Twenty years later, and Perfect Blue still thrills and chills….
Tonight didn’t seem any different than usual for me, aside from the belabored trip to pickup my children from school. I’d taken a long hiatus from this blog (among other things) to focus on getting my family back in order. The wife and I prepared dinner as our two children settled in for evening. After they had gotten into bed, we headed off to pick up our friend and make our way for tonight’s screening. I opened up the door, and my wife walked on ahead toward the van. I closed it and a chill ran down my back. I peered up at the sky. It was gray, dreary and misting, cold rain. The steep drop in temperature gave me another chill. Little did I know, tonight’s film would leave me feeling icy, disturbed, and confused–all (of course) in a good way.
This isn’t the first time I’ve brought Perfect Blue up on this blog. I’ve made it clear I’m a fan of Satoshi Kon’s work here, alongside his other heavy-hitting cinematic bouts.
I always appreciated certain themes that seemed to reoccur in Kon’s work. The fear or paranoia (uncertainty) when it comes to the world wide web is one. Second, is the fear or paranoia of those we believed to be our most trusted friends and family. Perfect Blue plays with these two phobias (so to speak) and bases them in Japan’s ‘Pop Idol Culture’. Not too mention another fear of ours Kon preys upon—being a victim of a toxic fandom. It seems silly to bring up, but when all things are considered; this film’s action is driven by the actions of fans, admirers, and people who initially were supportive of the main characters.
This isn’t a story of ‘Good Guys versus Bad Guys’. I struggle to even see this film in that light at all. Even with the enormous twist that occurs during the last half of the film; it felt more like a betrayal than it did an altogether, evil act. Don’t get me wrong, the ‘antagonist’ of this film is definitely a wrongdoer. But one could argue that they acted out their betrayal only after feeling betrayed themselves. A murderous, ‘tit-for-tat’.
I love the intriguing, yet chilling level of paranoia brought to this film. The film’s ‘hero’, a singer, is simply trying to execute a career change. She’s ultimately convinced by one adviser that being a Japanese Pop Idol isn’t a profitable way to live, no matter how much passion is there. The singer (Her name is Mima) eventually decides to become a professional actress. Coincidentally enough, another one of her managers shows her how to setup her personal computer and web browser. Why is it important? Because from this point on, Mima’s life changes dramatically. She’s switched to a difficult and competitive career, and she’s also looking to establish an online, social presence during the early stages of the internet. It may not have seemed like much back then; but we all know how much a strong, internet presence can influence someone’s career. Keep in mind celebrities now have been criticized and bullied into shutting down their social media profiles. Anyway, a fan letter tips Mima off to a fan-made web page dedicated to her.
The web page proceeds to torment her throughout the duration of the film from then on. It knows what she eats, how she sleeps, even down to what foot she steps off of the local subway with first.
The film revs up it’s intense crawl and throws in these sharp, sleek cuts throwing both Mima and the audience into this confused, hapless stupor. From there, we’re forced to confront Mima’s fading confidence in her talent as an actress, her relationships with her managers and former pop idol co-stars; and the aforementioned ‘Mima’s Room’ fan age. Not only do the fans seem to be upset with Mima’s decision to quit her Idol life, but her role on the drama series she’s been cast in has become incredibly risque’ and explicit.
Just when the pot of personal and not-so-personal horrors begins to come to a boil; someone or something has begun murdering people associated with Mima and her career. A fitting, puzzling, hair-raising twist like that thrown in makes Perfect Blue, not just one of the best, animated films of all time–but among some of the best thrillers of all time as well.
If you haven’t seen Perfect Blue, please seek it out. As a matter of fact I’ll post a link here to Amazon. There, I’ve done half of the work for you. You’re welcome.