Perfect Blue is about a pop idol turned actress trying to adjust to her new career, while struggling with her own psychosis and identity.
|Genre||Suspense, psychological thriller, horror|
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Today, we are going to look at the first feature film of animator Satoshi Kon, Perfect Blue. Satoshi Kon was best known for his surreal works that blur the line between reality and dreams, having directed four successful movies and one successful anime series Paranoia Agent. He was pretty much the David Lynch of the anime world, birthing some terrifying creations that makes us question how deeply we can sink into dark places. If anything, Perfect Blue is the perfect place to start if you’re browsing Kon’s works. It establishes the general tone of his movies, a disorienting and unsettling trip into the human psyche.
From Pop Idol to Actress
Mima Kirigoe was the lead singer of the J-pop group known as CHAM!, a career that she was originally passionate about. Feeling restricted by her current lifestyle, she left the group to pursue a new career as an actress, something that she was serious about and hoped to make it big at.
But ever since her decision, something mysterious begins to transpire. She received threatening messages and silent phone calls. There”s a website about her called Mima’s Room, which makes her private thoughts available to the public. Furthermore, she has a stalker.
HOLY SHIT, WHAT IN THE NAME OF SILENT HILL IS THIS ABOMINATION!?
So, everyone, meet Me-Mania. This fish-eyed, disfigured man definitely ups the ante of the What-the-Fuck-O-Meter. While he doesn’t say much, he has a very creepy obsession with pop idol Mima. And sometimes, he pops up in places where he shouldn’t be.
This man is definitely no Quasimodo. He’s not only hideous on the outside, but hideous on the inside as well. It’s hard to say what humanity Me-Mania has left. Unfortunately, we don’t learn that much about him, other than that he may have been the admin of the website Mima’s Room. His room is nothing but his computer and a huge collection of Mima Kirigoe merchandise, some of it being nude photos of her modeling. On his spare time, he would follow Mima during daytime with a camcorder on hand.
Alas, this is just the surface of what we’re to expect.
Guiding Mima through her new acting career is Rumi Hidaka, a former pop idol who was concerned with Mima’s choices. Mima’s first role would be in a small crime drama series called Double Bind. With the production staff realizing Mima’s strong potential in acting, they decided to make more use of her.
And things get more progressively disturbing. The production staff wanted to cast Mima as a rape victim at a strip club, who would eventually turn into a murderer. While this controversial role does frighten Mima a bit, she went along with it in hopes that it would grow her career.
And we get to one of the most disturbing parts of Perfect Blue. While it was clearly established that this scene was still just an act, this rape scene was still realistic in its execution and very hard to watch. From her perspective, Mima was surrounded by horny and aggressive men while one of them had his way with her. While still part of just show business and she wasn’t actually getting raped, this realistic portrayal still traumatized her (and by extension, her manager Rumi).
The Persona and the Shadow
But this has yet to be the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. The rape scene made Mima very insecure about herself and question her choices, blurring her perception between reality and make-believe. Her pop idol persona seemed to have taken a life of her own, mocking the actress Mima for being “filthy” and “tarnished.” This pattern continued throughout Perfect Blue, forcing Mima to hallucinate and see bizarre things.
This is where the movie touches upon the philosophies of Carl Jung, particularly the concepts of the persona and the shadow. The actress Mima views her pop idol career with discontent, believing it restricts her from achieving greater things. As you can see her from her current living conditions, she lives alone in an apartment room with a small tank of fish. This implies that her former career doesn’t make that much money to begin with, which is what inspired her to make a career change. However, she does feel guilty about the decision.
She disappointed her fans, her family and even herself. It’s not that she hates being a pop idol, but she desires to be something more. So once her pop idol persona surfaced, this persona began laying a guilt trip in an attempt to make the actress Mima abandon her new career. The pop idol Mima wanted to remain the way she is and wanted nothing to do with acting. She wants to seen as a beautiful siren whose fans would do anything for her.
The actress Mima wanted to bury her pop idol identity for good and move on. Alas, this couldn’t happen. The pop idol identity wanted to become the persona, even though it’s now the shadow.
The two Mimas led us to believe that she may be suffering from dissociative identity disorder, a condition where someone can develop independent personalities that contain different behaviors and even memories. This was further evidenced when various production staff members of Double Bind were later found dead throughout the movie, with Mima having no recollection of certain events. And Mima found some evidence of the deceased in her own apartment.
Furthermore, Mima saw diary entries posted on the Mima’s Room website, some of which she doesn’t recognize at all. She wondered if she really wrote those or someone was impersonating her. This buildup of paranoia causes Mima to lose sense of time (and her consciousness at random points), trapping her in a never-ending nightmare of déjà vu. She doesn’t know what’s reality or dream anymore.
The fact that Mima’s first acting role was in a psychological murder mystery doesn’t help matters. She begins to view her acting career as the real thing, as established by the rape scene. Is she a pop idol, an actress, a model or someone entirely different? These questions continued to present themselves, seemingly without end. It’s hard to tell, when Mima loses consciousness and seems to travel between various points in time with no rhyme or reason.
These events culminate into a twist ending, à la Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. At this point, I’ll say that the twist ending is well foreshadowed and brings an even deeper issue into surface.
Mima finds out that her manager, Rumi Hidaka, had been exploiting her paranoia all along. It was revealed in dialogue that Rumi was once a pop idol herself, but she regretted the decision to leave her career behind. For the most part, Rumi seemed to be a caring manager who wanted what’s best for Mima.
However, it wasn’t necessarily for Mima the Individual, but rather Mima the Pop Idol. Rumi saw a bit of herself in Mima; once a beautiful, youthful woman full of dreams and beloved by fans. But since Rumi’s looks have faded and she had grown overweight, she had already been past the point of no return. Her pop idol days were over.
And because Mima intended to leave her pop idol career behind, this didn’t sit well with Rumi at all. So Rumi tried to sabotage the production of Double Bind, by sending threatening messages to its staff members and even murdering them if they don’t comply.
But Mima doesn’t intend to go back to her pop idol career, so Rumi’s own sanity slipped and she began to dress up as Mima herself. It turns out that Rumi is the one with dissociative identity disorder, not Mima. Because Mima’s own mind deteriorated, she couldn’t differentiate between her own reflection and this middle-aged overweight woman in a wig. She suffered from something called folie à deux, a type of syndrome where two people share the same delusions and hallucinations.
Some of the pop idol Mima’s appearances were simply hallucinations resulting from Mima’s failing grasp on reality, while others were Rumi disguised as her.
Rumi worked together with Mima’s stalker, Me-Mania, to bring down Mima. Rumi stole Mima’s diary entries and kept a close watch on her personal life, divulging the details to Me-Mania. She also wrote and published fraudulent diary entries on the fan website, deluding herself to be the real Mima.
Meanwhile, Rumi allowed Me-Mania access to anyplace where he would normally be restricted, such as the TV set of Double Bind. This was how Me-Mania managed to get some camera footage of Mima at certain places
Because Me-Mania’s own sanity was already gone, Rumi had an easy time manipulating him to attempt to murder Mima. She convinced him that the actress Mima was nothing more than a fake and a poor substitute for the pop idol persona. And because Rumi impersonated Mima through her pop idol attire, it would be like the real Mima giving orders to Me-Mania.
So Me-Mania did eventually confront the real Mima, intending to play out his sexual fantasies with her and killing her afterward. But Mima managed to knock him out. The next time we see Me-Mania, Rumi had already killed him—his failure presumably meaning that he outlived his usefulness.
So Rumi (dressed as Mima, her mind broken) appeared before Mima, intending to murder her. This turned into a struggle running through the streets. When Mima accidentally took off Rumi’s wig, Rumi accidentally stabbed herself trying to get it back. Rumi wandered into a street, where a big truck was about to hit her—in her viewpoint, she sees a spotlight and hears a cheering audience. Mima saved Rumi from being hit, leaving both of them alive.
In the ending, Rumi was admitted into a mental insitution while Mima was finally able to move forward in her life, free to pursue whatever she wants. It’s unknown how much time had passed, but it was presumed to be long enough for Mima to recover from her physical and mental scars.
…Or is it?
Some viewers believed that the ending turned out way too good to be true, implying that there it’s not as happy as it seems. Mima may have never truly recovered from her psychosis, implying that the smile she wears is simply an act—just another persona she adopted. Somewhere deep down, she is still insane and denies that there is anything wrong with her. And her anguish will continue from there…
Some say that it was actually Rumi walking free into the world, while Mima was the one in the mental institution—which I don’t think is a plausible theory. We clearly saw Rumi walking around in a room freely, until she stops at a mirror—which she sees herself as pop idol Mima. If we were to go by this theory, it would only make sense if Rumi was the true protagonist and Mima was the antagonist.
And some viewers believed the ending was completely straightforward. Mima is now happy with her life and she is grateful to Rumi for making it happen—even after Rima did try to kill her before.
In my opinion, I think the happy ending is the most plausible theory. I know it contrasts with the rest of the movie, but Mima learned the truth towards the end. What she had seen was a mix of her own paranoia and an illusion created by Rumi, and she came to accept this. Furthermore, Me-Mania is dead. No more creepy, fish-eyed stalker to jumpscare her anymore. So other than Mima’s own self-doubt, no outside forces are restraining her anymore. She’s free to do whatever she wants—singing, acting, modeling, etc.
It may seem like I’m taking the easy way out, but I feel like the first two theories require more suspension of disbelief to get a feel for.
In conclusion, Perfect Blue is an eerie film with a trippy pacing reminiscent of David Lynch films. It’s not for the faint of heart, containing some intense scenes and horrific imagery. It’s a movie that touches upon the consequences of public image, celebrity status and the status of the Japanese film industry at the time. A great choice for horror buffs
Perfect BluePrice Varies
- A dark, grim tale of a celebrity trying to advance her career—and the potential consequences it came with.
- A classic Carl Jung theme.
- Some well-placed inconsistent pacing (especially towards the end), in order to disorient the audience and keep them in suspense.
- A creepy musical score reminiscent of Silent Hill.
- Some scenes can be hard to watch due to their intensity and controversial subject.