Perfect Blue is a psychological thriller that was released in 1997. It’s directed by the legendary Satoshi Kon, who also gave us Paprika.
Perfect Blue is based on the novel Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis by Yoshikazu Takeuchi.
I touched upon this one in a smaller summary in an article about the 90s animation works of Madhouse Studios.
So, please forgive me if I repeat myself. I just rewatched this movie and it has taken a few days to let the epic maelstrom of this story settle in my brain.
Perfect Blue follows the career of a budding actress. Her name is Mima Kirigoe, and she’s a former member of a J-pop band called CHAM!
Upon quitting the band, Mima embarks on a new career as an actress. Her agent, Rumi Hidaka, helps her deal with the changes in her life as she takes on a small role in a psychological thriller/police detective drama show called Double Bind.
This new role requires Mima to do things she has never done before. Some things that might be considered racy or even tarnish her good girl – popstar image.
Stop now if you do not want to be lightly spoiled.
The Layers of Reality are Revealed
As the stress of filming builds, Mima starts to struggle with lingering regret. Should she have left her singing career? Is acting what she really wants? Is it all worth it?
Soon, her small role grows, and the producers of the show want to film her in a graphic rape scene (while not quite hentai, there is a nudity and graphic violence warning here when watching this movie). Mima enters the scene with a good attitude, but the reality of the scene and its subject matter breaks her down.
While going home, she starts to see herself, in her old popstar outfit, in a reflection. The reflection claims to be the real her and is unkind in its words and treatment of her.
To make matters worse, it appears that Mima has a stalker who is releasing information about her on a website called “Mima’s Room.”
You’d think that would be enough for one young starlet to be dealing with, but soon there are murders of people Mima knows or has worked with, and she’s unsure of her involvement as her hold on reality is fracturing more and more.
Mima is suffering from some sort of disassociation. Or are we, the viewers suffering from it? The director uses a form of layering to tell the story that blurs the lines.
One moment we are here, another we are there. Time jumps. Was that a dream? Did that just happen? One violent scene will segue into a benign one. It makes you feel a little crazy.
At the same time, it’s masterfully done.
I’m an author. I have written several books. You may or may not know that. So, while watching Perfect Blue, I was trying to imagine what would be required to write this story in screenplay or novel format. It was hard to calculate. The only way I can see it, or describe it, is layers. Which is the “magic word” for today’s review boys and girls.
Stop now if you REALLY don’t want to be seriously spoiled!!!
Uncovering the Shocking Truth
As the movie draws to a chilling end, Mima manages to somehow finish shooting her role in the show. Her character is revealed to have a multiple personality disorder…but at first, you are led to believe that’s what Mima herself has.
Is it just her character who is having a mental breakdown, maybe? Maybe not? Again, the director uses segues and layers to keep us guessing.
Regardless, there’s an attack. A rabid fan nearly rapes Mima. She manages to escape only to be saved by her agent, Rumi.
When Mima wakes up in her room, she suddenly realizes it’s not her room at all. It’s a reproduction, and the other version of herself she has been seeing is there. The popstar reflection attacks her, and we, the viewer, are awarded with a glimpse past the curtain.
Holy smokes! It’s Rumi, dressed as Mima!
Wow, this movie ends strong. There’s a fight, a chase, another fight! We watch it all surrealistically unfold. We see the popstar version of Mima’s face twist and transform into Rumi.
It’s all so chilling!
I don’t want to spoil the last couple of minutes. It’s too good for words, and I hope you all have, or will, enjoy it yourselves.
Perfect Blue: Closing Thoughts
Perfect Blue has it all. Great storytelling. Interesting characters. Action. Mystery. Some small fan service even (yet blended in, so it’s not gratuitous. Or maybe it is. You make the call.).
I really did not want to give a 5-star rating to anything. I’m one of those people who feel like there should always be room to grow. Nothing is perfect…then I watched Perfect Blue and I was like…damn…I need to give this 90s Japanese anime movie 5 stars!
Some interesting facts for those who are umm…interested…
It’s hard not to compare the animated Perfect Blue to the live-action Black Swan. Especially when you do the research and find out that Darron Aronofsky is a fan of Satoshi Kon. He denies that he was inspired by it, but you can make your own call here.
I think maybe he was.