Sunday I, for some reason, found myself on Youtube looking for videos of the beginning of an old anime movie that I was very fond of called Perfect Blue. It’s a Satoshi Kon psychological thriller from 1997 that RJ convinced me to watch when we were married and much more into anime than manga, and it is amazing.
The movie is about a pop idol who is quitting her job singing to become an actress, Mima Kirigoe. She starts off with a small part in a TV drama but her agency manages to get her a larger part after talking to the screenwriter. Around the same time she discovers that someone has created a website called “Mima’s Room” that has pictures and diary entries that are creepily accurate. At first she thinks it’s funny, but as her mental state starts to deteriorate she starts to have trouble differentiating between her own life and the one in her “diary.”
A disturbing turn in her acting career sets her down the path of psychological instability and soon after, the people involved start winding up dead in a similar manner. The movie hints at who might be the killer and Mima’s stalker, but saves the best part for last.
Some things about the movie are dated; it’s completely hand-drawn, some of the music is very reminiscent of Akira, and Mima is completely ignorant of the internet. Hey, it was ’97. Not everyone was in possession of a 10 pound laptop computer and an AOL subscription like some people in this room. Er, blog.
Mister E was suitably impressed with the movie, and after not having seen it in its entirety for almost ten years I was pleased to discover that it was every bit as good as I remembered. I was lucky to be able to find it in Japanese, because although it was once available on Netflix, the only version was the English dub. And as we all know, the majority of English dubbed anime really should be ashamed of itself. This was particularly true of anime from the mid-to-late 90’s, though Viz did a better-than-average job of hiring actual voice actors instead of the embarrassments that butchered Sailor Uranus’ voice in Sailor Moon S.
People have said that Black Swan was ripped off from Perfect Blue, but since I haven’t seen the former I can’t really compare. However, from what I’ve read I can see where they’re coming from. Both heroines have to deal with a frightening duality that threatens to consume them, which makes for a really interesting character progression (and at times a regression) and a blurring of the line between fantasy and reality.
Satoshi Kon’s influence is heavily present, from the character design to the creeping unease that comes over the viewer a bit at a time rather than all at once. There’s very little exposition or even an explanation for much of the movie right up until the very last scene, and even then it’s left up to the viewer to decide whether some parts of the movie were real or simply a product of Mima’s fractured psyche.
This is one of those movies I can’t recommend enough, both to fans of anime and fans of thrillers. It is a little bit graphic, and there is some nudity (full-frontal, even!) but in spite of what some people have said, I don’t find it gratuitous. Everything directly relates to the plot and serves to put the viewer on edge, making the more insidious aspects even more so. Seriously, you should go watch it.
Although for the love of everything holy, take the time to get the subtitled version if only to avoid the grating and forced dubbed opening song, because it becomes a theme throughout the movie.