Perfect Blue ★★★★

PERFECT BLUE is a brilliant little thriller, and a its cleverness and creepiness hold up nicely even when filtered through the very odd combination of the backdrop of Japanese pop music and the medium of anime. Neither of these evoke expectations of stalker-thriller, but Satoshi Kon's 1997 masterpiece delivers a well constructed, shock-fest with strong characters and Hitchcock stylings.

When Mima, one member of a successful pop-music trio, decides to leave the group at the peak of their popularity to pursue an acting career, the transition ends up being WAY more than she expected. Her fan base, her agent, and eventually her own sub-consciousness (missing a key piece of self-identity and self-worth) struggle with the loss of her music career. Add a few murders, a creepy paparazzi-styled blog, and PERFECT BLUE delivers the plot elements of a quality thriller.

But beyond the set up, PERFECT BLUE features a seriously creepy score, unsettling visions of a Mima's pop-icon alter ego, and some clever imagery transitioning realities to visions. Satoshi's cinematic tools don't stop there. He uses a Greek chorus of sorts in the form crowd scenes to explain Mima's evolving public image, and there's a Hitchcock-style scene explaining a key mental condition and how it compares to the protagonists.

It's jammed-pack with serious genre-fun and filmmaking techniques, and most amazingly it rises above the expectations of anime films by, ironically, keeping things simple. The animation here does not go where other animation goes. We do not get the hugely visual fantasy world with big effects that can only be animated--conversely, PERFECT BLUE shows us an animated version of our world. We see offices, stages, movie sets, street corners, and small bedrooms. The more the film sucks us into Mima's story, the more weirdly affecting the animation is at is a slightly messed up version of our own world--and pretty far from an animated film experience. It's all suspense-thriller.

SPOILERS FOLLOW.

The only thing that messed with my enjoyment of PERFECT BLUE; the only thing that pulled me out of the intensity of its storytelling is that ultimately the film relies on two characters suffering from similar but separate disassociative delusions. It's a bit much to drop at the audience's feet at the climax of such a great film journey. Thus the coolness of the final act (and it is pretty cool just the same) is unfortunately muted a bit.

A-

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