Perfect Blue courtesy Manga Entertainment
Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue is an animated thriller for grown-ups.

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With Japanese animator Satoshi Kon's surreal feature Paprika opening in theaters on May 25th, I've made his first film, Perfect Blue (1998) my pick for DVD Tuesday. This psychological thriller about a teenaged pop star trying to become a serious actress seethes with sharp observations about fame, the tabloid media, image and the commodification and fetishization of young girls. It's also a cracking good story.

Unlike Hayao Miyazaki -- Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Howl's Moving Castle -- who makes sensitive, quietly sophisticated films about the complicated psychological landscape of childhood, that can be enjoyed equally (if in different ways) by children and adults, Kon isn't interested in family filmmaking. His favorite subjects are mutable identity, the vagaries of memory and the complex psychological defenses people use to shield themselves against the world's relentless inequality, indifference and outright cruelty.

21-year-old Mima Kirigoe is one-third of a successful bubblegum pop group called CHAM imagine Britney Spears circa 2001, multiplied by three. But Mima knows groups like CHAM have a limited shelf life, and persuades her reluctant manager, Rumi herself a former pop star to begin putting her up for acting roles. Mima wins a one-line part on a popular Law & Order-style crime show called "Double Bind," and the producers like her well enough to expand her part. The new material includes a dramatically demanding scene in which Mima's character an exotic dancer is assaulted while performing in a club. Mima is nervous, but welcomes the opportunity to prove to the naysayers who dismiss her as just another pop tart that she has both real range as an actress and the dedication to take on difficult roles. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people in the TV business looking to enrich themselves at the expense of ambitious, inexperienced young actresses, like the celebrity photographer who coerces her into exposing more skin than she intended during a photo shoot. And some of Mima's fans are very unhappy with the direction her post-CHM career is taking. As Mima grapples with her own doubts and insecurities, she discovers a creepy website called "Mima's Room," complete with detailed and accurate excerpts from what purports to be her personal diary except that she didn't write them. Then someone begins murdering the creative team behind "Double Bind:" Is it a deranged fan? Is Mima have a psychotic breakdown? Or is something else going on?

Perfect Blue is equal parts Alfred Hitchcock-style thriller and Philip K. Dick influenced paranoia, and while the story's details are distinctly Japanese, its ideas about the nature and price of fame cross all borders. In fact, Darren Aronofsky owns the US remake rights, and at least one scene in his (2000) Requiem for a Dream owes it a clear debt. I'm a huge fan of Kon's next two movies as well, and if I prefer Millennium Actress (2001) to Tokyo Godfathers (2003), it's mostly because I've already seen two takes on Three Godfathers (not to mention both Three Men and a Cradle and its US remake, Three Men and a Baby, which are very much variations on the theme).

Things to consider:

Do you find that animation makes it hard for you to take stories that aren't children's fantasies seriously? Why or why not?

How do you feel about graphic novels: Capable of achieving the depth and sophistication of non-illustrated literature or not?

Which -- if any -- animated films have stayed with you because they were more than cute entertainment?

Send your movie questions to FlickChick.

Previous DVD Tuesday blogs:

Pan's Labyrinth
Les Girls
The Girl Who Knew Too Much
The Queen
Expresso Bongo
I'm Not Scared
Shocking Grindhouse Double Bill! - Scanners and The Candy Snatchers
Don't Look Now
Casino Royale
http:/ / community. tvguide. com/ thread. jspa? threadID= 800073953#comments"> Pi
The Prestige
13 Tzameti
The Departed
Kiss and Make Up
Kiss Me Deadly
The Long Good Friday
What Alice Found
The Devil's Backbone
The Descent
The Devil Wears Prada
Pandora's Box
The Thief and the Cobbler
Panic in the Streets/Jack Palance Interview
The Pusher Trilogy
Sunset Blvd.
In Cold Blood
Also: This week's new DVD releases