Perfect Blue

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Perfect Blue
Perfect-blue-japanese-movie-poster-md.jpg
Japanese theatrical release poster
Directed bySatoshi Kon
Screenplay bySadayuki Murai
Based onPerfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis
by Yoshikazu Takeuchi
Produced by
  • Hitomi Nakagaki
  • Yoshihisa Ishihara
  • Yutaka Tōgō
  • Masao Maruyama
  • Hiroaki Inoue
Starring
CinematographyHisao Shirai
Edited byHarutoshi Ogata
Music byMasahiro Ikumi
Production
company
Distributed byRex Entertainment
Release date
  • August 5, 1997 (1997-08-05) (Fantasia Festival)
  • February 28, 1998 (1998-02-28) (Japan)
Running time
81 minutes
CountryJapan
LanguageJapanese
Budget¥90 million[1] (US$830,442)[2]
Box office$768,050 (US & UK only)[3]

Perfect Blue (Japanese: パーフェクトブルー, Hepburn: Pāfekuto Burū) is a 1997 Japanese animated psychological thriller film[4][5] directed by Satoshi Kon[6]. It is based on the novel Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis (パーフェクトブルー:完全変態, Pāfekuto Burū: Kanzen Hentai) by Yoshikazu Takeuchi, with a screenplay written by Sadayuki Murai. The film features the voices of Junko Iwao, Rica Matsumoto, Shiho Niiyama, Masaaki Okura, Shinpachi Tsuji, and Emiko Furukawa.

Like much of Kon's later works such as Paprika, the film deals with Kon's longstanding theme of the blurring of the line between fantasy and reality.[7]

Plot[edit]

The film follows Mima Kirigoe, a member of a Japanese idol group, who retires from music to pursue an acting career. As she becomes a victim of stalking, gruesome murders begin to occur, and Mima starts to lose her grip on reality.

Synopsis[edit]

Mima Kirigoe, a member of a mildly-successful J-pop idol group named "CHAM!", decides to leave the group to become a full-time actress. She is joined by her long-time manager and former pop-idol Rumi Hidaka, and her agent Tadokoro. Mima's first job is a minor role in a television detective drama called "Double Bind". Some of her fans are upset by her change in career and persona from a squeaky-clean and innocent teen girl, including a terrifying-looking male stalker who goes by the alias "Me-Mania". Mima receives an anonymous fax calling her a traitor, and even a letter bomb that injures Tadokoro. Following directions from a fan letter, Mima discovers a website called "Mima's Room" containing public diary entries written from her perspective, and which accurately discuss her daily life and thoughts in intimate and exact detail. Mima confides in Rumi about the site, but is advised to ignore it.

Tadokoro lobbies the producers of Double Bind, and succeeds in securing Mima a larger part; however, this involves her character being raped in a strip club. Rumi is distressed by the scene and warns Mima that it will irreversibly change her public image, but Mima accepts the role despite her own misgivings. Though it is apparent that Mima tries her best and is treated professionally, the atmosphere and experience of filming the rape scene is traumatic. On the way home, she sees her reflection dressed in her former idol outfit. The reflection says "Of course, I didn't want to do it", startling her. Between the ongoing stresses of filming Double Bind, her lingering regret over leaving CHAM!, her paranoia of being stalked, and her increasing obsession with "Mima's Room", Mima begins to suffer from psychosis: in particular, struggling to distinguish real life from her work in show business, and having repeated apparently unreal sightings of her former pop-idol self.

Several people who had been involved in the so-called "tarnishing" of Mima's reputation are murdered. Mima finds evidence which makes her appear to be the prime suspect, and her mental instability makes her doubt her own memories and innocence. Mima manages to finish shooting Double Bind, the final scene of which reveals that her character killed and assumed the identity of her beloved sister due to trauma-induced dissociative identity disorder. After the rest of the filming staff have left the studio, Me-Mania attempts to rape and kill her under emailed instructions from "the real Mima" to "eliminate the impostor", but Mima knocks him unconscious with a hammer in self-defense and flees.

Mima is found backstage by Rumi and taken back to Rumi's home, only to discover that Rumi was the culprit behind "Mima's Room", the serial murders, and the folie à deux that manipulated and scapegoated Me-Mania. But due to his incapability, she killed him (as well as Tadokoro from "tarnishing" Mima any further). Sometime in the past, Rumi developed a second personality who vicariously believed herself to be the "real Mima" (her pure-hearted and forever-young idol persona), using information from Mima's confiding in her as the basis for "Mima's Room". Rumi's "Mima" personality attempts to murder Mima to preserve "her" pristine image forever, and following a chase through the city, Mima incapacitates Rumi in self-defense and saves her from being killed by an oncoming truck.

Some time later, Mima becomes a well-known actress following the critical success of her performance in Double Bind and Rumi is sent to a psychiatric hospital with her "Mima" personality dominant. The movie ends with Mima driving off and looking at herself in the rear view mirror saying “No, I’m the real thing.”

Cast[edit]

Character Japanese English[8]
Mima Kirigoe (霧越 未麻, Kirigoe Mima) Junko Iwao Ruby Marlowe[9]
Rumi (ルミ) Rica Matsumoto Wendee Lee[10]
Tadokoro (田所) Shinpachi Tsuji
Mamoru Uchida (Me-Mania) (内田 守, Uchida Mamoru) Masaaki Ōkura Bob Marx[11]
Tejima (手嶋) Yōsuke Akimoto
Takao Shibuya (渋谷 貴雄, Shibuya Takao) Yoku Shioya
Sakuragi (桜木) Hideyuki Hori Sparky Thornton[12]
Eri Ochiai (落合 恵理, Ochiai Eri) Emi Shinohara
Murano (村野) Masashi Ebara
Director (監督, Kantoku) Kiyoyuki Yanada
Yada (矢田) Tōru Furusawa
Yukiko (雪子) Emiko Furukawa
Rei (レイ) Shiho Niiyama
Tadashi Doi (土居 正, Doi Tadashi) Akio Suyama
Cham Manager

The following actors in the English adaptation are listed in the credits without specification to their respective roles: James Lyon, Frank Buck, David Lucas, Elliot Reynolds, Kermit Beachwood, Sam Strong, Carol Stanzione, Ty Webb, Billy Regan, Dari Mackenzie, George C. Cole, Syd Fontana, Sven Nosgard, Bob Marx, Devon Michaels, Robert Wicks and Mattie Rando.[13]

Production[edit]

This film was Satoshi Kon's first directorial effort. It all started when Masao Maruyama, a producer at Madhouse at the time, who had appreciated Kon's work on the OVA JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, contacted him to ask if he would be interested in directing in the fall of 1994.[14][15] The original author, Yoshikazu Takeuchi, allegedly first planned a live-action film based on his novel. However, due to funding difficulties, it was downgraded to direct-to-video and then direct-to-video animation.[16][17][18] When Kon received the initial offer, it was for an OVA project, so he made Perfect Blue as a video animation.[19] Then, it was decided to be released as a movie in a hurry just before its completion.[20] This work was originally maked as a video animation for a narrow market, so it was expected to disappear as soon as a few people talked about it.[19][21][22] The fact that such a work was treated as a film, invited to many film festivals around the world, and released as a package in many countries was unexpected for those involved.[19][21][22] Psychological horror was not a mainstream genre in Japanese animation, and there was no precedent for it at the time, so it would normally have been rejected. So no one thought it would be a hit since it was just adopted by chance. That's why Kon was able to get the job.[16][17][21]

By the time Kon was offered the job, the title Perfect Blue and the content, a story about a B-class idol and a perverted fan had already been set.[19][21][22] He hadn't read the original novel and only read the script for the film, which was said to be close to the original, and the script was never used in the actual film.[21][23] There is no play-within-a-play in the original story, nor is there a motif of blurring the boundary between dream and reality.[23] The first plot was a simple splatter/psycho-horror story about an idol girl is attacked by a perverted fan who cannot tolerate her image change, and there were also so many depictions of bleeding, so it was not suitable for Kon who does not like horror or idols.[17][18][23] Kon said that if he were free to make a plan, he would never have thought of such a setting.[23] This genre was overused, having already been dealt with in various works such as Seven, Basic Instinct, The Silence of the Lambs, etc., and was also something that anime was not good at.[15][17][21] Since most of the works in that genre pursue how perverted or crazy the perpetrators, the murderers, are, Kon focused on "how the inner world of the protagonist, the victim, is broken by being targeted by the stalker" in order to outsmart the audience.[21] On the other hand, the play within a play, Double Bind, is more like a parody than a straight psycho-horror, and he made it with the intention of criticizing Japanese TV dramas that are easily made by imitating Hollywood fads immediately.[21]

Kon decided to take on the role of director because he couldn't resist the allure of directing for the first time, and because the original author allowed him to change the story as he liked as long as he kept three things in mind to make the film work: the main character is a B-grade idol, she has a rabid fan (stalker), and it is a horror film.[17][18][23] So he took some elements from the original work, such as the uniquely Japanese existence of idols, the "otaku" fans that surround them, and the stalkers that they have become more radical, and came up with as many ideas as possible with the scriptwriter, Sadayuki Murai, with the intention of using them to create a completely new story.[15][17][18] And the film needed a core motif, which had to be found not by the screenwriter or anyone else, but by the director, Kon himself.[15][17][18] So he came up with the motif of two things that should have a "borderline," such as "dream and reality," "memory and fact," and "oneself and others," becoming borderless and blending together, based on the short film Magnetic Rose (from Memories), for which he had written a script, and the suspended manga "Opus.[21][22] In the meantime, he came up with the idea that "a character more like 'me' than 'I', the protagonist, to the people around 'me' " is created on the Internet without 'my' knowledge.[15][17][18] The character is the "the past me" for the protagonist, and this "other me" that should have existed only on the Internet has materialized due to external factors (the consciousness of the fans who want the protagonist to be like that) and internal factors (the protagonist's regret that she might have been more comfortable in the past). And then the composition that the character and the protagonist herself confronted emerged.[17][18] It was only then that he became convinced that this work could be established as his own video work.[17][18] Kon decided to interpret the original story above as a story about an idol girl who broke down by a sudden change in her environment or by a stalker who targets her, and wrote a completely new script with Sadayuki Murai.[17][18] Initially, Murai wrote the first draft of the script, and Kon added or removed ideas from it. They spent a lot of time discussing, and many of the ideas came out of that.[18] Next, Kon wrote all the storyboards, where he also made changes to dialogue and other elements.[15][18] The drawing work was also carried out in parallel.[15]

The company that purchased the videogram and television rights to Perfect Blue before the film was completed advised the distributor to submit the film to the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, Canada, so that it could be released overseas first.[20] Since it was his first film, director Kon was still unknown. Therefore, the distributor introduced the film as the first directorial effort of a disciple of Katsuhiro Otomo, the creator of Akira, which had already become a hit overseas.[20] Otomo is credited as a planning collaborator, but he never arranged for the company to ask Kon to direct the film, nor was he involved in the film. However, it seems that Otomo once advised the original author about the circumstances of the animation industry when he was touting around the animation project here and there.[17][18] At Fantasia, the film was so well received that a second screening was hurriedly arranged for those who could not see it, and it was eventually voted by the audience as the best international film.[24] Thanks to that, the distributor has begun to receive invitations from more than 50 film festivals, including Germany, Sweden, Melbourne, and Korea.[24] The distributor began negotiations with distributors in various European countries and eventually succeeded in selling the film in major markets such as Spanish, French, Italian, English and German speaking countries prior to its release in Japan.[24] The distributor was successful in obtaining permission from filmmakers Roger Corman and Irvin Kershner to use their comments in recommending the film free of charge worldwide. As a result, their comments were used on international theater flyers and in worldwide promotions.

Later, there was a rumor that director Darren Aronofsky had purchased the remake rights for Perfect Blue. However, when he spoke with Kon in a magazine in 2001, he stated that he had to abandon the purchase of the rights due to various reasons.[16][25] He also said that it was a homage to the movie that his movie Requiem for a Dream had the same angles and shots as Perfect Blue.[16][25]

A live action film adaptation of the novel, Perfect Blue: Yume Nara Samete, was later made and released in 2002. This version was directed by Toshiki Satō from a screenplay by Shinji Imaoka and Masahiro Kobayashi.[26]

Release schedule[edit]

Perfect Blue premiered on August 5, 1997, at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, Canada,[27] and had its general release in Japan on February 28, 1998.[28]

The film was also released on UMD by Anchor Bay Entertainment on December 6, 2005.[29] It featured the film in widescreen, leaving the film kept within black bars on the PSP's 16:9 screen. This release also contains no special features and only the English audio track. The film was released on Blu-ray and DVD in Region B by Anime Limited in 2013.[30][31] In the U.S., Perfect Blue aired on the Encore cable television network and was featured by the Sci Fi Channel on December 10, 2007, as part of its Ani-Monday block. In Australia, Perfect Blue aired on the SBS Television Network on April 12, 2008, and previously sometime in mid 2007 in a similar timeslot.

The film had a theatrical re-release in the United States by GKIDS on September 6 and 10, 2018, with both English dubbed and subtitled screenings.[32] GKIDS and Shout! Factory released the film on Blu-ray Disc in North America on March 26, 2019.[33]

Criticism and analysis[edit]

Susan Napier uses her experience to analyze the film, stating that "Perfect Blue announces its preoccupation with perception, identity, voyeurism, and performance – especially in relation to the female – right from its opening sequence. The perception of reality cannot be trusted, with the visual set up only to not be reality, especially as the psychodrama heights towards the climax."[34] Napier also sees themes related to pop idols and their performances as impacting the gaze and the issue of their roles. Mima's madness results from her own subjectivity and attacks on her identity. The ties to Alfred Hitchcock's work is broken with the murder of her male controllers.[34] Otaku described the film as "critique of the consumer society of contemporary Japan."[34][Note 1]

Reception[edit]

The film was well received critically in the festival circuit, winning awards at the 1997 Fantasia Festival in Montréal, and Fantasporto Film Festival in Portugal.

Critical response in the United States upon its theatrical release was also positive.[35] As of October 2020, the film had an 80% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 44 reviews, with an average score of 7.19/10. The consensus stated, "Perfect Blue is overstylized, but its core mystery is always compelling, as are the visual theatrics."[36] Time included the film on its Top 5 Anime film list,[37] Total Film ranked Perfect Blue twenty-fifth on their list of greatest animated films,[38] and /Film named it the scariest animated film ever.[39] It also made the list for Entertainment Weekly's best movies never seen from 1991–2011.[40]

Dennis Harvey of Variety wrote that while the film "ultimately disappoints with its just-middling tension and underdeveloped scenario, it still holds attention by trying something different for the genre".[4] Hoai-Tran Bui of /Film called Perfect Blue "deeply violent, both physically and emotionally", writing that "this is a film that will leave you with profound psychological scars, and the feeling that you want to take a long, long shower".[39] Bob Graham of the San Francisco Chronicle noted the film's ability to "take the thriller, media fascination, psychological insight and pop culture and stand them all on their heads" via its "knowing, adult view of what seems to be a young-teenage paradise."[41] Writing for Anime News Network, reviewer Tim Henderson described the film as "a dark, sophisticated psychological thriller" with its effect of "over-obsession funneled through early Internet culture" and produces a "reminder of how much celebrity fandom has evolved in only a decade".[42] Reviewing the 2019 GKIDS Blu-Ray release, Neil Lumbard of Blu-Ray.com heralded Perfect Blue as "one of the greatest anime films of all time" and "a must-see masterpiece that helped to pave the way for more complex anime films to follow,"[43] while Chris Beveridge of The Fandom Post noted "this is not a film one can watch often overall, nor should you, but when you settle into it you put everything else away, turn down the lights, and savor an excellent piece of filmmaking."[44]

Legacy[edit]

Madonna incorporated clips from the film into a remix of her song "What It Feels Like for a Girl" as a video interlude during her Drowned World Tour in 2001.[45][46]

American filmmaker Darren Aronofsky acknowledged the similarities in his 2010 film Black Swan, but denied that Black Swan was inspired by Perfect Blue; his previous film Requiem for a Dream features a remake of a scene from Perfect Blue.[47][48] A re-issued blog entry mentioned Aronofsky's film Requiem for a Dream as being among Kon's list of films he viewed for 2010.[49] In addition, Kon blogged about his meeting with Aronofsky in 2001.[50]

Other media[edit]

Seven Seas Entertainment has licensed the English-language publication rights for the original Perfect Blue stories Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis and Perfect Blue: Awaken from a Dream for release in 2017 and 2018, respectively.[51]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Reference to the quote is provided by Napier as: Jay, "Satoshi Kon", Otaku (May/June 2003):22

References[edit]

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Book references

External links[edit]