Perfect Blue (Pafekuto Buru)
Directed by Satoshi Kon
Voice work by Junko Iwao, Rica Matsumoto, Shinpachi Tsuji
Review by Jordan
What is it that defines us as individuals? Is it how we perceive ourselves, or our others perceive us? and since it should involve no effort at all to truly be ourselves, is our striving for self-identity really an idealism; a method in which to create a more desirable personality or appearance? These themes of identity and existentialism are explored in-depth in Satoshi Kon’s (Tokyo Godfathers, Paprika) stunningly violent, surreal thriller Perfect Blue – a film which portrayed celebrity life as an all-consuming psychological black hole to be conquered before Lynch’s iconic creation Mulholland Drive, and which studied the paranoid psychosis of beautiful female performers long before Black Swan (2010 – Darren Aronofsky).
After finding modest success as the lead singer of Japanese pop group CHAM, Mima Kirigoe feels the need to begin a new chapter in her life and focus on her other talent: acting. Forsaking her squeaky-clean image, she soon finds work as a supporting character in a dingy television crime series Double Bind, before eventually subjecting herself to degrading acts and magazine spreads in order to show commitment and prove her authenticity. The “new” Mima finally begins to gain respect among her peers, but lurking in the bustling Tokyo crowds and behind the anonymity of the internet is an obsessed fan, distressed at her change and who intensely stalks her via both her public appearances and on “Mima’s Room,” a blog written in the first person about her daily life and idiosyncrasies.
When first made aware of this blog, Mima adopts the curiosity and wonderment of a child, sitting up and staring at the screen in amazement, just as the endless possibilities the internet offered in 1997 was an amazing thought of itself. It is then though that she notices just how scarily accurate the diary entries are, and as she finds her own persona evolving so dramatically, she is also haunted by the innocent looking pop singer she used to be who emerges from the screen and into her boiling subconscious.
Coinciding with her internal identity struggle is the butchering of those involved in her infamous scene in Double Bind, who are discovered with their eyes torn out in an act of literal vengeance for seeing Mima in such a state. Is her stalker murdering those who assisted in her unwanted transformation, or is the “other Mima” lashing out and ruining the life of a mature creation no one likes or ever wanted?
Pairing a bold color palette reminiscent of Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980) with dimly lit moments of suspense and horror, Perfect Blue takes its cues directly from the mega city of Tokyo itself, with its blindingly bright LEDs painting the night sky in reds and blues and promoting a promise of perfection and engineering while hiding an underbelly of pitch-black alleyways and recessive minds. It’s clear when strolling the bustling streets of Shinjuku at midnight and bearing witness to an endless flood of people and deafening advertising that not all is as it seems, just as its clear that behind the pristine appearance of those that rely on their looks for advancement and whose success is measured by the admiration of others there are justifiably cracks that form and instigate a breakdown in confidence leading to an identity crisis.
Perfect Blue is perhaps the ultimate essay on identity crisis; a thesis punctuated with jabs of blood and bursts of creative design that ponders why we strive so much to be ourselves when its a battle we’ll only inevitably lose, and can only be victorious in such a matter when we realize there’s no battle at all. The ending suggests that other unstable minds can be responsible for the instability of our own, an idea most likely accurate, but whether or not we delve into the intricacies of these thoughts at all, we can simply feast regardless on the dazzling artistic splendor that is one of the finest adult animations of all time.