Once you get hooked on anime, it’s pretty easy to ignore the collection of occasional anime movies that get released each year. What with the huge numbers of series that airs, gets cancelled or gets picked up for more seasons, rooting for anime movies is actually like searching for needles in several large haystacks.
“Perfect Blue” is an anime movie released way back when in 1997 that got swallowed in the world wide “Akira” rage and sunk down into the depths of also-ran fame. Since its release however, it has gained a cult following and much like “Akira” details a story that critiques modern culture and society, holding up a mirror to celebrity life, pop culture and even consumerism.
The story starts when Kirigoe Mima decides to quit as one third of pop group CHAM and transition into television actress. This irks many fans as a lot of them view her as innocent, sexy songstress destined to provide them happy tunes and entertainment. She soon begins work on a crime thriller TV show, starting out in a minor role and soon becoming the main character. But all isn’t well as her pop-idol days aren’t quite behind her and they begin haunting her. She soon falls victim to a stalker and begins to lose touch with reality, believing herself to have multiple personality disorder.
It’s a harrowing story, made all the more tough to swallow due to several hard-hitting scenes that will have you squirming in your seats. Several reviewers and sites classify this as psychological horror and it’s easy to understand why. Kirigoe Mima’s slow progression from healthy sanity and mental wellness to paranoia and borderline multiple personality disorder is frightening to watch. As she stumbles down stairwells, shuts herself in bathrooms and talks to herself in mirrors, her emotions wash out almost tangibly. To add to the unnerving factor, no other characters really feel sympathetic to her troubles and her loneliness, despite her sudden popularity as an actress hits home, hard.
The movie does use several horror tropes of course to put the viewers on edge: reflections with lives of their own, foreshadowing glimpses of stalkers, narrow angles to depict isolation as well as fast cut flashbacks to jolt the viewers. But the way they’re handled, how they pop up when we least expect it, really makes them effective. The director has taken psychological-horror tropes that could have potentially diluted the movie and used them really beautifully to fully showcase the horror going on in Kirigoe Mima’s life.
The visual direction is superb here. The movie’s first half looks very normal and ordinary, with long panning shots and scenes of everyday life filling the screen since there really isn’t anything wrong yet with the story. But as Mima’s life starts to crumble, the viewing angles get strange. Add onto this the gratuitous display of violence on show here, things get hectic, frantic and downright disturbing really fast.
The animation however isn’t that great. Sure, it is an old movie, released almost 20 years ago but considering the amazing animation in “Akira” ,which was released around the same time, “Perfect Blue” looks a little subpar. Several sequences look choppy and slow at best and some of the character details and animation really suffer too.
“Perfect Blue” is a gem of a movie, part buried in the annals of anime history. Overshadowed by its more popular and perhaps better looking counterpart “Akira” it’s not had its share of the limelight but really, its magnificent. Posing difficult questions about fandoms, societal pressure and consumer culture, it’s as relevant to today’s society as “Akira” is and boasting, in my humble opinion, a better soundtrack that really brings this tale alive. “Perfect Blue” is horrifying and disgusting. In the most perfect of ways it could be.