Perfect Blue

Image of DVD cover (76k jpg)

Released by: Manga Video.
Region: One. (A R4 release is planned.)
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Disc 1:

Perfect Blue is the tale of pop singer Mima who has grown tired of being a successful, but not excessively so, pop idol and yearns to become an actor. She makes the transition but few movie or TV companies are prepared to give her the initial experience to prove herself capable. The one role her unscrupulous, and delightfully not entirely proud of it, agent can get her is a bit part in a psychological murder detective series.

Nervous and under increasing pressure from her fans & family she chooses to continue with both a risque photo shoot and the continuing bit part that develops into an increasingly exploitive role. Things quietly get surreal when Mima begins to see the 'true' Mima who berates her for selling out and makes veiled threats. Making it worse the people around her begin to be the victims of increasingly violent attacks seemingly calculated at saving Mima from herself.

How much is in her head and how much is real comes into question as an increasingly tired, confused and paranoid Mima discovers that the 'true' Mima has been posting intimate details of her life on the net. Details that only she should know...

Anime often gets looked down on as being simply animated excuses for violence and sexual gratuity with plots that frequently seem targeted at the teenage audience. There is a great deal of truth in that but such a view also overlooks films like 'Perfect Blue' where the animated medium is used to tell a complex and nuanced story. It is no small thing for this film to be justifiably compared with Hitchcock movies.

And the plot of someone caught in the middle of a circle of dreadful events whilst also questioning their own sanity is a classic staple of more accepted cinematic genres. This is a good film to show the nay sayers to demonstrate that Anime is capable of quite sophisticated tales. It also rewards with strong characterisation for the most part and provides some musing on the price of fame, the demands of fans and the often unscrupulous nature of people quite prepared to exploit the unseasoned Mima.

This isn't to say all is perfect. Some of the motivation is pure cliche and the final handling of the 'true' Mima is a little clunky in execution, albeit fine in concept.

Where it shines is in showing you Mima's world and life and drawing you in as reality quietly gets stranger and stranger. Some beautiful imagery is featured - in particular a sequence showing 'true' Mima leaping off a balcony and gracefully skipping from lamp post to lamp post stands out in my mind. It also has a sublime undermining of the rape scene for the TV show - with the actors caught in uncomfortable poses between camera angle changes. Quite cleverly removing the eroticism of the scene and having a quiet little jab at sex scenes in general in visual media.

Technically the video and audio quality is good. I didn't really notice any compression artifacts and the audio is clear with some particularly fitting music present. In particular the chase sequence music caught my ear with a nice minimal instrumental approach that neatly creates tension. I can't comment on spatialisation as I haven't run this disc through PowerDVD yet and have only listened to it via stereo speakers.

The english dub is pretty good and only has two places where it is noticabley shakey and not quite in tone with the animation. Pleasingly the extras on the disc are worthwile - the interview with both the director and lead japanese voice actress was quite interesting.

Overall though this isn't an overly deep film in the way films like 'Akira' or 'Ghost in the Shell' are. This won't open your mind to new ways of thinking but what it will do is keep you entertained and guessing while commenting on media culture a little. It is a worthy addition to your Anime collection.

Philip R. Banks
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