There was a couple times in 2013 when people felt the need to point out that they had seen most of the movies in my “Why Haven’t You Seen It” column. The thing is, this column was initially introduced to help bring some lesser known movies to the masses. What I think some people fail to grasp is that they are not the center of the universe, and even if they have seen it, that doesn’t mean the majority of the masses have. But I also took this as a bit of a challenge. Oh, so my movies were too mainstream, huh? I intend to change that in 2014. My goal here will be to not only mention movies most people hadn’t seen, but in many cases, haven’t even heard of. I thought, what better movie to kick off this trend than the brilliant 1997 anime thriller, Perfect Blue? What? You’ve never heard of it? Exactly. Trust me, heard of it or not, this movie will floor you.
Yes, Perfect Blue goes to some very dark places.
I think in some cases, writers and directors turn to animation in order to help tell a story that they could not afford to tell with conventional film making. Think about a movie like Akira as a perfect example of this. Could Akira had been made into a regular film as oppose to an animated film? In 1988, no. The budget would have been ridiculous, and the effects would have been impossible. Maybe now they could do it, but back then, they couldn’t. So they used animation to tell that story. In many ways, Perfect Blue is the opposite of that. It is a movie that could have very well been made conventionally, but wasn’t. In the end, the medium they use to tell the story only helps to pull you in even more.
Okay, let’s start this out with the trailer:
So did you see that quote at the beginning of this trailer. Roger Corman said, about Perfect Blue: If Alfred Hitchcock partnered with Walt Disney, they’d make a picture like this. I feel like nothing I can say in the following 750 words can do any better to summarize this movie than that quote. Perfect Blue shifted the way I look at anime. It is such a good thriller, you actually forget it is animated while watching it. No, seriously. Okay, on to the story.
Junko Iwao is a pop star in a mega-pop-group called “CHAM! (yes, that punctuation is part of their name). She is beloved, but is leaving the group because she wants to focus on acting. Suffice it to say, she has some fans who are rather fevered and are not very happy about this choice. This is only further punctuated by the fact that Junko is not taking Disney princess type roles. In one of her first roles, she plays a woman who gets sexually assaulted. For me to put this in terms you can all understand, the best way I can do it is imagine if Beyonce left Destiny’s Child to star in Irreversible. See, you can imagine how fans would react on Twitter and such. That type of celebrity obsession is what Perfect Blue explores. That and the toll that it can take on the celebrity themselves.
Imagine this as Beyonce’ or Taylor Swift, and suddenly the outrage her fans feel makes a little more sense.
As we go deeper into the story, we find out that Junko has one stalker in particular, named Me-Mania, who may be a far more serious threat than she had initially thought. What is interesting here is the psychological aspects of the stalking, and what it does to the Junko character. Many people recall Hitchcock when they see Perfect Blue, and there is good reason for that. Suspense and paranoia (justifiable or not) are just two themes that seem to be prevalent in both Hitchcock and Perfect Blue. The pressure of her situation and everyone’s expectations of her begin to pull her apart.
Once her mind starts to go, it is even harder to differentiate between what is real and what isn’t.
I think that is the aspect of Perfect Blue that most stood out to me. In some ways, it also reminded me of some of Roman Polanski’s early work, like Repulsion. The idea that our situations can break us down, but our minds can embrace that and perpetuate it. It is stuff you don’t normally see in an animated feature. Even for fans of anime’, this is clearly not the type of anime’ most would think of when you use the word. There are no huge action scenes. No hulking robots or tentacled monstrosities. This is a film in the purest sense, and about twenty minutes in, your mind will stop processing that you are even watching an animated movie. Instead, your mind will just get sucked into the amazing story, regardless of what medium it is being told in. I know movies like Grave of the Fireflies prove that anime’ can pack a huge emotional punch without needing to be typical, and Perfect Blue totally furthers that.
Why remake Oldboy? It was recent and perfect as is. Why not remake Perfect Blue as a live-action film?
Ofcourse, this is the part where I warn you. You know this is me recommending Perfect Blue to you, so you know it has to get messed up at some point, and it does. Pretty early on, actually. Nothing so absurd that you will turn off your TV and storm over to my Facebook to write me an angry letter. But in the same breath, do not let the animation disarm you. Actually, on second thought. Do let the animation disarm you. I actually think that is an important aspect of Perfect Blue. Like The Triplets of Bellville or Persepolis, Perfect Blue changes your standards of the kind of story an animated movie can tell. I think part of that is allowing yourself to be disarmed by it.
Yes, I will be writing this movie up soon. Brilliant and beautiful.
So the next time you want to sit down with a taut thriller that is full of twists and turns, and is expertly crafted, give Perfect Blue a shot. I think you will be surprised just how much you like it.