Perfect Blue ★★★★½

⬅️ film:
Project Power

➡️ film:
Millennium Actress

Satoshi Kon tribute week (20/08-24/08) - FILM #1

Mima Kirigoe: Excuse me... who are you? Excuse me... who are you?

The same year Black Swan and Inception came out, the auteur whose works inspired these two films tragically passed away at the prime of his career.

Satoshi Kon, in his lifetime, only did 4 animated films. 4 films that made a lasting impact on generations of filmmakers and auteurs

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His 1997 debut, Perfect Blue is an incredibly intense experience, one that truly creates a genuine anxiety attack watching from start to end. A complete mindfuck.

In the end, I hardly can distinguish what really happens in the film's reality versus the delusional scenes. And that is the true charm of Perfect Blue, it continuously blurs the lines between delusional fantasies and reality that at the end, you are unsure of what really is true in the film. But it does it so well to make you question your own perception of Mima and the events surrounding her loss of sanity.

Unlike other anime films I watched in the past, Perfect Blue becomes progressively disturbing to watch with its sheer levels of nudity, sexual violence, graphic mutilation, and just the anxiety-inducing buildup behind all these scenes. Really, the film has got to be the most disturbing anime I ever watched thus far and that is not even considering Grave of the Fireflies. There is one part where Mima plays a character in a movie who gets raped by a group of men and the way the film actually shows her nude body being forced upon by the men is incredibly horrific enough on its own. It is simply unthinkable to imagine an anime film to portray rape that accurately and that is the reasoning behind Perfect Blue.

While other films use these sickening acts to create temporary shock value or jump-scares, Perfect Blue uses the graphic details to bring across its wider themes of paranoia and the blurred lines of reality/delusions. Without disclosing much in the film as I prefer you to see the film fresh, Perfect Blue is as impactful with the horrific sexual violence and gore because it makes you question the grip of the main character's sanity in relation to the real world. The ending involves a series of progressively disturbing dream sequences where Mima seemingly does or gets involved in something violent every time and she wakes up at her bed, making these dream sequences ambiguous whether they do happen all in her head or if she actually does the real act.

But more than that, Perfect Blue is a perfect (pardon the pun) commentary on fame and the modern world's fascination with celebrities. Coming out in the late 1990s where the Internet boom is taking off, the film is a timely look at how technology and our unhealthy obsession collide to gradually weaken Mima's psyche and bearings with the world. It looks at the price of fame and how no matter one tries to shed his/her past image, there will be people who won't sit well with that decision and go all out to harm her. There is even one scene that pokes at the toxic communities on social media where Mima discovers progressively disturbing messages posted daily on her fan-club page, despite the fact that the Internet is at its infancy in the film's setting. 20 years later, the commentary on celeb-culture in Perfect Blue is as timeless and a horrific cautionary tale on whether we are taking our obsession with the rich and famous a bit too far.

Let's not forget Mamoru Uchida (who goes by the alias "Me-Mania"), the mute stalker that haunts Mima's day-to-day life, or even her dreams. For what little screentime he has, he is complete nightmare fuel. He is designed so disfigured and grotesque with his uneven facial features, long-hair covering one of his eyes, the other eye glassy-looking and to top it off, every time he grins or smiles, you can tell his tooth is completely broken. Besides Mima, he is the most standout character in the film because he can appear without any setup and he seems to be targeting Mima's real character as though he is a slasher. He is probably the most underrated villain in any anime film, period.

Now, while the film's themes and storytelling are worth celebrating over, I have a bit of a mixed response to the animation and character designs in general. Don't get me wrong, while I like the detail in the gorier moments and nude scenes or even all of its tense moments, the animation does not age that well in my opinion with its choppy, projector-like presentation and lack of detailing on the character facial features (especially when framed in wide shots). I can understand the reason why most of the issues of the quality presentation are due to the original negatives where the shots are filmed was unfortunately destroyed in the process of production, resulting in the team being forced to salvage the film using inferior workprints that compromised the film's overall quality. If not for the unfortunate setback, the quality of the animation presentation would be undoubtedly better in giving a comparable standard to other works around this period.

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Perfect Blue is a rare anime film that managed to break past the medium's PG-13 stereotypes and create something among the lines of psychological-horror to genuinely induce anxiety to the viewer. But instead of using the gore and sexual themes as a means to make things sensational or shock you for that one moment, it uses them to be provocative and to enforce the film's central themes and psychological impact.

The cheerful opening acts of the idol group, CHAM singing their hit songs in broad daylight does not compare to the climax bordering that of a slasher movie, just showing how well Satoshi Kon masterfully turns up the uncomfortable factor gradually as the film goes along. And by the end, like Mima, you feel boxed in as your own perception of what's real and not is blurred.

Then again, if you watched Black Swan, there is a disturbing similarity between both works. And it is fair to say that Perfect Blue paved the way for psychological cinema as a whole.

[Last line]
Mima Kirigoe: No, I'm the real thing.

"IT'S SUPERB!"

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