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Hello and welcome MoFo’s to another review with The Gunslinger45. Anime. For many people it is their favorite form of storytelling and art. They keep up with the latest series, can talk in detail about artists and directors, what makes their art styles or literary tropes unique to them, insist on watching the subtitled versions, and are active in cons and cosplaying. For others it was something they were into when they were young but they grew out of it. For others still, there those still obsessed with anime, but have stopped seeking out new titles because of perceived drop in quality. I myself have for the longest time been somewhere in the middle of these points of view. Can’t call myself an Otaku, can’t call myself an Old-taku (credit Bennett the Sage for that term), and I can’t say I don’t like anime. I liked anime a lot as a teenager and as a young adult in college. I grew up on the likes of Dragonball Z, Cowboy Bebop, and my personal favorite anime series The Slayers. I still have all my series on DVD that I had when I was in college, still rewatch them, and even updated a few series to Blu Ray. Hell I regularly follow the fan made DBZ parody Team Four Star with their Dragon Ball Z: Abridged series (which is hilarious, watch it sometime). But anime was never my scene. Scorsese is putting out a new movie? I am there. A gun show comes to town? Shut up and take my money! But I never connected with Anime the same way as these other interests. Furthermore, I am not a convention guy, I usually will watch the dub over subtitles, I am not a Manga reader, and ever since I saw the animated abomination that was High School of the Dead; my enthusiasm for seeking out of new titles has been next to zero for damn near a decade. And that is primarily for anime series. Anime movies were even rarer picks even when I was younger. I love Ninja Scroll, Vampire Hunter D and its sequel, but they were not something I sought out unless it tied into a TV show. Exceptions do apply though. I have seen a few Miyazaki movies and have a few more in the “to watch” DVD and Blu Ray pile. And I liked them all, but I thought they were just very good movies with excellent animation. My brother got me into Attack on Titan by getting me the Blu Rays for Christmas and I blind bought a few series after that. And I certainly don’t thumb my nose at anime artistically or think of it as childish. I watch too many Disney movies to do that. Hell I even count Lina Inverse as one of my favorite fictional characters. But even then anime just never did for me what Scorsese, Kurosawa, or Disney did. Or at least that was the case. Ladies and gentleman I think I found my anime spirit animal. And that man is Satoshi Kon. Just finished watching this movie AND IT WAS FANTASTIC! How good was it? Well prepare to step into the surreal world of Kon in Perfect Blue.

The movie opens with a popular Japanese idol group Cham perform at a venue. During the performance one of the members (Mima Kirigoe) tells the audience she is leaving the group to pursue an acting career. She lands a part in a crime drama series. The part is very different from her old life and former public persona. While she was a huge part of the idol group, her role initially is rather small and in a minor supporting role. And even when the part grows the role becomes more adult, sexually charged, and very much outside of her comfort zone. All the while under the stress of her new career, she begins to suffer a full blown mental breakdown and identity crisis. As if her life is not complicated enough, certain people in the production team begin to wind up dead. Add in the additional pressures with memorizing lines, her new image, and the media; and it becomes harder for Mima to tell what is reality and what is fantasy. This results in the creation of an incredibly enthralling and captivating psychological thriller.

I LOVED this movie! This is what happens when Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch get together to write a script and get a guy from Japan to draw it. It is like Mulholland Drive meets Vertigo. I know that is giving the flick pretty high praise but I think it is more than warranted! This movie has a lot of what I like in it. It has plenty of surreal imagery, an excellent murder mystery, suspense, and just the right amount of sleaze. It covers themes of obsession, identity, reality vs fantasy, the often dark side of show business, and finds a way to perfectly balance them in a very engaging story. What is even more impressive is that I felt this way despite the fact that I actually knew a major twist in the movie! Now anyone who saw my Top 12 Film Disappointment’s list knows that ruining a good twist can derail a movie. But this movie was so well done, so well edited, so well written that I was engaged and on the edge of my seat even though I knew what was coming! I can only imagine how I would react to this film going in totally blind. Top it off I opted to judge the film on how it was intended to be seen, and watched with the Japanese audio and English subtitles, which is something I just generally do not do. I have watched the dubs since the earliest days of checking out anime on the Sci-Fi Channel and DBZ.

So yeah I now have a new director I am very eager to explore. Regrettably Satoshi Kon died of cancer in 2010. He was only 46 and his body of work as a director is 4 feature films and an animated series called Paranoia Agent. I do have his other three features on DVD and Blu Ray and I really look forward to watching them when I get the chance. And I need to get a hold of either a copy of Paranoia Agent or see if it is in the Anime section of Hulu or Netflix. So far I am floored by Perfect Blue. In all honesty this film has not only given me a greater respect for Anime as a whole and what it can do, but I now count Perfect Blue as among my top 50 favorite films. I admit I am riding high on the flick right now seeing as I am typing this review after I just watched it, but it might be my favorite animated movie. I want to see Millennium Actress, Paprika and Tokyo Godfathers first before I make that statement though. I know a bit about Tokyo Godfathers, but I am going in 100% blind on Millennium Actress and Paprika. Hopefully I enjoy them as much as Perfect Blue. I will let you all know how those viewings turned out.