Sometimes, an anime comes along that changes all the rules. Conjuring up unsettling images that provide the viewer with a sense of intense dread, you don’t just begin to identify with the main character; you actually find yourself becoming a part of her plight, wondering when “they” will get you.
A brief overview: There is a girl who is part of a chart-topping trio who decides she is going to quit the music business and become an actress. She lands a role in a drama series that has all kinds of violent and sexual overtones, but it’s a solid role. Shortly after her career begins to take off, she starts seeing and hearing things (or is she?) and being followed by some crazed fan (or is she?) She slowly develops more and more signs that she is losing it (or is she?) as her world slowly becomes one scary encounter after another . The film tends to leave what is real or not up to the viewer, and never fully explains itself. While the English dub is decent, be sure to watch it in Japanese; the script doesn’t quite have the same impact in English.
The cinematography is outstanding, with angles and shots more akin to a live-action Japanese horror/suspense film, rather than an anime. Colours are simultaneously vibrant and subdued, further adding to the mind-bending presentation. The outlines of objects and characters appear as if they were drawn with hard, straight lines…and then smudged to a blurry softness. The effect is quite interesting, providing the film with a very dream-like presentation. To the characters, everything appears to be real… but to us the viewer, the line between real and unreal disappears very quickly .
The animation style is a bit simplistic. Small details, such as nervous tics or the shuffling of hands are smoothly done, however larger movement such as walking or running seems to be less detailed. In a way, however, this adds to the presentation; the slight jerky motion of the characters and the softening of their outlines the faster they are moving aid in creating a unique presentation within anime. Perfect Blue does contain a fair amount of nudity, however the violence is a bit subdued when compared to other anime thrillers…I would put the violence at a heavy PG-13/light R level.
Perfect Blue has one of the best and creepiest soundtracks of any anime before or since. Haunting synths, strange noises, and a dash of J-Pop here and there make it a well-suited and well-written soundscape for the experience of the film.
Much like Blood: The Last Vampire, Ghost in the Shell, Biohunter, Devil Man, and a host of other anime, Perfect Blue is definitely more suited to being watched at night; a thunderstorm booming in the background makes it all the more atmospheric. Pop the popcorn, snuggle up under a blanket with whoever it is you do that sort of thing with… and enjoy the show.