role in the movie is expanded, threats and murders surrounding the movie begin paralleling the storyline of the film. As the pressure and hard work take their toll on Mima's mental state, she discovers a website revealing intimate details of her day-to-day thoughts and activities. Mima spends more and more time staring at the perfect blue Tokyo sky, questioning her own faculties and losing her identity to her role as an actress and as a fan idol, while all around her the danger increases.

The Movie:
Roger Corman said Perfect Blue is a perfect example of what would've happened if Walt Disney had partnered with Alfred Hitchcock. I cannot think of any better way to describe this movie than that. The animation by Studio Mad House is on par with anything you've seen from Disney, although admittedly, a non-action oriented movie doesn't require quite as much from an animation team. The story by Yoshikazu Takeuchi and directing by Satoshi Kon are equal to anything Hitchcock did, and that's high praise coming from me. The music by Masahiro Ikumi really does a great job of adding to the suspense, as it should in any good thriller. (I still get the creeps if it's dark in the house and I let the DVD menu music play too long.) All in all, just a great film.

But the real strength is the storytelling. It's based on a book, as nearly all good film stories are. But more than that, the way it's told on the screen is just great. This is one of the few movies of this type that I enjoy just as much each time I watch it. With your normal mystery/thriller, all the surprise leaves after the first viewing. You know it's great, but you can never experience that thrill of not knowing what's next after watching the movie the first time. The way the story is told in this, each person walks away with a slightly different idea of what they saw. (Compare it to Vanilla Sky or a David Lynch film.) It may seem straightforward, but once you start talking to the people who you watch it with, you'll all point out details and perspectives the others missed. I've changed my mind back and forth about what I think happened in the movie each time I watch it. You have to watch it and see for yourself.

Everyone might not enjoy this, but they should, by God. The movie is easier to make sense of if you have a working understanding of some aspects of Japanese culture. It doesn't hold your hand explaining anything. But more than that, I think this movie has been a bit of a sleeper because it's kind of missing its audience over here in the States. The crowd that watches good suspense mysteries would tend to scoff at animated features, I think. And the general anime fan wants more action and less thinking, from my experience. (Millions of DBZ fans can't be wrong.) Not to say that all fans of those types fit into those descriptions, but I think it's a fair generalization. So if any of you out there hear me, give this movie a shot. Forget it's animated, or sit down and get ready to use your brain for 81 minutes, whichever one you're not used to doing, because you are missing out on this film.

The DVD:
Aside from being a great movie, this is a great DVD. By normal DVD standards, this would be a little weak, but anime DVDs generally are. First off, high quality animation. Second, Dolby 5.1 sound. Really good English dub, and the Japanese with English subtitles for purists. That alone would be good, but this is a rare anime DVD that actually has extras! Interviews with voice actors, and even one with Mr. Kon himself, (though he's reluctant to explain anything about the story), a photo gallery, trailers, musical performances, and more! All this and you can find it at a reasonable price, instead of ten dollars more just because it's Japanese. Final verdict: this one's a steal. Check it out.

- - Jeff Light

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