Perfect Blue (18) | Close-Up Film Review

Dir: Satoshi Kon, Japan, 1997, 81 mins.

Cast: (voices) Junko Iwao, Rica Matsumoto, Shinpachi Tsuji

Review by George Meixner

As a Halloween anniversary special, our friends at Anime Ltd. are rescreening Satoshi Kon’s debut Perfect Blue after 20 years. The hyperreal anime deals with subjects usually reserved for live action. Kon utilises the added possibilities of animation for fantastical and visually complex sequences that blur time, memory and a sense of self to deeply challenge the viewer.

Young pop sensation Mima is a huge celebrity with many fervent fans. When she decides to pursue a career in acting at the expense of her music – her life and her erstwhile adoring public’s perception of her begins to slide and distort like a Dali clock.

It starts off a little like a bad episode of CSI. Mima’s change of heart causes consternation among her fans. As she announces her departure from the girlgroup CHAM!, we see a disfigured character (later known as ‘Me-Mania’) amongst those disenfranchised. It’s like the film’s saying ‘look and this guy, he’s gonna be a bad egg’ in a clichéd manner. He keeps cropping up as Mima struggles with her transition to actress. This early section is frustratingly formulaic, but belies the fascinating horrific complications that are to follow.

Then, a truly bad crime series is the setting for Mima’s first job (CSI can be brilliant, but you know). This programme ‘Double Bind’ starts to mirror her own psychological traumas. Kon then begins to bleed fiction and reality in an increasingly terrifying series of events. He even keeps the viewer off-balance with nightmarish dream sequences which push to the brink only to pull back from the edge in wakefulness. The difference is so profound that it’s sometimes hard to tell which realm of consciousness we are being shown.

Kon, or rather the original manga “Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis” written by Yoshikazu Takeuch, looks to the future when, in 1997, Mima gets an early computer and visits a fan-forum called ‘Mima’s Room’. Many of her neuroses arise from reading this blog. It resonates now, as social media is such a source of comment, criticism and vitriol still. Further, Mima’s experience as a female performer enacts multiple stereotypes of one in a position of inferiority to those with the power to give her the opportunities she strives towards to prove herself.

The whole is not entirely ‘perfect’. The bleeding reality is sometimes overblown as it overlaps into itself too far. Over-indulgence perhaps, can cause some glazing over as some aspects simply don’t make sense – not just designed to muddy the water – but completely do not square.

Perfect Blue will get your heart pounding and your head ticking, possibly aching. It’s a rewarding, challenging experience.

Exclusive screenings Friday 27th October and in cinemas nationwide on 31st October. Pre-book tickets: