Now on Blu-ray: PERFECT BLUE Gets Some Much Needed Attention From Anime Ltd. (UK)

J Hurtado, Contributing Writer
I'm not going to pretend that I have anything new to say about Kon Satoshi's gut-punch of a directorial debut, Perfect Blue. The 1997 film is one of modern anime's most acclaimed and well known masterpieces around the world that has, strangely, found very little love on home video here in North America. After Kon's sudden death in 2010 (he died only a few months after learning that he had terminal cancer), the world finally started to take notice of this filmmaker who'd been quietly making some of the finest animated films coming out of Japan in the late '90s through the late 2000s. Perfect Blue was, and still is, a marvelous, tense, and riveting thriller that never feels like a typical anime, it just feels like a damned good movie, regardless of the methods employed.

In case you're not familiar with the story, Perfect Blue is the tale of j-pop idol turned actress Mima Kirigoe. Like many pop idols, Mima decides that it is time to spread her wings beyond the confines of the teeny bopper scene and move into what she feels is a more mature art form and takes an acting role in a gritty soap opera. As her character begins to move into a more and more sinister world of sexual assault and murder, Mima's own psyche appears to split. She's not sure that she's made the right decision to move out of her comfort zone, and she's attracted a particularly creepy stalker who is determined to keep her clean and pure. As Mima's grip on reality loosens, the noose tied by her stalker tightens, and only one can make it out alive.

The story of a performer losing their wits as their career either enters a sharp peak or a sharp decline is not a new one. What Kon manages to do is to show the inner workings of Mima's mind as it begins to deteriorate in a way that is both enlightening to the omnipotent viewer and complicating to Mima. Is there a malicious force at work here? If so, where does it get its fuel? There appears to be someone inside Mima's every waking thought, and she becomes increasingly unsteady as she eventually collapses into total collusion with the demons she's facing. However, is her downfall of her own making? Perhaps some unknown force is pulling the strings.

Perfect Blue began a tragically short run of superb feature films from Kon Satoshi and remains, in my opinion, his strongest legacy. He would revisit themes of split realities and distrust in his final completed work, Paprika, however, I still feel that Perfect Blue may be his most complete, contained work. Highly recommended.

The Disc:

Perfect Blue has been out of print on DVD in the US for a while now, with used copies of the non-anamorphic, not-so-great looking disc pushing the $50+ barrier regular on the secondary market. Anime Ltd's UK Blu-ray is not only currently in print, but a marked improvement over that old Manga disc. The image isn't perfect and comes from an older HD source, but it clearly improves over the DVD in numerous ways. A clearer image, stronger colors, and a definite filmic feel to the presentation are all quite welcome. The disc also includes an HD audio upgrade to the Japanese language track, as well as the older English dub in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. Both sound fine, though the English dub could've used an update. With a smaller, newer company like Anime Ltd, I'll forgive them not having the resources to commission a new English dub.

The extras on the disc should be familiar to anyone who has owned previous versions. A n interview with Kon Satoshi is the highlight, spanning the entire production of the film at a decent 24 minute stretch. Knowing now what ultimately became of him, it's lovely to see him in younger, healthier days. Along with that interview there are a few cast interviews from both the Japanese and English language voice cast that are somewhat enlightening in terms of discovering how these artists created their characters. Last, and probably least for me, is some archival footage of the recording of one of the songs from Mima's group CHAM! and a full-length recording of the English version of the tune. Minor assets, but assets nonetheless.
 
For you packaging geeks out there, Anime Ltd has also done a commendable job giving Perfect Blue a unique look and feel on home video. An artfully done digipack is concealed within a hard cardboard slipcover that gives the film weight and makes it feel like something special. In addition, they've included several art cards from the film that collectors will enjoy.

Anime Ltd has taken very little time in becoming a top name in UK anime distributors. The only hesitation I have with recommending this wholeheartedly is the fact that, due to contractual obligations, the disc is locked to Region B (UK, Europe, Australia). Nothing that can be helped by Anime Ltd, but perhaps further inspiration for those of you out there still waiting to take the region free Blu-ray plunge. If you are capable of playing the disc, and you share my love for the film, this is the only way to go.
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  • Ard Vijn

    Great review, and I'm keeping my eye on Anime Ltd. to see what they do next. This release is one hell of a way to draw attention to yourself as a company!

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