Directed by Satoshi Kon
Based on the book by Yoshitaku Takeuchi
I first read of Perfect Blue in an advertisement for a showing at the now-closed UC theatre which called it "Hitchcockian." I thought at the time that this what quite a billing for a piece of Japanese animation to live up to, considering the relative disdain that medium has for intricately crafted storytelling. As it turns out, there is no better word than Hitchcockian to describe this extremely gory suspense film.
Hopefully you're not ignorant of anime, with its extreme camera angles and compositions, superb sense of graphic design, and extended vocabulary of shorthand for everyday life (upside down hash marks for eyes -> chagrined). All too often, though, the medium suffers (especially in movie versions) from foreshortened storytelling, the product of aiming for an audience that is already familiar with the charcters and storyline (since most anime movies are adaptations of tv shows or manga, Japanese comics). Happily, Perfect Blue is based on a Japanese novel and the director Satoshi Kon masterfully moves us through the increasing horror of the heroine's life.
The story centers on Mima Kirigoe, an "idol singer" in modern Japan. A few years ago, explaining an idol singer would have taken some time, but now that we have the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears it's easy. However, even now, idol singers in Japan have notoriously short careers, much more so than in the U.S. -- they can look forward to no more than two or three years of popularity. Mima's manager wants to move her past that by casting her in a popular TV show and attempting to have her make the transition to being an actress. However, the roles are off-putting; her co-worker disagrees with the decision; and, a weird internet stalker increasingly haunts her life. Kon does a great job of weaving these strands together as the film progresses and the tension -- and, by the way, the body count -- increases.
This film is violent and gory, to the point that if you're bothered by depictions of film violence you should consider skipping it, as good as the film is. As you'd expect from a director who was an assistant to Katsuhiro Otomo on Memories, the violence is very stylishly presented and is relevant to the story. The story definitely heads some places that weren't obvious to me, and the result is the best animated film from Japan (outside of the works of Hiyao Miyazaki, director of Princess Mononoke and Sprited Away ) for several years.