I've seen this movie many times, and I can see it many more because I thoroughly enjoy watching it. But I saw this movie one time with my housemate Peter and we had a discussion afterwards about what had me really intrigued by it: the fact that it's an animated movie when it could have just as well been live action. Now if you're the kind of person who enjoys actually thinking about things then Peter is a great guy to watch a movie with, especially animated ones. There is a certain topic of animation that has struck me for a while now and it's something that was brought up by Shinichiro Watanabe (of Cowboy Bebop/Samurai Champloo fame), in one of the featurettes for The Animatrix. He said he's interested in bringing together animation and the real-world, blurring the lines. I won't get into that now, I'd rather get into it in my next post (with a look at literally blurring things in animation as well).
When talking about Perfect Blue I noticed that its art style is much more reserved than your typical superdeformed cartoony anime style. Proportions and proper anatomy are observed and to go even a step further everyone looks like they're from Japan, which blends in with the Tokyo setting. No blonde or blue or green hair, some characters have small squinty eyes. A great shot in the film is an obvious contrast of styles, where the sliding-door of the video store has a large poster of a super-deformed style anime girl, probably from some generic Magical Girl story. Throwing in this juxtoposition not only contrasts art style and story style, but also mirrors this kind of illusionary personality of the main character as a J-pop idol and the way her audience sees her.
But I will get to the main topic: why is this animated when it could have been made as live action? I ask this because there isn't too many moments of impossibilities like what we associate with in animation (like giant robots, talking animals or magical beams of light), there was the ghost floating over the city scenes and perhaps some artistic landscape staging but all of those could have been added in post-production and special effects with today's technology, or even the technology of 1997 when it was made.
With our brainstorming, Peter and I brought up the point of the violence in the film. There are painfully graphic moments that make you cringe and retreat inside your metaphorical shell, like the photographer being stabbed to death with a screwdriver, or the fat delusional manager being cut with the shattered glass, or when that manager stabs Mimarin with the umbrella. Because it is animation the gore and violence, and other special effects like the ghost or the rape scene, are a part of the world just as much as the people and objects. If it were live action it would be too easy to notice when something is a special-effect, and so the audience will become too uninvolved with the story. If the gore comes out as naturally as everything else - animated - only then you can truly experience it as if it just happened to you (assuming the story has a good director, of course).
Plus, this also takes into account the creepy stalker:
If Perfect Blue were live-action and they had someone who looked like that (they would probably be using prosthetics) you would just know that it's not real from the first glance. But in an animated world someone can look like that and interact with the world just as normally as anyone else in the story, as long as you do it well like they did in this movie.
Overall I think the story is brilliant, and thought-provoking on many levels. Even if you didn't like it, I don't know how you can stop yourself from thinking about it. Then again I know people who don't like thinking, and I wish I didn't.