For the last few years I have been writing reviews (mostly anime, some live-action) for U.K. print mag MYM Magzine. What follows is the text of the submitted draft for my third commission back in 2013, reviewing the Anime Limited U.K. blu-ray release of feature Perfect Blue. To read the final version as edited by David Axbey please buy back issue #19 of the magazine.
Title: Perfect Blue
Out: 30th September 2013
From: Anime Limited
On: Blu-ray/DVD combi pack, also DVD only
Price: £xx.xx (DVD £xx.xx)
Stars Out of Five: Five (Two if you think anime should only be kawaii TV series)
Standfirst: The late Satoshi Kon delivers a masterpiece as his feature debut.
It’s simple really. In the pantheon of truly great talents to have stridden across the anime world, Satoshi Kon was in there from the moment he made this highly-regarded feature debut, and only cemented his place with every subsequent project. The story of a J-Pop star leaving her singing trio to try other work, the film chronicles the breakdown of both her career and seemingly her mind. It has more in common with films by Alfred Hitchcock and Roman Polanski than with the science-fiction anime features that were all the rage at the time, but marked a huge step up in international appreciation of the medium after Akira and Ghost in the Shell. This was a release international film festivals could programme, something film critics could get to grips with on their own terms, and marked a new appreciation for what could be done for adult viewers with anime.
Looking back on it now, the period quality of the animation makes no difference whatsoever to the way the film envelopes you in its world, playing with your assumptions, examining the nature of otaku, stalkers, and the careers of those they worship before turning up the tension for a classic thriller climax. This new remaster cleans up the colours, tightens up the balance, and makes full use of the new resolution available. It seems a little darker in places than one remembers, but comparisons with the DVD show that the film has always looked that way. The new DTS HD-MA 5.1 Japanese soundtrack is a definite step up, with the music and fx noticeably clearer and well-placed; there is also a Japanese LPCM 2.0 track.
For those requiring an English dub, the original is available in lossy Dolby Digital 5.1. There are options for full English subtitles, signs only, or none. The interview with the Japanese and English voice casts are retained, as well as the music recording sessions, but the jewel in the crown is still the interview with the late Kon himself. Recorded at his work cubicle, he talks at length in detail about the film that would place him on the global animation map and mark the minds of fans and film-makers alike – no-one who has seen Perfect Blue forgets the experience. (Darren Aronofsky bought the rights for a live-action remake, but seems to have poured its influences into Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan instead.)
If you do not already own a copy of Perfect Blue, then you’re highly unlikely to take the plunge now, but it is without doubt the best way to experience this classic psycho-thriller for the first time. If you own the Manga DVD, then you already have the extras in about the same quality, so the only question is how much do you want to own the film in high definition? Given the way Kon wielded his casts and crews like a great composer conducting the orchestra playing his own work, all his films should be available in the most film-like presentation, and this Blu-ray certainly provides that for his still-unnerving debut.