Film Review

Anime Eiga Review: Perfect Blue

Original Release Date: February 28, 2018
Directed By: Satoshi Kon
Genre: Horror
Based on the Novel Perfect Blue - Complete Metamorphasis By:
Yoshikazu Takeuchi

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Perfect Blue. Reader discretion is advised.***

Film Synopsis

Mima Kirigoe (voiced by Junko Iwao) is a popular pop idol. Although not a runaway success, plenty of people look forward to whenever Mima releases a new single. Despite enjoying her time on stage, Mima believes her music career has gone as far as it will go.

To expand her horizons, Mima decides to give up the idol life and make her debut as an actress. Mima put a lot of thought into this choice and knows the move will disappoint many of her fans. However, she failed to realize how poorly some of her more devoted followers would take the news.

Almost immediately, strange and dangerous encounters start occurring around Mima.

There are threatening letters, ominous faxes, and a disturbingly accurate website written by another Mima. Except, this second Mima is still the beloved idol star Mima, and the first Mima is just some unknown actress. But this Mima is earning recognition. Yet, Mima never left the spotlight. Or was there ever a spotlight? Isn’t this Mima the real Mima? Is the other Mima, the true Mima? Is this Mima, in fact, the imposter?

Was there ever a Mima Kirigoe to begin with?

Worry leads to doubt. Doubt leads to paranoia. Paranoia leads to madness. Somewhere during all these changes, someone grew angry and violent.

In this confusion, who can you trust when you no longer trust yourself?

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Film Positives

This film brought up a thought: Why hasn’t there been a dark take on the idol genre (or at least, I don’t know of one)? We’ve gotten several mature interpretations of the happy-go-lucky magical girl type of series. Why not something gritty involving musical groups and the entertainment industry?

Then again, if we get a show even remotely like Perfect Blue, that’s going to be a rough ride, and I mean that in the best way possible.

Warning: Perfect Blue is not for the faint of heart. You shouldn’t watch this movie out of pure curiosity. You need to be ready to go down a bleak road. Also, a lot of stuff will be thrown at you, and you’re going to want to pay full attention to everything.

Perfect Blue was a mind trip, as well as an excellent display of animated horror.

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There were some creepy and downright terrifying moments in this movie. If you don’t feel uncomfortable at some point during your viewing, you are the embodiment of steel. It takes a lot for me to be taken aback, but that happened quite a few times in this film.

Most of the scenes in Perfect Blue were intense. However, this film wasn’t that way solely because of brutality – although that was definitely a factor. Instead, I’m more weirded out by the fact that I’m still not one-hundred percent certain what was supposed to be real or a horrific illusion.

I have never seen a movie, series, or anything that has done a better job of illustrating someone’s descent into madness. Perfect Blue was the definition of a jumbled mess, and I never thought I would use that phrase as a positive.

There was no sense of time. There was no degree of order. Things happened at seemingly random intervals. There were dreams within dreams, dreams within reality, and reality within dreams. This movie took the concept of continuity and threw it out the window with a bomb attached to it. In other words, this was psychological horror at its finest.

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Any story that messes with your perception is capable of producing the kind of quality scares that no amount of blood can replicate.

Speaking of blood, I have seen plenty of anime series that have gone off the rails. Comparing it with my – unquestionably troubling – standards, I don’t believe Perfect Blue would even be in the top twenty goriest stories I’ve sat through. That said, Perfect Blue wasn’t tame either. The violence in this movie wasn’t held back, it just wasn’t a spectacle. Nevertheless, what this film lacked in over-the-top fanfare, it more than made up for in realism.

People weren’t just murdered in this film, they were slaughtered. The worst – by which I mean, the best part – was, although every kill was gruesome, this movie never went beyond the realm of possibility.

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Then again, death wasn’t always the most unnerving element of Perfect Blue. There are plenty of other horrendous acts humans can do to each other, and this film was very aware of that. I also want to add, whenever somebody met their end in this story, at least there was a body to prove that it actually happened.

Sometimes events were left up to interpretation, and that was never a comforting prospect.

There was an instance in this movie that was not fun. This was the moment when Perfect Blue was at its most sadistic at blurring the line between reality and fantasy.

As part of this story, our main character, Mima Kirigoe – who I will bring up again soon – was a pop idol turned actress. During the filming of her new drama, Mima had to do a specific scene. If this were a live-action production, maybe the terror of this moment would have been lessened; human actors can only go so far before a crime is committed. With animation, though, there is a lot more freedom to make anything look precisely the way it needs to look.

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This movie did something unbelievable. We were given all the evidence necessary to prove that what happened was, indeed, staged; it wasn’t real. Simultaneously, there was still plenty of doubt and second-guessing to suggest what was shown may not have been as fake as one might hope. The method used may have been extreme, but it produced the desired result.

Perfect Blue put you into the mindset of its protagonist. In a sense, you, the viewer, were Mima Kirigoe.

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There were no ghosts. There were no hell demons. There were no curses, forbidden rituals, or jump scares. Perfect Blue didn’t use any of that stuff, and yet, there was plenty of paranoia, tension, and fear. This film had Mima, and it was her story that made this movie scary.

Although she was twenty years early, the Mima that we met at the start of Perfect Blue could have fit right in with any modern day idol anime. She was peppy, energetic, overly-cute, and loved to be on stage. The way she spoke, the way she interacted with people, the way she engaged with fans, it was all eerily familiar.

She had the initial personality traits of a forgettable character. However, Mima was in Perfect Blue. She didn’t stay forgettable for very long.

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When this movie kicked off, and it didn’t take long for that to happen, Mima began to have a massive identity crisis, both figuratively and quite literally. She had just given up the idol life, and thus, the mannerisms she had cultivated during her singing career didn’t go away overnight. Too bad her nightmare did.

Here was this young woman who had known nothing but comfort. She had people who adored her, a manager who took care of her, and a family that supported her. The switch from idol to actress was the most drastic change she had ever made. While this may have been a change she wanted, this decision turned out to be a lot more demanding than she expected. Plus, some people simply were not happy about what she did.

And then things took a hard turn.

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There was this strange website that knew a disturbing amount of details about Mima’s daily life. Someone was sending her threatening letters. Her acting job required her to do things she wasn’t comfortable with. She began doubting if she had made the right decision. The stress of everything then led to delusions, daydreams, and questioning reality.

Mima quickly became a mess, and the happy smiling pop star was gone.

When she was at her lowest, as well as having to deal with a bunch of deaths and a deranged stalker, Mima was a broken shell of her former self.

Everything I mentioned could have been enough. Mima had everything a horror protagonist could ask for. Fortunately, this movie had two other critical elements that helped cement Mima’s already strong character.

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The first was Perfect Blue’s animation. There were times in this movie where you could tell it had been made on a cheap 90s budget; except when it came to Mima. Her facial reactions, her character design, her movements were stunningly detailed and frighteningly well-done.

The second was the performance given by Ms. Junko Iwao who convincingly portrayed both a girly-girl idol turned actress and a person suffering from a mental breakdown.

Mima was great, and there were so many other things I loved about this movie. I enjoyed the kills, the mystery, the insanity, and the ending. Sadly – for me – I can’t really talk about any of them. Every single one of those points would involve spoilers, and I think I have already given away more than I should have.

Thus, let me end this with Perfect Blue was pretty damn good. That said, there was one thing that bothered me.

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Film Negatives

I had to watch this movie twice.

Perfect Blue was the type of film that when you’re watching it, particularly the first time, you buy everything that is happening. However, once it’s over and you begin reflecting on what you saw, some of the pieces don’t fall neatly into place.

Before I say anything more, I understand that the point of Perfect Blue was to question reality. Some things were not meant to make sense because there was no sense to them. Some scenes didn’t fit within a much broader timeline. That was okay since there was no set timeline of events. How can you know when something is happening if you’re not sure if something is happening?

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By the end of this film, I had no trouble accepting any “inconsistencies.” Whatever was going on could have easily been one of Mima’s hallucinations. But she didn’t start out that way.

Perfect Blue didn’t rely on the supernatural. It was based in a contemporary world. Therefore, there had to be some type of logic at some point. After some thought, I was able to paint a nearly complete picture of how things could have happened if you took away the veil of insanity. Unfortunately, there was one giant hole that I could not fill.

Because of that hole, I had to rewatch Perfect Blue. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to write this review with confidence. Thanks to my second viewing, I realized this movie did employ a few conveniences. I can’t say what those conveniences were because they would give away the ending.

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Regardless, I could almost ignore this aspect if it wasn’t for the fact the original hole that bothered me in the first place didn’t go away after I rewatched the movie.

How did the seeds of doubt get planted into Mima’s head?

For this story to work at all, we have to accept that Mima must have had some mental condition that, when agitated to the degree seen in Perfect Blue, would have sent her down a dark rabbit hole.

What was the trigger though? Someone, please help. I cannot figure this out.

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There were some disturbing events early on in this film, but there was nothing that suggested Mima’s reality was wrong. She just began questioning her existence for no seemingly good reason.

If that was, indeed, all there was to it, then those conveniences I mentioned were a problem. They turned this movie into the cruel result of multiple one-in-a-million coincidences.

Again, to really explain my point, it would require me to give away too much. Although this whole thing was an issue, it sure as hell wasn’t distracting. Perfect Blue had my attention the entire time I was watching it – both times.

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Final Thoughts

What’s worse than a monster hiding in the shadows? How about being unable to tell whether the shadows are even there or not?

The better a horror story is, the more confident a person needs to be to watch it. Aspects of this film were uncomfortable, hard to watch, and disturbing – all by design. If your gut is saying this movie doesn’t sound right for you, please listen to it.

However, if you want something to get the blood pumping, the heart racing, and the cold sweat dripping, I doubt you’ll be disappointed with this one.

For my fellow horror junkies out there, I highly recommend Perfect Blue.

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this film? What would be your advice concerning Perfect Blue? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.

Post Editor: Onions

1 comment

  1. There is way too much for me to unpack here. So rather than try and go over the whole film with you, because I think we could have an interesting conversation in that regard, I would rather talk about something else (at least in comment form).

    Satoshi Kon was a real treasure and it was a tragic loss, not just for anime, but film-making in general. If you haven’t looked into his entire filmography (don’t worry, it is rather brief), you really ought to. Each film is very unique and transformative in their own rights. I can’t heap enough praise here.

    His tv series, Paranoia Agent was also great. I am honored that I was able to purchase it sometime ago and give it a watch. I only have a one more film of his to watch before I’ve seen everything and I really savor that day (I own it, just waiting for the right time).

    Anyway, this is a real feat to review so good on ya. Enjoyed reading 🙂

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