Perfect Blue (1997)
Directed by Satoshi Kon
1997 80 minutes
Rated: (for animated violence, gore, nudity, and sexual situations).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, July 20, 1999.
"Perect Blue," directed by first-time filmmaker Satoshi Kon, was my first foray into the world of anime films, a contemporary animation style from Japan, and as such, I can also call it the most outlandish animated film I've ever seen. Definitely not for children, it is a violent and bloody thriller, but one that is thoroughly likable, thanks to the amicably sympathetic lead character.
The film tells the story of Mima Kirigoe, the lead vocalist of a Japanese pop band called Cham, who decides to quit her rising singing career to pursue acting, despite the caution of her manager. She quickly garners a pivotal role on a televison series, but begins recieving threatening letters and faxes, and also learns of an internet site that tells everything she does each day, down to the smallest detail. Someone must be watching her every move, Mima decides, but that's far from her only problem. A lookalike of Mima starts to appear everywhere she goes, threatening to restart her music career, posing as her.
"Perfect Blue" is a wildly inventive creation that is just about as adult as an animated film can get, and at times, I even started to forget that it was, in fact, animated. The filmmaking process of the soap opera Mima stars in is shown in a techincal, realistic light, and it occasionally could waver over into the category of being creepy, particularly the climax, which involves a twist that I not for once saw coming.
The unique animation style is one of the highlights of viewing the film. Although not up to the artistry of a Disney picture, it nonetheless remains almost life-like, particularly in the drawings of the characters and the city landscapes that can be seen from Mima's apartment. The colors are bright and stylized, and the animation always seems reality-based, rather than Disney's often exaggerated features.
Since it is the character of Mima that guides us through the film, it was improtant that the viewer could see eye-to-eye with her. Mima loves her music career, but doesn't want to be known as a "pop star," and so she finds herself in a situation in which she gets stuck doing a graphic television series that, in one scene, requires her character to be raped. Somewhat ashamed of herself, and for defying her best friend, Rumi, who didn't want her to do the scene, Mima finally blows up in her room when she sees that, not only is someone stalking her and she has a crazed doppleganger running around, but her pet fish have all died.
At 80 minutes, "Perfect Blue" runs at a brisk pace, but still manages to grow tedious and slightly confusing in the middle half-hour, which becomes particularly repetitive. The exciting, gory climax boosts the film up a notch, however, with a chase across the rooftops of buildings and through the city streets. Best of all, with the final line of dialogue that comes from Mima in the last scene, I noticed a definite growth on Mima's part, as she finally realizes she can do whatever she wants for her career, just as long as it makes her happy. "Perfect Blue" isn't quite as perfect as the title suggests, but it is still a film that I could easily recommend to those searching for something a bit more original than the norm.
© 1999 by Dustin Putman