1997. Directed by Satoshi Kon.
"Excuse me, who are you?"
Satoshi Kon's deviant debut head trip Perfect Blue is a surreal horror homage to classic psychological terror. Harnessing elements of Lynch, Hitchcock, and Hamilton's Gaslight, Kon paints a terrible portrait of the cost of fame by deconstructing common Anime themes of sex and violence through a challenging examination of identity within personal reality.
Mima is a pop music icon who decides to abandon her group and pursue a career in acting. She is cast as a sexual assault victim in a film called Double Blind. The filming of the scene traumatizes Mima, and her sanity begins to erode as a result. Soon cast and crew members begin to turn up dead with all evidence pointing to the rapidly devolving Mima, who can no longer tell the difference between what is a dream and what is reality.
Based on Yoshikazu Takeuchi's novel, Sadayuki Murai's script is an anti-anime manifesto. Carried by vivid, often terrifying imagery, everything in Mima's world is exposed. Where most animated features would revel in the erotic and the brutality shallows, Kon takes the material into the far more sinister deep end. Perfect Blue is about subversion of both Mima's and the viewer's reality, deftly utilizing a shared psychosis framework to slowly build an endless maze of nightmares around the counterfeit sanctuary of Mima's persona. While the visuals are uncomfortable and unrelenting, Kon's intent couldn't be more evident. This is a crucible of the mind that rewards the stalwart with more mysteries to solve, likening Perfect Blue to a puzzle within a puzzle, with various interpretations and copious amounts of terror, accurately simulating the personal demons that victims of mental illness grapple with every day.
The animation has a faded memory-like quality that invades every sequence. The viewer already knows that what they see cannot be trusted and Kon uses this narrative conceit to plunge further ahead, lacking any sense of caution in his presentation. Colors are used like ammunition, with each scene drilling the subtext to maddening levels only to let the bottom drop out into a sub basement of delirium. It would have been east to use colors to show what is real and what is not, but Kon's entire thesis boils down to the simple truth that reality is defined by the individual and what the viewer is experiencing is just one possible interpretation. The film's climax is a fractured capstone that viciously summarizes the themes on display with a perfectly placed final line.
Available now on an out of print DVD, Perfect Blue is one of the mysteries that has eluded many surreal fiction fans over the years. This is a film that is not for everyone. It's violent and covers sensitive sexual themes in a full throttle manner. However, if you're looking for a stepping stone into some of the more artistic and relevant Anime films out there, you can't go wrong with Perfect Blue. A searing psychological horror tale, Perfect Blue will mystify and terrorize in equal, skin crawling amounts.