A scene from 'Perfect Blue'
Courtesy Photo
*1/2 stars 80 minutes | Not rated
Opened: Friday, October 15, 1999
Directed by Satoshi Kon
Bubble-headed Japanese teen-pop star is stalked and haunted in anything-but-perfect 'Blue'

By Rob Blackwelder

A senseless roller coaster ride through the unstable mind of a bubble-headed, Japanese teenager and flash-in-the-pan, cheese-pop singer, "Perfect Blue" is just the kind of anime that could turn Western audiences off from this generally fascinating genre all together.

Animated and written at a level a few steps above "Pokemon" but several stories below classics like "Akira" and "Ghost in the Shell," this absurd import takes weak passes at Hitchcockian mind bending, but winds up pitching gibberish.

Not only is the supposedly cerebral stuff hard to follow, but the heroine -- a sweet young thing named Mima, whose career handlers are pushing her away from the singing she loves and toward an acting career -- is so uselessly dim and giggly the only people who could possibly take interest in her are stalker types.

Luckily, Mima has her fair share of those. A towering, pale, trenchcoated, snaggletoothed computer geek who shadows her 24/7 and catalogs her every move on a web site should be the first person in the paddy wagon when her life becomes endangered. But in the script for "Perfect Blue" not only does nobody notice him, lurking around with all the subtlety of a Trenchcoat Mafia kid from Columbine High, but Mima doesn't even point him out to her people even though he scares the crap out of her almost every day.

Thanks in part to this geek, but mostly due to the pressure she's under from her agents to keep them employed on her meager dramatic skills, Mima starts to lose touch with reality, big time. Soon she's haunted by giddy but nefarious hallucinations of inner self that was happy being a singer. This bimbo ghost skips through the sky, berating her for abandoning a career she loves. But Mima soldiers on into her uncomfortable acting, even when she's forced to play a terrible (and gratuitous) rape scene and other career moves that threaten her sanity and her public image.

Just exactly why we're supposed to care, I couldn't venture to guess. Mima is a pretty worthless heroine to begin with, and it doesn't help that she lacks even the self-possession to alert someone to the fact that her manhandled life is turning into a reject "X-Files" plot. Her handlers are none too bright either. No steps are taken to protect her, even after one of them is injured by a letter bomb.

By the time Mima starts wigging out, there's already a whole host of problems with sleep-inducing "thriller," none of which are helped by the dubbed English dialogue, which is so devoid of soul and panache that it reads like it was translated by a computer program.

With a first-time director (Satoshi Kon) at the helm and bunch of cheap, nonsensical twists you could blow holes in just by sneezing, "Perfect Blue" was a rotten choice for a US anime release.

Luckily, the legendary Hayado Miyazaki's "Princess Mononoke" -- the most successful film ever made in Japan -- is being released stateside and wide in just a few weeks and this sorry lot will be quickly forgotten.

Granted, "Mononoke" is more of a mystical fable than an "adult"-themed thriller, but any quality anime will be a welcome palate cleanser after "Perfect Blue."


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