Genre: Psychological Thriller/Horror/Experimental
Year Released: 1997
Running Time: 81 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 17+
Related Films/Series: Perfect Blue: Yume Nara Samete (Live action remake), Perfect Blue (2012 TV live action remake)
For Fans Of: Psycho, Paprika, Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan, The Shining, Paranoia Agent, Cry_Wolf
-The Japanese language track was used during the review.
-GKIDS recently rescued the license to Perfect Blue this year, but the original DVD from Manga Entertainment was used for this review.
-The content reflects the unrated director’s cut version of Perfect Blue.
-Eri Ochiai, the actress that main character Mima Kirigoe looks up to is played by Emi Shinohara who is best known for voicing Makoto Kino AKA Sailor Jupiter.
-This is the directorial debut of Satoshi Kon.
-Fandom Bonus: The scene of Mima’s pop star delusion jumping on the city lights becomes revisited in Satoshi Kon’s last film Paprika with the title character doing the same thing during the opening credits.
-Perfect Blue was originally going to be a live-action film until the Kobe earthquake in 1995 destroyed a production studio to where it was supposed to be filmed. It may have been a blessing in disguise or else Madhouse wouldn’t animate this story.
-Perfect Blue is based on a novel by Yoshikazu Takeuchi and it just recently became translated in English.
-Some fans of this movie include Terry Gilliam (of Monty Python and Brazil fame), Madonna, and Darren Aronovsky. Speaking of him, the famous “girl screaming in the bathtub” scene from Perfect Blue was recreated shot-for-shot in Requiem for a Dream after Aronovsky bought the rights to this movie. That AND he acknowledged Kon’s influence in Black Swan with uses some plot points despite trading in J-Pop singers-turned-actresses for ballerinas. No, I will not be throwing a Controversy Alert like certain other Japanese media, but I will for another Satoshi Kon film. Hee hee hee…
This is one review that I waited for this Halloween season much like Kakurenbo. I recently re-watched it and knew it was too perfect for this time of year even though this animated film doesn’t get as much praise compared to other works in the horror genre. Trust me, this movie will mess with your head and scare you silly in the process.
Perfect Blue is about a soon-to-be former J-pop singer from the girl group CHAM named Mima Kirigoe. She plays her last show with them as she retires from the music industry to pursue her dreams of becoming an actress. Mima is cast as a background character in the crime drama TV show called Double Bind. As she’s adjusting to life on the small screen, she receives creepy letters as she becomes a rookie actress. Not only that, but there’s a web site called “Mima’s Room” that details her life in explicit detail as she figures out that someone is stalking her by the name Me-Mania. Things get even more horrifying as murders happen around her and Mima becomes extremely paranoid while seeing delusions of her former pop star self.
Holy crap! This is one scary movie! Sure, I’ve reviewed some horror movies such as Ringu and Kakurenbo, but Perfect Blue puts those movies to shame. It’s about the chilling atmosphere and the graphic imagery involved. Even Mimi’s delusions blurring with reality get very unsettling as she and the viewers begin to question what’s real or what’s not. That theme becomes a noticeable motif with other Kon’s works such as Paranoia Agent and Paprika later on in his career before his untimely death in 2010, but I don’t think those projects were as terrifying as this one. Even the scenes where Mima is just acting are unsettling such as the infamous rape scene that she acts in an episode of Double Bind. It may be fictional in the context of the film, but it was so disturbing to watch. The murders that happen get very gruesome as the animators don’t hold back on the gore while simultaneously not resorting to slasher movie dreck. Major props to Kon and company for setting the tone.
The Japanese voice acting was superb. Junko Iwao just nails it as Mima by using various emotions and also incorporating a potential split personality while she descends into paranoia or when Mima sees this pop star delusion who has a high-pitched moe-type voice who belittles her. Watching this and Key the Metal Idol where she played the title character Tokiko “Key” Mima (notice both character’s respective names?) allowed me to give her a lot of kudos. Rika Matsumoto also shines while playing Mima’s manager Rumi. She’s another VA who can be underrated despite being in bigger series. Matsumoto is able to display a wide rang of emotions while seeming like she knows what’s best for her client while also harboring some dirty little secrets against her. Even Me-Mania’s voice was unsettling. He has a high-pitched voice for a man, but voice actor Masaaki Okura is able to emote pure unadulterated obsession and madness despite not having many lines. Those performances should give everyone an award.
Perfect Blue’s animation production is also worth noting. I’ll admit that this isn’t one of Madhouse or Satoshi Kon’s best work from a visual standpoint, but there’s so much detail with this hand-drawn animation which is a lost art. There’s subtle movements with the characters that convey the emotion and madness going on. There are so many metaphorical shots like the creative usage of reflections or like how one character is able to “morph” into someone else as they are suffering from madness. I’m actually glad that Perfect Blue was done as animated film instead of a live-action movie at this time (yes, I know about the live-action remakes in Japan) since the animation makes the film creepier and it would look tacky if this were done with real actors. If anyone thinks anime is either just kids stuff or tasteless hentai needs to check themselves to realize how far the anime medium can go from a production and a storytelling standpoint. The hand-drawn presentation is a bit dated as one could tell this was made in the 90s, but at least it’s aged well much like other anime such as Shamanic Princess or Now and Then Here and There (random fact: Rica Matsumoto was in both series). Some people may scoff at the older visuals, but they still work.
The plotting has a great usage of subtlety. There are clues about the murders that are very subtle and I didn’t even notice some of those hints until I saw this film the second time around. This isn’t a movie where you can just turn your brain off, so you need to pay attention to the dialog and the other elements. Perfect Blue uses so many plot twists to a masterful level as the characters’ psychoses affects the story as one wonders what is truly real or fiction. One creative aspect is the recurring motif of Mima or other characters talking about something horrific only to realize that it was a scene in the Double Bind TV show after the fact. The Double Bind show also works as a paralleling narrative in subtle ways that one could only grasp by paying attention to the events around the characters. Perfect Blue’s usage of parallel stories and meta-narratives certainly trumps other movies I’ve seen such as Sita Sings the Blues and Song of the Sea, and I really liked the latter film! Perfect Blue is some cerebral stuff there, so don’t be stupid watching this.
While Perfect Blue has many admirable qualities, no movie is perfect (no pun intended) and it includes this one. Since I watched the unrated version, there is a lot of graphic content. The murders are brutal in their realistic depiction and I’d say they’re worse than Battle Royale with some of these scenes. There’s also the sexual content as Mima poses nude in some photos or the Double Bind rape scene despite being a scripted event. The objectionable content can be disturbing, so this film isn’t for the faint of heart. Also, Perfect Blue can come off as an unintentional period piece with some of the plot points. One can tell that this was made in the late 90s as Mima is so clueless when it comes to computers that when she gets one as a gift from Rumi, her manager has to explain to her what the internet is in layman’s terms and that computer totally looks like something one would have in 1997. She’s also naive about online stalking since this would’ve been new back then. If this were remade nowadays, the Mima character would be much more aware of things like online stalking, cyberbullying, doxxing, revenge porn, or other nasty things that people can do to destroy others on the net. Although her naivete is dated, the themes presented in Perfect Blue would still apply to this day and age, but it can be awkward getting to the scene where she first discovers the Mima’s Room website and the dangers of the dark side of the internet.
Perfect Blue was a stellar debut from the innovative Satoshi Kon. The storylines will keep anyone guessing while also scaring several viewers senseless. The visual production may be a bit old, but the images will stay in the viewer’s mind for a long time. The voice acting is brilliant and the characters really drive the mysteries and horror along. Even the music mixing 90s J-pop with industrial soundscapes or minimalist piano heightens the tension so much. There are some dated elements like late 90s internet and Mima’s initial reaction to the World Wide Web, but it isn’t that much of a distraction from the film as a whole. If you want to see some experimental anime with a strong plot, characters, and a frightening atmosphere, then check out Perfect Blue.
Just don’t watch it alone at night with the lights off though.
Adjustable Point System:
Subtract 2-4 points if you can’t stand graphic imagery (violence or sexuality)
Subtract 1-3 points if you don’t like being scared while watching movies
-Cerebral plot and storylines
-Incredibly scary atmosphere
-Unintentional period piece moments
-Content can be too graphic and explicit for viewers
-Some dated animation elements
Final Score: 10/10 points
Content Warning: ABSOLUTELY NOT FOR KIDS! Even for Satoshi Kon movies, Perfect Blue really takes the cake in terms of mature content. The murders are shown in brutal detail and even the characters who don’t die have some disturbing injuries like how one character accidentally impales her stomach on a huge shard of glass. There is sexual content like the aforementioned rape scene that’s acted, but there’s even a real attempted rape in the final act of the film. Mima also gets photographed in the nude a few times. There’s some strong language thrown in for good measure and the elements of psychosis are portrayed in a very disturbing and scary manner. This would get a VERY HARD R rating for this film.
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