Mimi Kirigoe is a famous Japanese pop idol sensation from a trio group called “CHAM!” where thousands of fans regularly come to see her concert. Wanting to become an actress, Mimi leaves the group to pursue her dream, starring in a direct-to-video drama film called “Double-Blind”. This sudden career path has divided her fans where some support her future endeavours, and some that hate her. The latter group, which includes a serious stalker known as “Me-Mania”, show how serious they are as their first attack is an internet blog that claims to be written by her, and goes into extreme detail on her personal life. These attacks get worse when a group of these haters are murdered, with clues leading Mimi herself to be a prime suspect and an imposter is running around in her mind, causing her to lose her mind. These events as well as attacks made by Me-Mania are turning Mimi mentally unstable, and she needs to find out who is causing the murders and the fake diary, and escape from her madness within.
Production began in 1995, the film was planned to be a live action film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Yoshikazu Takeuchi, with Satoshi Kon and Sadayuki Murai given the task of writing the screenplay. However, due to an earthquake in Kobe in that year, their production studio collapsed and the film’s budget was reduced, meaning it was produced as an animated film instead. Since Satoshi Kon had experience as both an animator and a supervisor, he got the role to direct the film. Katsuhiro Otomo, well known for Akira, was credited as a “Special Supervisor” for the film, it was shown at the Fantasia Film Festival in July 1997, and was later shown in Japanese cinemas in 1998.
The animation is quite detailed and great, but I think for its time a bit dated. Animation is very human-like and can be very smooth and precise, but there are sections which lack effort and some of the details look really dull. Since the film was intended to be live-action, facial expressions and movements are quite similar to watching a live-action drama, but since there are points where characters don’t move at all, or appear more like paintings, it doesn’t feel like a live action scene.
Since it was meant to be a live action scene, the visual art style is also meant to appear realistic. There are several dark tones and deep shades, while some scenes look really dull, some of the scenes are visually impressive, and some scenes are just haunting as we see someone turn from a happy pop singer to a psychological train wreck. The character design is also realistic and looks really nice even for the mid-1990s, except for one of the villains, Me-Mania. I know he is meant to be a stalker, and is meant to look intimidating and creepy, but I don’t know why that also means he has to have a contrast in appearance from everyone else in character design.
The music is…lacking, since from watching the film there I could only notice a few pieces of music at all. The tracks I did notice were actually pretty effective in setting the scenes. The problem was is that some are really repetitive, and once you’ve heard it more than once, it loses its effect, and it isn’t scary anymore. There are also some songs which are really nice and well written, but they aren’t memorable to say the least. The rest of the film has no music, except for background music and sounds to add to the idea of city life or this one tense scene of a track from CHAM playing in the distance, allowing the film to focus on character development and sceneries.
The voice acting in the Japanese dub is really nice, and I definitely recommend it for a first watch even if you aren’t into subtitles. Junko Iwao has a really effective split-personality with Mima, where the real Mima acts more human, displaying powerful fear and upset in the dark and dramatic scenes especially, and even discomforting strings of dialogue where she questions what is real and what isn’t, while the virtual Mima in her head is all lovely and cheerful, which makes her lines all the more chilling when the music builds up and she appears. Other actors do a good job, but they aren’t really memorable with the exception of Rica Matsumoto as Rumi, whose Mima’s friend and agent, who used to be a celebrity herself. Rica shows a strong attitude to caring about who Mima is, and not who she should be or what she should do. The English dub is also just as well recorded, with Rudy Marlowe as Mima, but her performance as the real Mima isn’t as powerful as Junko. Most of the other voice actors do a nice job, but Robert Martin Klein’s portrayal as the stalker Me-Mania is more hilariously weird unlike Masaaki Ōkura’s so weird its creepy portrayal. So while both versions are good, I still recommend the Japanese dub.
If there is one thing this film succeeds the most at, is as being a psychological thriller. The viewer watches as Mima begins as a pop-idol wanting to start a new career, to a broken down mental case as she experiences the backlash of some of her fans, or at least her biggest fan. The transformation of Mima is really well put together and the thrilling imagery really makes puts the viewer to the edge of their seats. It also shows how the life of a celebrity can be both difficult as a performer and a human being really well, as the people around Mima pressurise her and make her do things to please themselves and other people. Another character which I’m surprised I haven’t mentioned as much in this review is Rumi, but I can’t give away spoilers, but I can tell you this, don’t judge her character from first impressions, she does get scary.
Overall, Perfect Blue is a very good film that shows great use of mental instability and haunting imagery to produce a thriller that can be both haunting and interesting to watch. As a Satoshi Kon film it’s definitely worth a watch as it was his directorial debut, although if you keep your expectations low, you might find more to this film than just a celebrity that loses her mind.
Perfect Blue is available from Manga Entertainment. The original novel by Yoshikazu Takeuchi, not been released in English. A Live-Action Adaptation subtitled Yume Nara Samete, and follows more closely to the original novel than the anime did, also hasn’t been officially released in English.