These last few weeks I was in the mood for animation films. So, after doing a brief research, I came across various wonderful animations that thematically and cinematographically are very interesting.
Here, I review Perfect Blue (Pāfekuto Burū; パーフェクトブルー; 1997). This Japanese psychological-thriller animation by Satoshi Kon is a classic that can be overshadowed by more mainstream animations such as those of Studio Ghibli, or dystopian masterpieces such as Akira (dir. Katsuhiro Otomo; 1988) and Ghost in Shell (Kōkaku Kidōtai Gōsuto In Za Sheru; dir. Mamoru Oshii; 1995).
Perfect Blue can leave you confused and astonished, as the film’s story delivers an amazing narrative that blurs the line between reality and dreams. In Perfect Blue, Mima Kirigoe (voiced by Junko Iwao) is a pop-singer, an idol, who is persuaded by her manager to become an actress. In order to be considered a genuine actress, Mima has to abandon her idol image, which means she has to leave her group completely. She is hesitant about this, but understands that it is necessary. Later on, she starts reading a blog that is supposedly written by herself. However, it seems as if someone is stalking her. The blog describes her daily activities and also reflects a few feelings that Mima is trying to suppress. This triggers a dazzled reality for Mima, filled with daydreaming, paranoia, and the loss of sense of time. Mima’s inability to differentiate fiction from reality worsens as she confuses reality with her acting role. This is emphasized by the murders that are taking place in Mima’s work. Is it her own doing or someone else’s doing? Is it really happening? Not only for Mima is fiction being mixed with reality, but also for the viewers themselves. As the story proceeds, Mima finds more clues that help her to discover the unexpected truth.
One interesting point of the film is that, at that time, Internet had just been widely introduced, and the use of blogs and other social media was not as popular as it is nowadays. So, when the film was released, it already reflected the different sides of social media – i.e. the possibility of becoming someone else and the effect it has on real life. Moreover, Perfect Blue shows how pressure works. Mima – persuaded by her manager – is convinced that she has to take this step in her career. However, this step involves more than just forgetting the idol group. Mima has to become a new product – a mature product that breaks her ‘innocent’ idol image. Perfect Blue depicts the possible psychological dangers, as fans and her ex-group members are preoccupied with her well-being, and Mima herself sees the danger too.
These worries increase as she takes on risky acts, such as a rape scene. Seduced by her ambitions, she accepts the challenge. The scene is intense, as close ups of a screaming and immobile Mima transform her acting into something that seems to become real – and here again, the thin line between reality and fiction is blurred. Did it really happen or was it just her imagination?
In short, Perfect Blue’s daydream-like storytelling is mesmerizing. In this film, not only the storytelling is great, but also the protagonist’s development and editing. Perfect Blue might be for some of you already quite old, but the topic is still contemporary. This film is exceptionally mind-twisting, and there is no doubt of why Darren Aronofsky was inspired and influenced by Perfect Blue when he made Requiem for a Dream (2000) and Black Swan (2010).
Original Title: パーフェクトブルー (Pāfekuto Burū)
Image: Screenshot Perfect Blue – Mima daydreaming, or not?