THE PERSISTENT feeling that something has been lost in translation pervades Japanese director Satoshi Kon's Japanese anime film, Perfect Blue. A feeling that, ironically, only adds to this film's disturbing weirdness. When Mima, leading member of the pop singing group Chub, decides to leave the group to pursue a career in acting, she finds herself torn between her own desires and the expectations of her fans.

As a pop idol, her image had been one of innocence and prettiness. But her first acting job finds her in a rape scene, and not long afterwards she poses nude for a notorious photographer (and may I just pause here to mention that cartoon nudity is a very disturbing thing indeed).

The antic poles of whore versus virgin embody themselves in Mima's hallucinations of a deformed stalker. When she finds a website diary that echoes her innermost thoughts, Mima's grip on reality becomes even more tenuous. The cartoon then winds hysterically into looped surreality until Mima's real tormentor is revealed.

The plot of Perfect Blue is as simplistic as daytime television: It's easy to guess who Mima's real stalker is using the tenets of basic psychology, but there is nothing in the story that might shake Mima herself out of two-dimensional cartoon existence. At some points the quality of the animation draws the viewer in -- mostly depictions of the crowded cityscape -- but in other moments the quality is ridiculously bad.

Full-length anime might offer a kitschy appeal, but that is something Perfect Blue is too deadly serious to aspire to. What Perfect Blue offers instead is a truly dark vision of pop culture couched in female mythology that might or might not be specific to Japanese culture, along with -- thank god -- a happy ending.