Perfect Blue ★★★★½

There has been a fair amount of talk on my activity stream recently about the work of the late Satoshi Kon, so ahead of watching some of his films I decided to revisit the one film of his that I have seen, albeit about 12 years ago now.

In fact, my first viewing of Perfect Blue was done towards the end of a major anime craze of mine, when I was just starting to tire of the genre as a whole. I was pretty taken aback by this film. No giant tentacle cocks. No stupid big tears appearing besides characters' faces when they're perplexed by something. No ridiculously overdone ultra-violence. This can't be right?

To me, it seemed like a pretty normal psychological thriller that could easily have been done in live action. Of course, when they did give it a shot in live action, in 2002, it didn't turn out especially well. It's pretty easy to see now that many critics missed the point about this film, making the mistake of spending way too much time wondering why it was animated rather than actually focusing on the fact that this is an outstanding psychological thriller.

I am left asking a different question about it than I did 12 years ago. Back then I asked why it was animated. Now I simply ask - why not? Its format turns out to be largely irrelevant, especially so with the story being so beautifully crafted and paced. It focuses on a young popstar who decides to become an actress, a decision that one of her fans especially finds it difficult to accept. As her career progresses, not always to her liking, she begins to struggle to cope with the difference between reality and fantasy as colleagues are murdered around her and she seems to be haunted by her own persona.

I've seen it compared quite a lot to some of Alfred Hitchcock's work but for some reason it reminded me more of David Lynch's Mulholland Drive. I'm not even all that sure why that would be (it's been 11 years since I've seen that film, too) but it never really struck me as particularly Hitchcockian when I was watching it even though analysing it after the event, I can see some parallels to his more psychological films like Marnie and Vertigo especially.

There is a lot going on in this story besides its basic plot, too. The entirely male audience at the final concert of our heroine, Mima, with her group is quite a telling swipe at Japanese teen girl pop music and its audience. It also quite impressively covers the difficulties that can be found for a teen star to swap to a more adult medium. Most of all, though, its profiling of the possible mental breakdown of the lead is as good as anything that you will see, even if the twists in the last 30 minutes or so can get on top of you if you don't pay full attention.

It's even more remarkable that it doesn't feel at all rushed as well, barely scraping in at 80 minutes in length. Perfect Blue is not just a truly great animated film, it's just a truly great film.

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