Director: Satoshi Kon
Starring: Junko Iwao
I needed to see this film a second time to affirm my love for it. The first time, I was admittedly uncertain how I felt about it. There’s a lot to digest in the Satoshi Kon masterpiece known as Perfect Blue, and certainly plenty to unpack in its themes of fame and psychological duality. I’m lucky enough to have recently received a theatrical experience the second time, and in this, I found myself leaving the theater quite invested.
Perfect Blue is about a Japanese pop idol named Mima Kirigoe, who, in the first scene, announces her departure from the girl group CHAM to pursue a career in acting. Simultaneously, as she performs her final show, we watch as a man cups his hand before his eyes so he can envision himself holding Mima, as if she were a prize. This is the first dosage of disturbing imagery, and the first implication that we’re not getting a standard anime experience, or a story that takes place in the sugar-coated world of pop music. As Mima traverses her newfound career in acting, we see the unraveling of multiple facets—the compromises one has to make for their artistic endurances, for one. And for another, her own psychological well-being. There’s plenty of scenes that may be dreams and may be hallucinations. Mima thinks she’s going crazy, and we believe her.
This film instigates a great deal of discussion to the dual nature of artistic and professional work, similar to Alejandro Iñárritu’s recent Birdman. Mima sees herself as a blossoming artist, but her passionate fans refuse to see her as anything more than a pop icon. The aforementioned disturbed fan in particular disputes this by posting slander from his idealized perspective of her online. When she agrees to suggestive photography, he furiously buys them all so nobody will see it. We realize it’s not love but obsession, and that this man is in need of serious help, but that’s not quite the point Satoshi Kon is making. He represents the mob mentality in seeing these monolithic figures not as people, but as servants to his perfectionist vision. He is the fans, and in some situations, he’s all of us.
Mima struggles with this image in all factions of her life, both externally and even more so internally. She has hallucinations of herself in a pink dress, a vision that jovially declines to be in a rape scene for a film. It’s a side of herself that both she and the audience soon begin to expect has taken a mind of its own, going as far as to be suspected of murder. From the scene of the first murder, this could be perceived as an animated slasher film, but it never loses its tone or deliberately unkempt narrative of a tale of insanity and/or inner conflict.
It’s entirely understandable if, upon first viewing, people find this film to be overtly jarring or relentlessly confusing, and therefore walk away with a certain distaste for it. But like many classics (2001: A Space Odyssey) or many potential future classics (Inherent Vice), if those same audience members gave Perfect Blue repeated viewings or let the substance of the film simply wash over them, I think they’d find it to be more worthy of consideration, or, at the very least, thorough analysis.