Pop idol Mima (voiced by Junko Iwao) has big news for her fans, and she is going to announce it at this concert today. Her mainly male followers all enjoy seeing her as part of the three girl group Cham, but that's all about to change as she plans to leave to become an actress, yet the concert doesn't go quite as well as she had hoped as there are some troublemakers in the audience who cause a little upset. Nevertheless Mima manages to drop her bombshell, and there is not much welcome for it, especially with a mysterious fan who might be following her too closely for comfort...
Anime director Satoshi Kon only made a handful of films before his untimely demise, but what he did conjure up created a great impact not only with the usual fans of the style, but with those unused to it and attracted by the promise of something truly cinematic that had created such waves among movie buffs around the world. Perfect Blue was his first, originally intended as a live action thrilller but turned into an easier to make cartoon, and thus a page in the history books was written as Kon attempted to pay tribute to the giallo movies from Italy in his highly idiosyncratic fashion.
The trouble Mima finds with her new career is that it's quite a lot different to her more innocent image as part of Cham, and actually what she's being required to do is pretty sleazy. She's a good sport, but the film is in two minds whether she's being corrupted by her latest line or whether she's doing all the corrupting to herself by agreeing to go along with it. This had a lot to say about fame at the turn of the millennium, and not all of it good as there was a conservative streak to the plot no matter how much it purported to wish to see Mima protected - from her fans, from the industry, and perhaps from herself.
Perfect Blue won new interest from the non-anime fans when it served the basis for director Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, but the original was a richer film that asked pertinent questions about how far an actress should go in presenting herself as a sexual object simply to further her career, and while Kon was sympathetic to Mima, there was no denying that his film became more uncomfortable to watch the further it progressed. Yes, in her new role she hopes to emulate Jodie Foster, no stranger to violent or rape scenes, and actually winning awards for them, but here the implication is that they demean even the most talented of performers.
You could argue that they are only making believe for entertainment and thought-provoking reasons, but with the lead here it all begins to get too much as she heads towards a breakdown, seeing her doppelganger dressed in her Cham costumes taunting her, and apparently defying all logic in her actions (defying all gravity, too). Then the murders start, bumping off those that the double thinks have been exploiting her, and suddenly the website that Mima found dedicated to her is far more sinister, especially as it purports to contain words she does not recall sharing with the creepy obsessed fan who hosts it. The story grows deliberately confusing as the bodies mount up, leaving us uncertain as to whether what we are seeing is really happening, though the ending appears to clear that up, yet leaves riddles of perception behind. Perfect Blue was quite an accomplishment in horror, but would be easier to like if it didn't feel as if the filmmakers were fetishising Mima as much as her tormentors did. Music by Masahiro Ikumi.
Japanese director of intelligent, innovative anime. A former comic book artist, Kon worked as a background artist on a variety of anime projects before directing hs first feature, the psychological thriller Perfect Blue. His subsequent work met with equal acclaim - Millennium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers, the complex TV series Paranoia Agent and Paprika. Sadly, he died while working on his final film, The Dreaming Machine.