This weekend I rewatched Perfect Blue and decided to write up a review. Perfect Blue is a well done psychological thriller. A common sentiment when it came out was that this was the cartoon that Alfred Hitchcock would have made. Perfect Blue was originally a novel by Yoshikazu Takeuchi, but it's Japanese only so everything I bring up is only based on the film.
I have pretty nostalgic memories of watching it 13 years ago and I'm glad to have been able to enjoy it again today. It still looks like it was made in 1997 (although the animation itself is done well, 90s anime doesn't display so well in high definition) and the English dub is definitely 90s era too, but the movie itself is done very well.
Perfect Blue was directed Satoshi Kon, which in my opinion already makes the film a must watch. Satoshi Kon, sadly now deceased, was known for manga, anime, and film work. His character art was iconic and very detailed. Most of his films are Philip K. Dick-ish, in which there's a strong theme of a blurred line between reality and fiction. Satoshi Kon always does a very good job of showing this confusion visually. His movies tend to be slower pace than American thrillers, but they're just as exciting. Except for maybe Tokyo Godfathers, which is a very different genre than his other works, I liked Perfect Blue the most out of his works as I felt it had the most well executed storyline. His much more popular Paprika is a similar movie and is much prettier (thanks to its later release date and much higher budget), but in my opinion its story was not told nearly as well.
Perfect Blue is a really fun and exciting watch, although it is definitely not for children. When I first watched it during High School, I had recommended it to a friend of mine. I wanted the movie's contents to surprise him, so I just told him it was a action movie with pop idols. He proceeded to watch it with his girlfriend and, more significantly, her father. Well, the movie contains nudity and a very powerful scene where the heroine is struggling with performing a rape scene for a movie she's in. It was uncomfortable for him to watch it with his girlfriend's father, who wasn't an anime fan and was pretty silent through the whole thing, sitting next to him. Although the father said it was a good movie afterwards, you should make sure not to put yourself in any awkward circumstances. You've been warned, for mature audiences only.
As I mentioned, Perfect Blue is about the dark side of being a Japanese idol. Idols are young female celebrities, usually pop singers or photobook gravure models. There is a very distinct culture around them that has not changed much over the years. A good idol, then and now, is judged largely on their "purity." Idols put on a (almost definitely) false persona of being very young and naive. Idols end up being obsessed over and harshly judged by a certain subset of fans. Those familiar with Japanese culture are usually also familiar with the idol horror stories. Stalkings are fairly common news articles. Attending hand shaking events with semen soaked hands has been coming up recently as well. Death threats and unforgivable comments are showered upon any idol who tries to act like she's older than 15.
Although the idol concept is fairly Japanese, the movie is more relatable in the West today more than ever before due to the rise of teen actresses, such as all the recent teen starts who started on the Disney channel. Of course, everywhere you have celebrities, you'll also have stories of a stalker going after celebrity. That part is instantly understood. But I feel the teen idol case is not quite the same as the child star case. If you try to imagine the struggles teen stars might have growing up and the worst case scenarios they'd face, you'll be able to understand this movie.
I admit that this review has gone slightly off topic for several paragraphs, but that really shows the strength of this film. It goes in depth into an area that's often not deeply explored. Or if it is explored, the movie usually ends up being an exploitation film instead of a high quality film. But moving on to a summary...
The heroine of Perfect Blue is Mima Kirigoe, the lead singer of a pop group called "CHAM!" The movie begins with her deciding to leave the group to become an actress. Not only is she nervous and unconfident of the choice to begin with, she's immediately heavily criticized and despised by a vocal group of her former fans. Leaving her persona behind, she takes on much more mature projects in order to shed her previous image and become a respected actress. In the midst of her working stress, relationship stress, hatemail, and death threats, she finds a website called "Mima's Room" which features very private diary entries Mima does not recall writing. And finally, like in any good thriller, the murders begin. By that point, Mima is unable to clearly distinguish reality and nightmare.
Unlike with my other reviews, I don't want to give anything else away besides to say it's done well. If you really must know, this movie is old enough where you can just wiki the whole plotline. But you'd be doing yourself a disservice, especially since the movie is only an hour and a half long.
In the end, my strongest recommendations for this movie are:
1. The character development is done very well
2. It's an exciting thriller
3. It's a good study on a briefly touched subject
4. Ending Spoiler: It doesn't have a pointless "BAD END" for the main character that horror films tend to love
The movie was released on on DVD and Blu Ray, although supply is low nowadays. You can easily use a service like Netflix to watch it though .
So go and watch it!