Perfect Blue

Official Blurb:

"Mima was a pop idol, worshiped by the masses until fashion dictated otherwise. In order to salvage her ailing career, she is advised to drop music and pursue acting. A soap opera role is offered but Mima's character is less clean cut than desired. Regardless, she agrees and events take a turn for the worse."

"She begins to feel reality slip slowly, that her life is not her own. She discovers (imagines) her identical twin, a mirror image that hasn't given up singing. Internet sites appear describing every intimate detail of her life and a mysterious figure stalks her from the shadows. Her friends and associates are threatened (and killed) as Mima descends into a dangerous world of paranoid delusion. She fears for her life and must unravel fact from fiction in order to stay alive."

Director:            Satoshi Kon
Original story:      Yoshikazu Takeuchi
Screenplay:          Sadayuki Murai
Character design:    Hisashi Eguchi, Hideki Hamazu, Satoshi Kon
Music:               Masahiro Ikumio Office 193
Copyright:           Rex Entertainment Co. Ltd

Language Format:     English Language
Running time:        90 mins
Certificate:         18
Label:               Manga Video
Catalogue no:        MANV 1207
Price:               £13.99
Release Date:        11th October 1999

DVD version:
Language Format:     Billingual English/Japanese, optional English subtitles
Additional Features: Original theatrical trailer, cast and crew interviews,
                     picture gallery, Japanese 'virtual radio' CDROM content.
Certificate:         18
Label:               Manga Video
Catalogue no:        MANG 4049
Price:               £17.99
Release Date:        17th July 2000

Comment from newsgroups:

Brad Kovacs:
This movie was one of the most intense thought provoking movies (anime or
otherwise) I've seen in a long time. The character designs, artwork, and 
technical aspects are all top notch, but its the incredible storyline that
really set this film above the rest.

Pefect Blue is one of those rare movies that as you're watching it, you forget
you are watching an animated film and instead the line between live action
and animation almost seems blurred it is so technically well done. 

In some respects its a difficult movie to watch. There are some rather 
graphic disturbing scenes, especially a rape scene that we are orginally led
to believe is just Mima acting in a drama show but then the plot adds an
extra twist where it seems that Mima may actually have been raped and invents
being an actress to deal with the shock of the event. (I won't give away
which was which ^_^)

I left this movie a little puzzled, a little shocked, but definately thinking
about what I had seen. This is one of those movies you have to see more then
once to grasp the big picture of its message.  Oh yeah and I liked the 
Netscape plug, kudos to the animators on that one! 

Michael Borgwardt:
What impressed me about Perfect Blue was the way it managed to pull off
the "dissolving reality" theme so *well* I don't remember seeing any
other movie that was more as convincing in that area.
For example, the movie didn't need any technical or supernatural
explanations for what was happening. It *does* seem very odd and
ubelievable, but in the end, everything makes sense and can be
explained. The film also uses an exceptionally big number of layers:
it's not just dream and reality that mingle. There are several different
*perceptions* of reality, as well as dreams and a TV series being
filmed that all compete for the title of "true" reality.
The characterization was also very well done. Mima may be going crazy,
but she actually is a quite normal person who just has problems dealing
with very exceptional circumstances.

andrew osmond:
Perfect Blue is possibly too clever for its own good. 

It centres on a young female 'idol' singer, Mima, a colourful Japanese
pop star of the kind immortalised in the Macross SF saga (better known
to US viewers as the first segment of Robotech). Mima, however, is a
down-to-earth, practical woman, striving to make her way in the modern
city. Above all else, she dreams of leaving the pop industry behind and
becoming a serious artist. But someone doesn't want her to go...

Perfect Blue is certainly stylish. The colourful, realistic look is well
up to the standards we expect from new anime and the 'acting' from the
characters is excellent, far removed from the limited movement which
once hampered the medium. Perfect Blue also uses sophisticated narrative
devices that would earn kudos in any live-action film. For example, the
opening intercuts between Mima and her group performing to a rapturous
crowd, and Mima hours later, going home alone, shopping in the
supermarket, getting on with life. The contrast between 'public' and
'private' personas is neatly established, and proves to be the running
theme in the film. This is an anime with brains.

Which is why it's slightly disappointing that the central device is so
familiar. Basically, this is a 'what is reality?' thriller, of a kind
familiar from Nightmare on Elm Street or any of the innumerable
'holodeck' episodes in the new Star Treks. As Mima starts acting in a
Silence of the Lambs-type horror flick, the distinctions between
reality, dreams and drama crumble. A killer stalks the film crew,
murdering them in ways as gory as any splatter-flick. (Hints of Scream.)
Mima has nightmares of a phantom singer with her face, taunting her that
she is no longer 'real.' Meanwhile, the director plays deft tricks with
the audience; for example, we appear to see Mima in everyday life, only
for it to turn out to be a scene in the film she's making.

Later, things get even darker, particularly with a genuinely disturbing
'pseudo-rape' scene (part of the 'film-in-a-film' - the actors pause
halfway through - but does that make a difference?). Such set-pieces
intensify as Mima skips between alternate realities, timeloops, non
sequiters and general weirdness. Unfortunately, fun though these are,
they're accompanied by a breakdown in logic and construction as scenes
meld together with gleeful disregard of coherence. By the climax it's
hard not to take the violence and exploitation at face value, a pity
given the earlier potent ideas. 

Perfect Blue's biggest asset is its novel treatment of personal identity
- not exactly a common theme in popular films! - as poor Mima is
threatened by her more popular idol singer persona. It's an dilemna
Marilyn Monroe would have recognised. The film ties this 'loss of
identity' to the real-life Japanese otaku phenomenon - a sub-culture of
data-obsessed fanboys. The otaku are represented by one particularly
unwashed specimen who builds a website on which to rewrite Mima's life.
Now that's scary... 

Atiya Hakeem:
It started out looking like the sort of show designed to mess with
your mind and ended up as something else.  After some thought, though, 
I wasn't really disappointed with the ending.

I would characterize Perfect Blue as perhaps not deep, but "clever".  It
is a psycho-thriller in which characters are filming a psycho-thriller,
and is full of interwoven references.  The movie and the series within 
the movie have direct references to live-action movies of this genre, 
and also play with indirect similarities of plot and style.  The movie
refers back to the series within itself, and directly to the industry
that created itself.  (I particularly liked the "Japan can't make any 
decent psycho-thrillers" comment from one of the viewers of the show-

The ending was more straightforward than one would expect from a mess-
with-your-mind movie, while still leaving loose ends one wouldn't expect
from a straightforward movie.  However, I thought it succeeded as a very
clever wrap-up to the aforementioned orgy of referral.

andrew osmond:
Well, having seen the film twice - I'm starting to think a third
screening is in order - my impression was that all these different
'layers' were as real or as fake, as objective or subjective, as each
other. The only rule seemed to be that if someone died in one layer, he
was usually dead in subsequent ones as well. I'm not sure I'd call that
making sense, but...

The bit that really bewildered me: in one 'reality' the heroine chases
her idol-self through the rain, only to be hit by a truck driven by the
otaku. Why didn't she die then? Seemed a bit of luck that 'that' reality
was fake, or more fake than the others. My god, I sound like Anno
Hideaki. Aaargh!

I have seen Perfect Blue, and I didn't think much about it.  The plot is
contrived with no build up of suspense.  The villian is exaxtly who we think he
is; however, they do try to through a cog into the machine with the silly
little plot twist at the end (I don't want to spoil it, so I am just alluding
to it).  The idea of a teen idol trying to bunk her previous image isn't
original, and neither is the psycho fan.  The animation is poorly done and the
music is just gawd awful.  Hitchcock gave us interesting camera angles that
show little and distract nothing, which adds to the suspense of his movies. 
This movie doesn't do any of that.  They pacing of the movie is off.  WOH is
deliberately paced but it has a point.  PB is slow for no reason.  It doesn't
add to the psychological examination of the character nor does it build
suspense.  Actually, the slow pace steals any suspense the film may have had.  

Dwayne Gregory:
Rumi-chan is an ex-idol singer who didn't last.  In the past, idol singers were
essentially dumped when they were no longer popular.  There was public outcry over
that practice, so the industry changed its practices to appease the public.   When
it was apparent that an idol was over the hill, she was told that she could continue
her career as an actress.  It isn't a request.  She is to be an actress or she can
quit the industry.  But in any case, at that point her singing career is over.  If
she doesn't want to be an actress, she can quit and become a waitress, store clerk
or whatever.  But no other entertainment company will hire an over the hill idol
singer who defied her company's wishes.

But while idols are moved into acting, there is no real attempt to make them into
actresses.  Rarely were they given acting lessons.  (Mima had none.)  They were put
into a drama and either succeeded or failed on natural skills.  Those that did well
because leading actresses, those who were mediocre became late night drama actresses
in minor roles and those who just couldn't act are frequently seen on game shows.
The only choice an idol has is to turn actress or quit the industry.  Japan is a
tightknit society with a corresponding industry.  You don't just quit one because
you don't like their decision and work for another unless you are very very good.

All this sounds unfair, and it wouldn't happen in America.  But this isn't America.
And if you don't understand that background coupled with a simple understanding of
Japanese culture; their need to be part of a group, their willingness to sacrifice
for the group, the "shoganai" attitude of accepting their fate and moving on with
life and the  attitude of striving to be the best at their job whether they like
their job or not, you will probably miss the significance of half the events of the
show *unless* you are very perceptive.  This show is labeled a psycho thriller.  It
is.  It is also one step short of a classic Greek tragedy.  Everything in the show
is calculated to stress out Mima.  If you don't understand the premise of the show,
you will not perceive all the sources of stress and you will not be as impressed
with the show.

Film-makers rely on the knowledge of the audience to advance their story without
dragging out every idea in detail.  This show was meant for a Japanese audience.  It
wasn't meant for an America one.  The knowledge base he is relying on isn't there.
Worse, the knowledge of the American audience conflicts because our attitudes are
different, our choices are different, our industry and society are different.
Therefore false signals result and the story he is telling may not be the story the
American audience is seeing.  It is a question of how well a film is written.  That
is correct.  But a well written story for a Japanese audience is not necessarily a
well-written one for an American audience.

Jeff Williams:
I wasn't as impressed with the animation as some people - I didn't think it was much
better than your average OVA.  Definitely not up to GITS or Akira or EoE standards (and
no, I'm not talking about the spectacle of those films, I know the difference between
quantity and quality).

The one exception - the most difficult thing to do in animation, whether it's cel drawn or
CGI, is the beginnings and endings of human movements; what's called "easing in" or
"easing out".  That and water are the two hardest things to do.  Human limbs, hair, eyes,
whatever, don't just start and stop on a dime - there is a period of "gearing up" whenever
a movement is begun, and that's almost impossible to judge when animating unless you have
a *lot* of experience and intuition.  It has nothing to do with drawing, really, it has to
do with timing.  And I thought the character movement in Perfect Blue looked particularly
realistic because the easing in/out was nearly perfect - those dance scenes with Cham
looked great despite the 12fps animation and average detail because of the realism of
movement the animators were able to capture.  Very difficult, and very impressive.  Not
even Disney usually does that particular aspect of animation this well.

About the voices - I haven't really been following the thread on the bad dub voices so I
don't know who's been singled out, but whoever did Mimarin's voice really grew on me, and
I didn't have too much of a problem with any of the other major players.  Some of the bit
parts seemed to have pretty random voice casting, and whoever played Me-Mania was
*terribly* cast (though he could sound the same in Japanese for all I know); that voice
just did not fit that body or personality one bit.  Mostly though, I thought the voices
were pretty good.  I was a bit irked that the credits did not include an actual cast
credits list, just a listing of names of people who were in the dub.  No listing of the
characters they played, though.