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Mima Kiragoe is a twenty-one-year-old Japanese pop idol, loved by thousands as a member of the girl trio Cham. However, record sales are on their way down and Mima is advised by her agent to quit singing and concentrate on her acting, taking a part in a long-running murder mystery TV series. Privately, however, Mima feels uncertain about this move, especially after she agrees to take part in a lurid rape scene; meanwhile, she's being stalked by an angry fan who resents any change in her squeaky clean image. Things start to spiral out of control as reality and fiction become confused - or is Mima simply cracking up?

Perfect Blue is no ordinary Japanese anime. Spaceships, robots and mutant demons from hell are nowhere to be seen as the psychological drama of a pop performer unfolds. The demons are those in the mind of pop princess Mima whose traumatic tale bears a co-incidental resemblance to the problems presently facing real-life diva Mariah Carey. What's striking about this Anime is the reality in which it is grounded. The story, adapted from Yoshikazu's story, could easily be told as live action drama (it was originally planned as such) and contains all the elements of a Hitchcockian thriller. There are still the kind of action set pieces we associate with this genre but Perfect Blue is even more impressive on human levels rarely explored in Japanimation. The picture of a young pop idol manipulated by her manager into prolonging a waning career at any cost is the dynamic emotional core of the film. Mima might be a cartoon character but we feel for her helplessness as the line between fantasy and reality becomes dangerously slim. We're also kept guessing - is she going mad or is there a real conspiracy behind the appearance of the phantom Mima and the sudden deaths of those around her? As a comment on the price of fame and as a murder mystery with fantasy elements, Perfect Blue is a remarkable achievement. Its release here with subtitles on the big screen (it broke box-office records at art houses in Japan) is to be applauded and supported.
Richard Kuipers

This excellent animé has taken several years to get a general release in Australia, but it still seems pretty up-to-the-minute, showing its age only in the use of the Internet as a novelty plot device. Simultaneously it's a metaphysical thriller in the vein of recent virtual reality fantasies (where multiple levels of fiction collide and become interchangable) and a quasi-feminist satire on how celebrities let their identities be shaped by the demands of the media. The clever and economical script brings these two genres together by examining the way images are constructed - it's as if Brian de Palma had directed the movie of Josie And The Pussycats. By Hollywood standards the animation isn't especially fluid, but the detailed, colourful backgrounds allow a lot of visual pop culture references as the plot ranges over the worlds of music, TV, websites and magazines (watch for the Pokemon poster in the corner of one frame). Reportedly, Perfect Blue was conceived as a live-action feature, which would have added an extra level of self-reflexivity to its narrative games: we would be forced to speculate on whether the actress playing Mima was genuinely being exploited in, say, the gruelling rape scene. Told through animation, the same story is both more abstract and more frightening: any distinction between fantasy and reality quickly becomes unworkable. There's no direction home for poor Mima, no way she can sort out her own delusions from the madness of her society - since from start to finish she has no self outside a series of equally manufactured images.
Jake Wilson

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VOICES OF: Junko Iwao, Rica Matsumoto, Shinpachi Tsuji, Masaaki Ôkura

DIRECTOR: Satoshi Kon

PRODUCER: Hiroaki Inoue, Masao Maruyama

SCRIPT: Sadayuki Murai, Yoshikazu Takeuchi (novel)


MUSIC: Masahiro Ikumi

RUNNING TIME: 75 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: August 9 (Sydney), August 23 (Melb)


VIDEO RELEASE: February 6, 2002

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