Perfect Blue

Britney Spears...Christina Aguilera...Mandy Moore...are these names you expect to know in five years time? Probably not, but right now, they are obviously considered pop music sensations. Magnify their popularity by a thousand and spread it amongst lots of different new musicians, and you have the culture that breeds the Japanese "idol" singer. The cultural phenomenon of the idol singer in Japan is astounding, not so much by its existance but in its persistence--the Japanese fascination with teenage girls trying to reach the peak of stardom through music has lasted for a long time now, and naturally it's reflected in anime. Although Macross is one of the best known series to employ idol singers as main characters, many shows feature plotlines revolving around them, and the credits of many anime shows feature tunes sung by idol singers. The life of an idol singer is not easy, however--it's difficult to reach the top, and even harder to stay there, especially when your culture sets you up for eventual failure. Perfect Blue analyzes the life of an idol singer, and does so in a way very few will forget.

Mima is a young woman whose musical group has reached what will likely be the height of their popularity, poised on the brink of actually making the Top 100 charts. Under the guidance of her management staff, she decides to quit the group and focus on an acting career instead. She lands a bit part in a movie, but finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into the seamy side of the business. Some of her fans are none too happy about her change from winsome teen to sexy starlet, and Mima finds an Internet website dedicated to the memory of who she was. However, the website has personal information on her...far too personal to be a simple fan. Mima realizes that she has a stalker on her hands, but that's the least of her worries. As her career path heads into a downward spiral, she starts to lose her grip on what is real and what is illusion, and that's a deadly place to be when they are those who want to see you out of the picture...permanently.

Perfect Blue is a unique anime, not only because it deals so intimately with the realistic concept of an idol singer, but because it is one of the few true thrillers ever to come out of an anime studio. The artwork style is realistic, not always perfect, but it still lends itself to dark drama much better than your typical anime renderings. The plotting is great, and the further the movie goes along, the more the audience starts to lose its grip on what is really happening. If you're willing to take the ride, it's an exciting, nerve-wracking trip. Honestly, it is on the strange side, more like Lain in its substance but much more action-oriented. It's less than 90 minutes long, but you feel like you've been inside these characters' heads for a while. This show is not necessarily the first thing you'd want to show to friends to introduce them to anime, but for those who can't believe that an animated movie can rival live-action, this is it. Frankly, it's easy to forget you're watching an animated film on this one. Do be aware, however, that the film is violent and provocative, and should be considered a show for adults and older teens only. As a final side note, the DVD is packed with extra goodies that are rare on anime releases. If you've got a player, it's a must-have disc.

Perfect Blue -- violence, profanity, nudity, strong adult situations -- A