It’s amazing how prophetic Satoshi Kon’s “Perfect Blue” was back in 1997. Even though it was released at the beginning of the internet age, “Perfect Blue” is a very strong and still very relevant tale about rabid fandom, gate keeping, obsession, and the struggles to maintain one’s own sense of self and agency in a world where growing in one’s career means relinquishing our dignity and discretion. In a time where actresses are being chased and harassed off of social platforms, “Perfect Blue” conjures up so much interesting and familiar imagery and plot beats, and ultimately is about the cost of rabid fandom.
One scene depicts character Mima answering fan mail, only for one fan to send her a note branding her a “traitor” to her fans. And Mima’s only friend Rumi urges her not to check her website due to her fans’ more volatile comments.
Satoshi Kon’s “Perfect Blue” is still a rather brilliant and disturbing tale of a young woman named Mima facing a major life change. Before long she realizes that the life change may just be driving her mad, and her sanity is severely in doubt. What’s fantastic is the way Kon plays with our own interpretation of reality, as every scene cuts to a new moment in character Mima’s own life, making it nearly impossible to decipher what’s unfolding. Before long the lines become so blurred that it’s transformed in to an elaborate puzzle that will entice the audience more than frustrate. Personal moments become fodder for film, and scenes of Mima attempting to film become a metaphor for her own life.
The long (probably the film’s most iconic) scene of Mima filming a drawn out rape scene during her new film transforms in to an allegory on the rabid public and relentless media always in need of more and more. Kon observes the idea of fame and filmmaking as a whirlwind of stress and carnage that ultimately interferes with our lives, especially if we’re incapable of dealing with the pressure and exhibition of the entire environment. Mima is a part of a very popular pop trio that sings bubbly pop songs and has garnered a humongous fan base.
But as she matures in to a young woman she’s tired of being perceived as a pop princess and wants to begin pursuing an adult career with mature roles. But she soon learns that the road to a more adult career involves revealing a lot about herself that her fans, let alone she, isn’t prepared to see. As she leaves behind her music career, she grabs a role in a thriller, and as the role becomes demanding, requiring her to depict more adult shades of her personality, the pressure begins to weigh down on her. Before long she begins hallucinating, and corpses of people connected to Mima in one way or another begin showing up, viciously mutilated and maimed.
With the celebrity lifestyle, one puts a piece of themselves out there, and that can tend to be demanding. When we meet Mima, she’s a girl at a crossroads who wants to grow and branch out but finds herself suffering immense scrutiny, not only from her colleagues but from her fan base. How can one grow as an artist if the fans and the gatekeepers refuse to let them break out of the image that they’ve grown so fond of? What are the repercussions of shattering the once popular image of yourself for something more? And does one betray their fans if they refuse to let their own base pigeon hole them?
The idea of Mima’s own fading sanity comes more in to question the more murder victims begin appearing, and the more she awakens in her home after inexplicable black outs, and moments in her life that were actually scenes in her movie. Kon’s imagery is stark and mesmerizing, depicting the deterioration of Mima’s own sanity, as well as consistently asking us if Mima has finally broken, or if something else if happening that she’s oblivious to. Though “Perfect Blue” is primarily a psychological thriller, there are some shades of slasher films here and there as the victims are consistently vulnerable prey to a menace that no one comprehends, even once the credits roll.
With Mima being stalked by a mysterious long haired man named Mr. Me-Mania, who follows her online obsessively, Kon ratchets up the tension and we watch the explosion unfold in a violent, vicious wave. Kan wisely dodges a lot of the stalk and slash, cutting immediately to very gruesome imagery of the victims drenched in blood, and doubling over lifeless with wet thuds. Although Mima’s world is sensationalized and romanticized, the stark environment she walks in is not at all dazzling and could eventually spell doom for her. Mima is such a fascinating and multilayered protagonist filled with self loathing and self doubt.
“Perfect Blue” takes her through an endless corridor of growth and self reflection. While it’s a haunting and creepy tale of deteriorating sanity and the weight of fame, it’s also a remarkable character piece about growth, staying true to yourself, and the terrors fandom can wreak.