Perfect Blue (1997) Review
Hello there, I am back again to review Satoshi Kon’s films as I promised I would by the end of this week. Also, I would like to remind you again, that I am reviewing these films in the order that I have seen them, so even though this was Satoshi Kon’s first film, it was the third film of his that I had seen, so with that out of the way. Let’s talk about Perfect Blue.
Perfect Blue was the feature length directorial debut of Satoshi Kon that was released in the year 1997 that was animated by Studio Madhouse and written by Sadayuki Murai and is based on the novel of the same name by Yoshikazu Takeuchi. The film follows the character of Mima Kirigoe, a J-pop singer for a group called “CHAM!” (Weird name, I know), who decides to leave the pop idol group in order to pursue an acting career for herself, this choice comes to the dismay of some of her fans, particularly one stalker of hers, Me-Mania, as she receives death threats, phone messages and weird calls, she loses her grasp on what’s real and what’s not.
So let me get this out of the way first, Perfect Blue is my least favorite film by Satoshi Kon, this may come as a shock to many, because a lot of people consider this to be his masterpiece, and while I do agree that this is a solid debut, it still doesn’t quite live up to the rest of the works. Now don’t get me wrong, I still LOVE this film and of all of Kon’s work, this by far has the most complex storytelling to offer (okay second most). But with that out of the way, let me explain myself a little better as we move on.
The story and tone the film has set is brilliant to say the least, it’s easy to see how influential this film is on the anime community as well as Darren Aronofsky’s work (Requim for a dream and Black Swan), with its Hitchcockian-esque style of filmmaking and Satoshi Kon’s talent for cinematography, both of which are spell-bounding to look at. The cinematography in particular, seeing as this was his debut feature, just shows how far he had come as a director with his later films. The final 30 minutes in particular, where all the mind-fuckery comes in, is where Kon just unleashes (unapologetically, I might add) his talent to mess with your mind with his editing style and camera angles, but still never fails to keep your attention to the screen.
The characters, well here is the problem for me, our main character Mima Kirigoe, was not particularly interesting, here’s the thing, I always found what was happening to her to be very interesting, but that aspect only really kicks in the last 30 minutes of the movie, until then she really is not that great a character, she is just a cutie who is very kind, very determined and very helpful to others. You see, this was my issue with the movie that I wanted to bring up, of all the characters Satoshi Kon has written or directed in his films, I always found that he added a lot of layers to the characters, hell even Paprika did this without ever actually exploring them, but Mima doesn’t really have those layers, at least not until we reach the third act. The stalker is one of the best villains I have come across in film, his face is so well designed, it just shouts the word ‘scary’ and the fact that he never talks, just adds to how creepy the dude is, with that said, he was criminally underused in the final act. As for the sub vs. dub argument, you can chose to view either, although I saw this dubbed (because I prefer to, generally), the subbed would probably be a little better suited for this movie, but you can choose as they are both fine.
The animation is certainly not the best of what Studio Madhouse has to offer, even if I look at this film form the view point of 1997, in 1997 we got shows like Cowboy Bebop and movies like Princess Mononoke and prior to that year, films like Akira and Ghost in the Shell with far superior animation came along, the movie is filled with still images with moving mouths that just comes across as lazy sometimes, I guess that has to do with the limited budget this movie was provided with, in comparison to the other films made by Kon. But the animation is to the point and is certainly not awful to look at even though it may not have aged quite as well as it could have, it is certainly by all means watchable, as the selling points of the movie are really the cinematography and the film making style.
So, onto my final verdict, as much as I may have criticized some of the weaker aspects of this film, I love this movie, it does have its flaws in terms of a weak main character and a slightly underused villain, where the film succeeds is in telling a story of the cause and effects of fame and what that can bring to someone, it is a theme that is touched upon and explored deeply and intricately, the final 30 minutes, despite the under usage of the villain, still make up for any problems that I had as it goes completely into the psyche of our main character and her traumas, it is in this third act where you see what the film has to offer and it is a decent payoff. The cinematography is fantastic, the story and setting is great and above all, it’s a film that easily remains Kon’s most influential film to this day, and I am glad that there is an audience and following for this movie, although I believe there should be one for every Kon film out there. It may be over stylized and drawn out at times and does have a slightly rushed ending (anime always does this), but it never fails to interest you with what is going to happen next, something that most psychological horror films can’t do these days.
So with all that in mind, I am giving Perfect Blue an ‘A-‘
Final Rating: A-