Tag Archives: thriller

Kern’s Collections: Death Note

Hello everyone, it’s Kernook here (Kern for short). I hope this post finds you well. It’s time for another “Kern’s Collections” and this one was a long time in the making. Why did it take so long? Well, primarily because the video editing gave Ruka and I plenty of trouble. Anyway, here it is. I hope you enjoy it.

As always, this is a series dedicated to brief glimpses of media and why you might enjoy them. Included in this post is the video production and the written script.

Video Production of this Script

This is the finished video regarding the script. It is written, edited, and read aloud by Kernook of “The Demented Ferrets”. You can watch the video on this blog and on YouTube. I hope you enjoy the content.


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Written Script

Hello everyone, it’s Kernook here. Welcome to “The Demented Ferrets” channel. This is a segment called “Kern’s Collections”, a series dedicated to brief glimpses of media and why you might enjoy them.

This is not a review. This is merely a simple glance at an anime that could be worth your time.

Today I’m going to be talking about Death Note.

I’d like to think that the series is so well known that most anime fans already known of it, but I recently realized how wrong I was. I met someone who was so new to the anime fandom that they thought Death Note was merely the live action movie that could be found on Netflix. They only recently got into anime as of this year, and well, as you can expect many shows just aren’t on their radar as of yet.

So, I’m going to highlight some of the good and the bad that the series has to offer.

While it’s true that Death Note does have have live action and written media counterparts, today I just want to speak of the anime itself. The series came out in 2006, so I can understand why newer anime fans may not have gotten around to it yet.

First of all, let me just begin by saying this. The series is a Madhouse production,and in the early 2000’s Madhouse was considered top of the line anime. They’re still great now, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that back when Death Note came out, they stood as the cream of the crop, so to speak.

Anyway, you’re going to get a quality series in a lot of respects. In spite of how old it is, Death Note has good animation, and a strong soundtrack. So, don’t let the fact it was made in 2006 put you off.

The series is a thriller first and foremost, but it is also a very good anime when it comes to studying society at large. The complex interplay between the characters makes you think that the minds of the core cast are all that really matters, and that might be true the first time you watch Death Note.

However, I find that the first half of the series is even more rewarding the second or third time through. When you can really sink your teeth into the implications of the world that Death Note attempts to illustrate.

The story is simple. A notebook falls from the sky, and into the hands of a boy named Light Yagami. This young man is on the brink of graduation, bored, and with more ambition than he knows what to do with.

He takes the book home, and finds out it has incredible power. With the book in his hands, and a clear set of rules in place, he comes to realize that he only needs a name and a face. With tho two things, the notebook is able to take human lives with little more than a few mere pen strokes.

Naturally, Light lacks basic human empathy in many ways. Displaying what passes for it, but never truly feeling it. As he chooses to take the law into his own hands, he plans to to make a better future. One that he can become the “god” of. He wants to build a whole new world, based on his desires and his ideals.

Now, this is problematic for the people around him for more than a few reasons. None more so than Light’s own immaturity, and lack of perception. He’s not a good person, and he’s really not the sort of guy you can root for if you have any value in humanity at all. Especially once he begins taking the lives of innocent people for his own gain.

Frankly, he isn’t meant to be the sort of character you can cheer for. Well, unless you like cheering for villains, I suppose. Make no mistake about it, Light is a villain from start to finish, but he is a very well written character even at his worst.

What make the series so interesting, at least for a vast majority of it, is the interplay between Light, and a surrounding characters. This especially holds true for a character simply known as “L”.

It’s the mind games and competition between these two characters that keeps the series engaging.

The anime itself has many super natural elements. Gods of death, and the concept of the book itself falls squarely into the territory where you’ll need to suspend your disbelief. The same goes for Light’s amazing intellect and ability to out smart the forces opposing him.

In general, this isn’t hard to do. More often than not, the series invites you to do this, and viewers often don’t have an issue doing so.

Now, that’s not to say the anime is all sunshine and roses, it’s far from it. Speaking from a time when I was a young adult, I look back upon Death Note very fondly. Anime conventions were full of cos-players, and “L” was a very common character to go as. He was so easy and simple to dress as.

To cosplay as “L” you required only a tiny bit of makeup under the eyes, a black wig, a white shirt, a pair of men’s jeans, and a simple pair of unobtrusive flip-flops… since you know, you shouldn’t walk around barefooted at a convention center.

He was the perfect character to cosplay as when you have very little money to your name and sill wanted to get in on the fun. So, he was a common character to see walking around.

Taking of the nostalgia goggles though, there comes a time when Death Note falls flat on its face in more ways than one. I won’t speak about why, as those would be spoilers. However, what I will say is that when a few new characters start coming around in the back end of the anime, they just can’t compete with their predecessors.

At that point, the story is in no way able to live up to the thrilling and suspenseful ride that it has built up to that point. You may find that to be a disappointment. However, to avoid the series strictly because of its short comings would be a huge disservice. Not every anime is perfect, most are not, and this one had flaws too. Even with the nostalgia goggles removed, there is a lot of good things here.

One last caveat, the last episode is absolutely abysmal, but fear not. There are live action movies that don’t include that crap as part of the narrative and if you really want to see those, give a look for them, they’re around. I’ll talk about them at a later time, though.

Regardless, I still feel that Death Note is well worth your attention. Even though we live in an era of more anime than we often know what to do with, so few can match what Death Note has to offer. So if you’re a new fan, or you simply bypassed it, go back and give it a try.

At the time of this post the anime series can be found over on Funimation and Crunchyroll.

This has been Kernook of “The Demented Ferrets”, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you in the next post.

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Monster – You Have To Watch This Thing

There are times as an anime fan when I want a series to watch that’s off the beaten path. Something that may be considered a little too dry or complex. These sorts of anime fall out of fandom discussions quickly, eventually slipping into obscurity.

Naoki Urasawa’s Monster fits all of this criteria, as the series isn’t exactly what I would call a “pop-corn” anime. It’s probably far from it, because even when it came out in 2004, I can’t think of many people who found themselves talking about the series. My friends certainly didn’t, and neither did I.

I tried to watch the series when it came out, but in 2004 I was still in high school. I had other interests, and what might be thought of as “high-brow” anime wasn’t among them. It wasn’t until I was a handful of years older and gave it try a the second time that I really came to enjoy this gem of a series.

So, today I do want to talk about this anime, and all that it has to offer. I don’t know many people personally that actually enjoy it, which I think is a shame. First though, time for obligatory self-promotion…

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Anyway, let’s continue with the rest of the content. So, Monster is a weird series in fandom. Funnily enough, this series is ranked fairly highly on “My Anime List”. This is a little odd, I have to say. I rarely hear anyone talk about this show at all, but it does seem to be fairly popular in the grand scheme.

Think I’m joking? Take a look at this screenshot. That was taken just as I was writing this post.

Though, I do wonder how many people added it merely by its reputation. It is known for being an intelligent anime. The series tells a very perceptive and complicated story, so it isn’t something easily bandied about.

Outside of anime reviewers or very small corners of the internet, it just isn’t discussed despite the fairly high ratings. Therefore I can only conclude one of two things.

Firstly, that it is a show a lot of people enjoy, but simply don’t discuss at length due to its nature. Secondly, is that Monster has fallen into that realm of obscurity that I mentioned before. Either way, this is a series worth talking about.

It isn’t a typical anime in many ways. It doesn’t follow the standard formula, nor does it pretend to try. In the near endless flood of anime of today, you’ll still be hard pressed to find shows quite like this one.

I like anime that push the limits of the medium. Fantasy and magic found within anime is almost akin to the platformers, role-playing games, and shooters of the gaming world. Even anime aimed at older viewers seem to have some sort of super natural quality to them, and a vast majority are a dime a dozen.

Finding something that manages to break the confines of gaming as we understand it can be a bit difficult. The same is true for anime.

Monster certainly accomplishes that goal, and without too much fantastical idiocy to go along with it. This isn’t a series filled with magic, but I promise you that it has plenty of mystery. If you haven’t watched Monster, Today I’m going to explain why you should.

This is not a review, this is purely a suggestion.

The Narrative

Word of warning: This series can be incredibly offensive to anyone with a firm faith in religion to the point they follow it blindly and refuse to study it. If your faith in Christianity is so strong that you cannot even question the bible even slightly, keep away from this thing. It’s not for you, and it isn’t intended to be.

More on that later, when I discuss the intellectual ethos of the series.

Summary without spoilers: The series takes place in the 80’s. We follow the story of a Japanese man by the name of Kenzo Tenma. He is a young doctor based out of Germany. As a skilled neurosurgeon, he’s earned the attention and praise of people in high places. Due to his high standing he is placed in a rather precarious position, forced to make a choice that he really doesn’t want to make.

Two people need complicated life saving operations. One person in need is a political figurehead, the other person in need is a child.

Tenma is the best of the best. There is no one his equal in terms of skill. Due to how well respected he is, Tenma is expected to bow down to the political bias of the hospital. They want him to operate on the figurehead, thus dooming the child to die.

He has been at the mercy of these kinds of decisions before, doing as he was told with a respect to authority. However to doom a child this way is a decision he refuses to make, and goes to save the child’s life instead.

Ultimately this decision will come back to haunt him. Beyond this, I dare to step into massive spoiler territory. Instead of talking about that, I’m going to cover a few other details. I really want you to watch this series if you haven’t, and I refuse to be the one to spoil it for you.

Instead I will say this:

The story is as much a mystery as it is thriller. It’s slow paced, but it is by no means a slog to sit through. If you take it slow and don’t try to binge watch it, you’re in for a real treat.

Everything in this anime toes an emotionally grey line. You cannot expect complete altruism either, neither from our protagonists or the side cast. Even the best characters have a dark side, and sometimes that side is vastly unsettling.

You cannot expect firm answers or conclusions to every tiny detail in the show. This series isn’t going to hold your hand. It wants you to come up with your own conclusions based on what you see.

What you can expect is a story that is very well written, with characters that are as multidimensional as any anime could ever offer. What you’ll find here is a truly mature anime. It is one that is certainly worth your time to give it a try.

I don’t know if you will “like it” per say. However, I can say that Monster is an experience in and of itself, and that alone is reason to watch it.

The Intellectual Ethos

If you don’t want complicated yip-yap bypass this section. Actually, maybe just bypass the anime at that point. It is a very complicated series, and as I fan I have to accept that.

Don’t believe me? Strap in, we’re diving deep on this one.

This series begins with a biblical quote, and right out of the gate Monster refuses to be simple. This quote is from the book of Revelations, the final one in the new testament. The quote looks like this:

Now, it’s very important to note that interpreters of Revelations typically have four key ways to view this section of the bible. Now, I’m not hugely religious, but I’ll highlight the main four in very simple terms.

  1. Some believe that most of the events in Revelations have already taken place.
  2. Meanwhile, others take it as describing the long chain of events that may take place, or is in the process of taking place.
  3. The third group are those that find this book to be of the future, and place the book primarily in the end of times (which has not happened yet).
  4. The final group view it as symbolic pictures of what they call “timeless truths”, applying the book as the standard victory of good over evil.

Fortunately, the message of Revelation does not depend on adopting a particular point of view. Any of those main four will do. So, why in the hell am I bringing this up then?

Well because it ties into the series. The quote wouldn’t be there mindlessly. I would argue this series touches upon all four views depending on what character you happen to following in regards to the series. The ideological undertones will conflict and contrast in many ways. They are not always blatantly obvious, but they could be somewhat offensive based on your own religious beliefs this particular section of the bible.

But that isn’t all, either…

Buried deep into this anime there are two core ideologies at play. Both of them are on display for the main character, Tenma, at almost all times.

One ideology is complex and morally grey area. The other is an emotionally driven conclusion based on the facts that the main protagonist will never have an answer for.

The first ideology is in regards to personal agency and the value of ethical intervention. What would you do when placed between two horrible outcomes? Would you act, or merely just stand still? Something bad will happen either way, so what option will you choose? Is there truly a “least bad” option?

As a doctor, Tenma made a choice, and he makes choices every day. He often reflects on those choices. Sometimes choosing to save one life results in the death of another. The grieving woman in the image above is someone that Tenma has to face in the first episode. This is a flashback scene. He can only watch as she morns the death of her husband, a man that needed his help.

A man that he chose to deny because of the orders passed down to him by the hospital. A man he could have saved…

This loss of life was not needed, and it weighs on Tenma. This event will influence his decision between the young boy and the political figurehead in the series, and every event thereafter.

This is in essence what is commonly known as the “The Trolley Problem”, as coined by English philosopher Philippa Ruth Foot back in the mid 1970’s.

The simple version of this ethical problem is known as “Bystander at the Switch“. It goes a little something like this:

There is trolley that’s out of control. It is speeding along railway, and it cannot be stopped. Up ahead, there are five people on the track, unable to move. If the trolley hits them, they will die. Now, there is where you enter into the picture. You are able to pull lever nearby. However, if you pull this lever, the trolley will switch tracks. Sadly, there is one person on that other track. If you pull the lever, that person will die instead.

Thus, you have two options. The first is to do nothing, effectively allowing the trolley to kill the five people on the main track. The second option is to pull the lever. You’ll save the lives of five people, but by your direct involvement with the lever, the trolley will still kill one person.

So, what choice do you decide to make?

This is the first question the series asks, and answers through Tenma. The start of the series begins with this same sort of ethical problem. The choice he makes will carry through the entire series. His decision lingers with him in the aftermath.

The second ideology is less complicated, but no less deep. It is the ideology of perseverance in the face of dire straits and negative outcomes. How do you cope with your choices after you’ve made them? How do you live with yourself, when the choice you make is the wrong one?

Tenma’s choice is one that impacts his life, and the lives of the other people around him. He thought he was doing a good deed, but that deed is no more than a devil’s deal.

This is the crux of the series. It is what ultimately drives the entire narrative I mentioned above.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. I doubt most will. Ultimately, what makes this show so well written is the minutia of little details. It comes down to the subject of interpretation. These are the same things that I feel hold this series back from being discussed at length.

Let’s be honest, trying to discuss Monster honestly has a lot of ideological landmines. I barely scratched the surface when it comes to the way the series presents its ideas, thoughts and themes.

That being said, the series is also a rabbit hole, there is such a thing as diving too deep. Let’s also be honest about that too. It’s easy to dive too deep on this one, and that can make it hard to relate to.

Some fans may end up seeing something that isn’t really there to find at all. Still the mere idea that you’re able to do that, is itself a nod to the main theme of Monster and the story it tells.

I can’t honestly review this thing because even trying to do that negates the reason why so many of us love this show in the first place.

I can’t just say “It’s awesome, go watch it!” nor can I say “The inevitable flaws are still worth your time…” because that alone isn’t enough to enjoy this sort of show. Saying “because you might like it” is a direct slap in the face for everything this show tries to do.

I doubt you’ll enjoy everything the series gives you. If you’re like me, there will be times that you will be flat out disgusted by certain characters and their world view. There are times you will not agree the subject matter, ethos, and ideology. However, you must expect it. That is the point of the title, after all.

These aren’t the monsters under the bed. These are the monsters of humanity. Everyone in the show could, at least in part, be classified as such. Just as in reality, we all have our vices and our failings.

We are all able to be monsters under the right conditions and circumstances. In the series, the characters argue that conditions and circumstances often do justify their actions, grotesque or not.

Monstrous, or not…

This isn’t an anime that I would merely pluck from my shelf and cram into the hands of my best buddies, because as I said, they wouldn’t like it anyway.

However, I’m going to be a pretentious twat for a second. Yes, I’m going to be “that asshole“. If you consider yourself a true fan of the anime medium in its entirety, or you consider yourself an anime expert even slightly, you have to watch this show.

There are no “if’s”, “and’s”, or “but’s” about it. If you are a person that is a collector of the medium, or consider yourself an authority of the medium in any possible way, shape or form, do your due diligence! Plant your ass in a chair and sit through it.

Sit through ALL of it, and then discuss it. This is a series worth talking about. It should not be left to rot in the recess of fandom, alone and forgotten.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets…

“Where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course…”

The Demented Ferrets…

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Review: The Promised Neverland

Before I begin, I want to make it clear that I will be discussing The Promised Neverland anime at length, and not diving deep into the manga on this review. I will be mentioning it, but not actually reviewing it. The written media for this series is amazing, and quite frankly it needs it’s own spot here on the blog.

The reason the anime for this series is so good in season one isn’t the same reason why the manga is also wonderful. They are very different ways to enjoy this story, and it would diminish both works to compare them in a single review.

This is not an anime made for young viewers, and thus some of the themes depicted in the series might be considered disturbing. That is the nature of this anime, you have been warned.

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The Promised Neverland is a story that caters to older viewers who enjoy darker tales. It isn’t squeamish about cutting to the core of emotional uncertainty. It doesn’t pull any punches either. This anime is terrifying due to the nature of its implications.

What makes this series so good, is that it doesn’t try to craft a narrative too big for its own good. With tightly packed pacing, it manages not to feel rushed. The themes are dark, but I see no reason to sugar coat things. The anime isn’t subtle about it, so I won’t be either.

The majority of this story revolves around children being raised to be consumed like cattle. This is contained in a society that no longer runs on the strength of mankind alone. Intelligent demons inhabit the world, and they eat humans. If that bothers you, don’t watch this series.

Anime like this one has the gift of animation on its side. If this were a live action, I wouldn’t be able to watch it. The show would border on the line of too inhumane, and absolutely revolting. The fact that it is an anime lends a certain power to its creation, and more accessibility because of it.

After all, not everyone reads manga. There are anime only fans out there, and this first season offers plenty to enjoy for those who like this sort of unsettling story.

That being said, if you do read manga, don’t bypass this one. The Promised Neverland has one of the richest experiences in the written media that I’ve ever come across.

The Story: Removing Childlike Innocence

The general idea of the plot is as trite as you’d expect it to be, if you went by the simple plot synopses. This anime is far from trite and doesn’t much care who it offends as it spins its twisted tale of an orphanage gone wrong.

Basically these seemingly orphaned children are raised at an isolated and incredibly idyllic facility. This place is known as the “Grace Field House”. Unfortunately a few of the smart children discover the secret of this orphanage. It’s not a paradise, it’s hell on earth. With demons running society, their sinister reason for existence soon becomes clear.

These children are raised for purpose of becoming meals, no better than pigs to the slaughter. They’re killed to become food.

This is what they were raised for. Terrified of this, the children of the orphanage rally together in order to escape. This is not made easy. Their caretaker, who they call “Mama”, grew up in a home not unlike this one. She knows all of their tricks, and it becomes a battle of wits to see if the children can escape successfully or not.

Ultimately this the main drive of the story, at least so far as the first season is concerned. The entire thing is wrapped in beautiful animation. The atmospheric soundtrack truly distinguishes itself fittingly in the world of the show. If you’re an anime only fan, the show won’t do you wrong.

The series is directed by Mamoru Kanbe and written by Toshiya Ono during season one. You can clearly see the love and care poured into the series by the team at ColverWorks.

I know many find the manga to be far superior when it comes to the story and how it plays out. However, I’d beg to disagree. It comes down for a simple question for me. Ju

It’s certainly a psychologically bent show, but in what way is it best enjoyed? This brings me to the crux of many disputes regarding the anime. Do you want it to be a horror or a thriller?

The best choices really comes down to that.

Horror or Thriller?

The Promised Neverland is both of these things, but when it comes to the anime it is far more a thriller than it’s manga counterpart. The manga is more terrifying, each turn of the page offers a better shock value.

I couldn’t possibly bring myself to care about that, but I can see the appeal. If you want The Promised Neverland to feel more like a true horror story, you should read the written media. If you want it to feel more like a suspenseful thriller, the anime is superior in every way.

The anime itself takes a different approach. It isn’t trying to shock or awe you with every narrative twist and turn. Rather, it places these plot twists in front of you and asks you to absorb them quickly. Instead of initial shock, you’re expected to keep up with the anime. You don’t have much time to analyze every tiny detail on screen.

The manga asks you to savor every moment, the anime pushes you along for the ride. In that way, viewers are more akin to the children trapped in the orphanage.

For the characters, there is no time to over think every little detail, and outwitting their “Mama” becomes a constant chore. It means the difference between life and death.

For the viewer, the anime offers feeling of urgency that is controlled and contained as every second ticks by.

Written media just can’t promise to provide the same inherent urgency on rails. That all comes down to the pacing of a reader. Faster readers will blow through the content very quickly, and if you’re like me that’s a downfall.

Therefore, the anime experience is one I find far more enjoyable. I get more out of the vocal acting, musical composition, animation style and general pacing of the show than I did from the horror aspect of the manga itself.

Now let me be clear, when it comes to story line, that is entirely a different issue. As of season two the story-line diverts heavily. It has split the fandom in ways season one never did. If you want the full manga story-line, you will not find that in the anime as of season two. You must read the written media to fully enjoy that side of the story.

This is why I must also separate the reviews for this series. Season two is still ongoing, and that’s a discussion for another time.

Characters: Wonderfully Conceptualized, Poorly Executed.

For me, the characters are the worst part of the series in absolutely every way. Characters are handled a little bit better in the written media, but not much. The anime has character failings in spades, and I can easily explain why.

There are many characters in this anime. During season one, most of them are under the age of eleven.

There are only two adults that have any reasonable merit in season one, and both of them are villains. The rest are demons that rarely have screen time at all. What this does is put the viewer into the mind of childish fears and ambitions to resist against authority.

Yet, this series was not made for children. Therefore, typically it would be hard to relate to them as an adult viewer. Only a story appealing to a true sense of danger would give a viewer something to latch onto.

You either have a concept of empathy and recall what childhood was like, or you don’t. You must suspend your disbelief that these young kids could outsmart and outmatch their greatest danger in season one.

Mama Isabella was groomed for her position at the orphanage. She was militantly raised to be superior in every way.

All in all, there’s two choices. Allow the kids to win the day, or let them all die and become demon chow. We know the show isn’t going to murder them all off, so plot armor it is!

This is just another tired old trope to be honest. I find it a little lazy. Especially when it comes to the way certain events play out. Mama Isabella can cripple these children thoughtlessly, and flat out does do that to one of them.

The whole idea behind the “Grace Field House” is that children are the most flavorful and delicious when they’re raised in a happy environment. Free of extensive emotional turmoil. This house provides some of the best human meat available.

Well, that just craps all over the idea that you could break a little girl’s shin, now doesn’t it?

By the time the children are ready to escape, they’ve seen enough of what hell on earth looks like. With that kind of emotional upset, they certainly wouldn’t taste very good. They’d likely be no better than scrap meat at this point. This is what I mean by you just have to suspend disbelief.

Other than the narrative of the world itself, you’d simply watch the show for the sake of hoping the children would be okay. Frankly, that’s a piss-poor narrative to strive for. After all, the main three children aren’t exactly easy to relate to. I doubt many of us were the brightest, most athletic, and top of our class as children.

Thankfully, the anime seems to understand this.

The story appeals to a near parental urge to hope these children beat the odds, but this is still a dystopia and the viewer knows it. Connecting with the characters becomes even more difficult if you think they’ll end up dead and turned into food.

So, to me the characters are flat out the weakest thing this series has to offer. Are they awful? No, not at all. However, they aren’t in the least bit relatable either.

We see this in anime all the time though, and it’s just the way things go. It’s not a deal breaker, it’s just a fact of this type of story.

In Conclusion

The Promised Neverland is a good series, but it is not a masterpiece. I love it, and I do highly suggest it to fan of darker storytelling. It’s great for what it is, but you’ll have to forgive it for what it isn’t.

That said, there is a lot of baggage that you see whenever you pull off the “fan goggles” and really look at the series maturely. It doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, like other anime of its type.

The series has flaws, gaping holes in logic, and a habit of being so far up it’s own ass with its narrative, that it doesn’t see any of it. It’s trying to tell a mature story, but in some ways it’s so childish in its handling of serious situations that it feels like an “edge-lord” tried to write it.

That being said, it’s still vastly entertaining. I know I sound almost ruthless in my critiques, but that comes from watching way too many anime in my life and knowing what I like.

I like The Promised Neverland, and it is completely worth your time to give it a try. However, it won’t ever be an anime that sits proudly on my open shelf. Nope, it’s in an old VHS/DVD cabinet. That’s where I store the majority of the shows that I don’t re-watch very often and have no desire to display.

A word of advice. If you’re going to watch this series, don’t look for any real depth. The character moments can be contrived at times, and others they’re just flat out stupid.

This is a pop-corn anime, philological horror or not. For me, that’s all it can ever be. The thing is, I’m perfectly fine with that. I enjoy this series, and I know others will too.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets…

“Where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course…”

The Demented Ferrets…

To Our Supporters: Thank You!

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Anime Review: Perfect Blue

Note: This was an old post on the original “The Demented Ferrets” site, and prior to that it belonged to my personal blog. It is being placed here because this is now where it belongs.

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Satoshi Kon was a master in directorial design. He took to his craft with a keen eye for detail. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2010, leaving behind his works of art as a legacy to the anime industry.

For more information on Satoshi Kon, you can check out my blog post about him here. For those of you who don’t here’s a brief recap.

In brief summary, Kon’s works are noteworthy to say the least and each of them are particularly unique. Frankly, his productions are incredible, even if they aren’t exactly mainstream media.

The fact of the matter is, most of Satoshi Kon’s greatest works are way ahead of their time thematically. They challenge viewers, and often require more than a single viewing.

Satoshi Kon combines the art of anime with his ability to craft an interesting narrative. His works are often saturated with several layers of metaphor to drive his stories forward. In order to completely catch every minor detail he skillfully embeds into his works, it’s best to watch them at least twice.

In 1997, Satoshi Kon had built quite a name for himself. His reputation grew quickly. His ability to craft compelling stories gave him an edge in the anime industry. In the 90’s animation was striving to do new things, and he was just the sort of person able to utilize his skills to the fullest potential. In collaboration with the studio Madhouse, Satoshi Kon was able to direct his first feature length film; Perfect Blue.

Satoshi Kon’s First Film: Perfect Blue

Originally, Perfect Blue was a fictional novel under the name “Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis” written by Yoshikazu Takeuchi.

The animated adaptation does make a few narrative changes, so keep that in mind. There is also a second novel named “Perfect Blue: Awaken from a Dream”. Both are worth a read if you love the Perfect Blue series.

As of writing this review, you can find both books on Amazon, same with the film.

Perfect Blue is a psychological drama. Its themes are heavy and introspective. It dives feet first into the darker aspects of what it means to be a Japanese idol, and the implications of that choice.

Thanks to its deep narrative and chilling atmosphere, it will be an unsettling animated movie for some viewers. This is by no means a children’s anime.

Perfect Blue was originally released in 1997, but in 2019 it was remastered. Now there is a blue-ray edition of the film as well. There is a dub and a sub of the series, and both will serve you well. Though I must admit, I do prefer the sub slightly over the dub.

Spoiler warning: From this point onward, there will be spoilers for the animated adaptation of Perfect Blue. You have been warned. This is a film you may want to watch before you see the spoilers.

Perfect Blue tells the personal story of a Japanese idol named Mima. She’s established and fairly successful, but she believes that she can do better.

Therefore she decides to leave her singing career behind, choosing to become an actress instead. Quite quickly, she manages to get a small role in a murder mystery series.

Unfortunately, that’s when things start to go horribly wrong for Mima, and it’s the crux of the entire movie.

Now, there is something to be said about idol culture, and the mentalities surrounding it. Japanese idols are a strange concept to anyone unfamiliar with it. In truth, westerners don’t have a one-to-one comparison for idol culture, so can be hard to describe.

Basically, a Japanese idol is a teenage girl or a very young woman who fits into a societal mold. These girls are dressed up in cute outfits in order to sing, dance, and perform for their fans. Furthermore, idols are expected to behave in a certain way. They have plenty of rules to follow, and they don’t have a lot of personal freedom. Idols are meant to encourage and inspire their fans, maintaining a perfect image for the general public.

Perhaps the nearest comparison I could make is the old days of the Micky Mouse Clubs, but even that falls on its face because idols are usually not children. Rather, they are late teens or young adults.

A somewhat sinister fact to this is that normally these girls don’t come from prominent families. Most of the time, they’re nameless and unpopular at first, rising to stardom because that’s what idol fans like to see.

This cultivated narrative suggests to fans that anyone who tries hard enough has the chance to be an idol themselves. Perfect Blue portrays the dark side of idol this particular type of idol culture.

Mima can’t just leave her identity as an idol behind. As much as she might want to, Mima can’t escape who she was, or the image she portrayed. In a way you could say she is a slave to her fans.

One fan in particular starts retaliating when she decides to start acting. This new role takes away from her purity and innocence that an idol should portray. Due to that, things become dangerous very quickly for her. Sadly, this also trickles down to those she’s associated with.

As people in Mima’s social circle end up being murdered, Mima must learn to cope with these new dangers. To make matters worse, Mima has trouble coming to terms with her professional career.

She believes she making the right choices logically. Emotionally though, those choices aren’t fulfilling in the slightest. They just don’t excite her like she thought they would. Instead, she ends up just going through the motions of daily life, feeling almost numb to her success.

She doesn’t voice this outwardly as she much as she should, keeping it to herself. Inwardly, she feels as though she needs to live up to a certain expectation, and since she was once an idol, this is no surprise.

As Mima’s career path shifts, so does she as a person. She constantly finds herself placed in very uncomfortable circumstances . As dark realities start drifting to the surface, she struggles to find her footing as an actress.

Mima is forced to act out scenes for her television series that she isn’t comfortable with, and she attends photo shoots for magazines that contain nudity. This goes against Mima’s formerly squeaky clean idol identity. Sadly, she conforms in spite of her discomfort with it all.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, there’s one more detail to this sordid puzzle. A detail that truly makes this animated film something truly haunting.

Mima isn’t necessarily in her right mind. Instead, she begins to hallucinate. Her former idol identity manifests in front of her. This image begins teasing her, taunting her, and asking her to dive deeper into her own depression. This image begins to ask Mima if she’s living the life she really wanted for herself.

It happens more than once. Each time this happens, it’s rather disturbing, both to Mima and to us, the viewers.

The vision of her idol identity keeps appearing and toying with her at every opportunity. It’s as if Mima is slowly going mad. At one point Mima even sees her idol identity sitting in the back seat of someone’s car. A point that I’ll come back to later.

The mental spiral continues to get worse for Mima. She begins passing out during the day and waking inside her apartment. She has absolutely no recollection of how she got there. She begins to see photos uploaded to a fan site that she doesn’t recognize and she begins to question herself, feeling as though she’s losing her mind.

The most disturbing part of all of this is that the television series that Mima has been working mirrors this. It has all of the same basic story beats. This gives viewers several narratives layered with complex implication and metaphor.

As we watch Mima struggle, we’re inclined to wonder about who she is as a person. We’re brought to wonder just how much of her life is a fabrication, and how much of it is real. Viewers are encouraged to question the stability of Mima’s mind, and what she sees as reality.

Frankly, all of these contextual pieces would be terrifying on their own. However, mixed together the way that they are, it is truly unsettling in all the right ways. The themes linger long after the anime has been turned off, and that’s by design.

Perfect Blue’s Perfect Metaphors

Satoshi Kon knew how to get his point across. He understood the fine lines of media, and how to make them work in his favor. He approached Perfect Blue with a firm understanding of what he wanted to do, and how to get it done.

The meticulous editing and scene changes found in this film are some of the best I’ve seen in anime. The film relies heavily on implication and juxtaposition to carry important scenes forward.

One moment, she’ll be standing over a dead body in a scene she’s acting out.

In the next, she’ll be standing in front of an audience, preparing to perform.

These scenes compare and contrast two stressful situations for Mima. She’s wearing the same expression in both moments, but one is much more horrific than the other.

As I said above, viewers are encouraged to question her sanity and what she believes to be real. This is one key scene, among many others, that truly contextualize Mima as a character.

It’s at this point I’d like to remind you of two other important scenes. One is the scene about the photos on the fan site she found. As I said above, she has no recollection of the pictures that were taken of her. However, the clothes are certainly in her closet, even if she can’t remember buying them.

The second scene is of the moment she see’s her idol identity sitting in the passenger seat of someone else’s car. She can’t deny what she saw, but even she can admit the entire idea is pure insanity on its face.

As Mima questions herself, viewers are asked to question her as well. As the concept of reality shifts around her, we begin to see that not everything is as it seems. We realize that her experiences are not trustworthy.

We can’t help but question which of the experience she’s having is the real one. Maybe only one situation is, maybe they both are, or perhaps it’s all just a fabrication of a very ill mind. This brings me to my next point…

Who exactly is Mima?

Mima’s Conflicted Identity

Throughout the film, it becomes clear that Mima isn’t being entirely honest with herself, or those around her. As I stated above, she truly struggles to find her place in life.

She’s not a happy person, at least not professionally, socially, or emotionally. She lives a very complicated life, with several facets of her personality being hidden away from the public eye.

Mima lives a double life. It may be two sides of the same coin, but that is a very isolating thing to do. We see this play out in the film.

It’s arguable that her supreme sense of isolation leads to her unhealthy mindset and warped perception of reality. It’s also arguable that she’s isolated purely because her perceptions are warped to begin with.

Viewers will never truly know the answer, it’s left strictly up to interpretation.

Mima is rather lonely in the privacy of her own apartment. Meanwhile, her idol persona is outgoing and charismatic. Lastly, her actress persona is someplace in the middle of the other two.

These conflicting identities lead her to a crisis of sorts. At times, it seems as though the idol personality within her is trying to break lose. It seems to gain a personality of its own. The way it seems to harass her is another question in and of itself.

Are these her own personal thoughts of self hatred given form? Or is the idol within her becoming it’s own split off personality, separate from Mima as a person? Or is she simply a ghost of who Mima once was?

Once again, the answer is not so clear. While it’s true this isn’t likely a purgatory of sorts, the trials placed in front of Mima are no less troubling.

Most of what viewers see is through the eyes of Mima, and what she goes through in daily life. With these many personas in constant conflict, her personal identity gets lost in the shuffle.

It’s anyone’s guess. That’s what makes this film so good. You could debate this endlessly and never come to a final answer.

Has Perfect Blue Aged Well?

Perfect Blue was originally released in 1997. In some ways it is a product of its time. When it comes to the world itself, it shows its age in spades. Decor looks dated to be sure, and that says nothing about the world during that era of time.

Electronics in the film reflect the era of the late 90’s. As a result, so do some of the conversations in the series. For example, there’s a scene where Mima learns how to use the internet for the first time.

Televisions and computers are the sort that you would find in the late 90’s. What was once top of the line equipment now looks like a relic. If anything, I do appreciate the little Mackintosh logo at the bottom of the computer and on the box. There are plenty of little nods like this all over in the anime.

If you are old enough to remember the 90’s these are neat little additions. I’m sure that in the 90’s additions like this helped the narrative to be more immersive.

As far as the actual animation goes, it holds up quite well, even in it’s original state. Thanks to the blue-ray remastering of the anime, those who want high definition certainly have an option too. The soundtrack to the show is as haunting as it is beautiful. Each track melds into scenes flawlessly, building tension and atmosphere when it needs to.

Final Thoughts

Perfect Blue is not an anime film for everyone. In fact, I personally believe a good number of people won’t like it at all. It can be hard to recommend to the average anime viewer.

It isn’t a relaxing show, and it has some pretty brutal pacing. That, coupled with its dark and sinister themes, lead to a very complex and morally grey narrative. It is a thriller, and that can’t be understated.

The film relies heavily on its psychological drama to carry the story forward. Many scenes are purposefully unsettling, and Mima is an enigma by nature. Several questions are left unanswered and up to interpretation.

The ones that will be answered, may not be satisfactory or to your liking. That’s just the nature of this film, and Satoshi Kon’s directorial style in general.

That being said, Perfect Blue is by far one of the most compelling anime I’ve ever watched. There is so much to unpack about the world, Mima, and the concept of idol culture in Japan. If you can tolerate the concepts in the anime, you may find a real gem here.

This had been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets…

“Where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course…”

The Demented Ferrets…

To Our Supporters: Thank You!

With your contributions, you make our efforts possible. Thank you for supporting our content.

Patreon Supporters

At the time of this post there are 3 notable contributors.

Demented Minions: Francis Murphy, Josh Sayer, and Andrew Wheal.


If You Enjoyed This Content…

Please consider following us on this blog. We also have other platforms with content to enjoy. At the time of this post we have a Twitter, Twitch, YouTube.

PLATFORMCONTENTSCHEDULE
TwitchLive streamsTuesday: 9:00 PM – 12 AM (GMT)
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TwitterAnnouncements, Random tweetsWhenever a live stream begins or content releases. Doesn’t have a set schedule.
Our BlogAll kinds of written media including anime, games, RWBY and more.Posts are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 12:00 PM (GMT)

There are plenty of ways to support us. To find out more, click the button below.