Excuse Me…Who Are You?: Perfect Blue (1997)

Upon approaching this Perfect Blue, I had heard multiple statements claiming it to be the anime equivalent of a Hitchcock film.  While this is certainly true, it is a tragic understatement to how truly unique and dark this movie really becomes.  It is an intense, morbid and visually striking animated film that is condensed into eighty minutes of glorious madness.  It still does not top Akira, but truth be told this is one of the best pieces of animation I have ever seen.  It is making me consider reworking my previous Top Ten Thursday list.  I cannot express the surreal and oneiric qualities of this movie, but it is a must watch film and is perhaps the best piece of anime available to discredit notions of the genre being full of childish Disneyesque films.  Incidentally, the storyline for Perfect Blue is arguably more disconnected than the surrealist offering that is Fantasia.

Perfect Blue focuses on the crumbling celebrity status of Mima, the lead singer of the J-pop trio Cham.  She has decided to end her time with the musical group, against her wishes, in order to pursue a career in acting.  It seems as though Mima will acquire a decent amount of success as an actress, making cameos on crime shows and still maintaining her associations with her pop star past.  This is the case for a short amount of time, however, as her producer is suddenly the victim of a mail bomb intended for Mima.  At this point the film begins to immerse itself into a world in which reality and dreams are no longer differentiated.  This occurrence is spurred by Mima being introduced to a website called Mima’s Room which recounts her daily activities.  Mima is distraught by this discovery because she is certain that she is not the one writing this website and is the victim of another persons fanatical obsessions.  Her paranoia is not benefitted by the fact that the show she is starring on is concerned with a serial killer.  As her confusion increases Mima is incapable of separating her reality from that of the killer she plays in the film, often acting violently without explanation.  The plot continues to become more desoltary and murky ending with a twist that would make Hitchcock proud and put Shyamalan to shame.  I promise you that without spoilers you will not see the ending coming, it is that well delivered of a narrative.

I am going to for go an intense critical analysis of this piece and instead talk about how it serves as an example of what animated films can do that reality cannot (This is excluding CGI films).  A film like Perfect Blue has the power to portray dreamlike states and desolate landscapes in a way that escapes believability in the world of live action.  Even a perfectly executed dream sequence, like those in Inception, fails to grasp believability because we know as human being that we are incapable of fighting in a world void of gravity.  However, when approaching works that are animated we are certain from the onset that it does not in any way reflect reality and subconsciously we allow ourselves to view it in a surreal alternative reality.  Another good example of an animated film that allows us this venue is Richard Linklater’s study on dream states Waking Life.  Sure, it seems like a simplistic argument, but it is hard not to become captivated on a different level with something like Perfect Blue, because while you can disconnect as a viewer you cannot ever truly escape the depravity of the film.  You cannot remove yourself from the surreal in the same way you can the real, it eats away at your subconscious whether you allow it to or not.

This film is rather hard to come by, but well worth owning.  If you can throw the money around and like animated films then I would strongly encourage you to get a copy.  For those who are uncertain about anime, this is probably one of the best places to start

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