Perfect Blue

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Perfect Blue
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySatoshi Kon
Produced by
  • Hitomi Nakagaki
  • Yoshihisa Ishihara
  • Yutaka Tōgō
  • Masao Maruyama
  • Hiroaki Inoue
Screenplay bySadayuki Murai
Based onPerfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis
by Yoshikazu Takeuchi
Music byMasahiro Ikumi
CinematographyHisao Shirai
Edited byHarutoshi Ogata
Distributed byRex Entertainment
Release date
Running time
81 minutes
Box office$541,756 (US only)[1]

Perfect Blue (パーフェクトブルー, Pāfekuto Burū) is a 1997 Japanese animated psychological horror film directed by Satoshi Kon (in his directorial debut) and written by Sadayuki Murai. 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.

The film follows Mima Kirigoe, the member of a Japanese idol group who retires from music to pursue an acting career. As she becomes a victim of stalking, she starts to lose her perception of reality and fiction. Like much of Kon's later work, such as Paprika, the film deals with the blurring of the lines between fantasy and reality in contemporary Japan.[2]


Mima Kirigoe, the lead singer of the fictional J-pop idol group "CHAM!", decides to leave the group to become an actress, believing that the idol group life is a dead end job. Her first project is a crime drama series, Double Bind. Some of her fans are upset by her change in career, including a stalker known as "Me-Mania". Shortly after leaving CHAM!, Mima receives an anonymous fax calling her a traitor. She also finds a website called "Mima's Room", which features public diary entries that seem to be written by her that discuss her life in great detail. She brings the site to the attention of her manager, ex-pop star Rumi Hidaka, but is advised to ignore it.

On the set of Double Bind, Mima succeeds in getting a larger part. However, the producers decide to cast her as a rape victim in a strip club. Rumi warns Mima that it will damage her reputation, but Mima accepts the part, wanting to be taken more seriously as an actress. While filming the scene, the atmosphere becomes too real and Mima believes she is actually being raped, traumatizing her (as well as Rumi, who leaves the production control room crying). Mima increasingly becomes unable to distinguish reality from her work in show business.

Several people involved in creating Double Bind, including the show's writer and photographer, are found murdered. Mima finds evidence that makes her a suspect in those murders, based on entries on the Mima's Room website, and her increasing mental instability makes her doubt her own innocence. Meanwhile, Me-Mania is constantly shown standing amongst the Double Bind filming crew, and his obsessive home life is revealed when he is shown receiving emails from Mima's pop idol persona through the Mima's Room website. It is at this point that the film's reality starts breaking down for the viewer as well: in one scene, Mima is revealed by a police psychiatrist to be the split personality delusion of a woman named Yoko Takakura, only for the Double Bind camera crew to yell "Cut"; in another, Me-Mania finally confronts and attempts to rape Mima, stopped only when Mima knocks him unconscious with a hammer; this too is hinted as being part of a Double Bind film shoot. Rumi finds Mima backstage immediately afterward, and Me-Mania's blood and body are not found on the now-empty set.

Rumi offers to drive Mima home. Upon arriving, Mima tries to place a call, but stops upon realizing that she is actually in a room decorated to resemble her own pop idol apartment at the beginning of the film. When Mima encounters Rumi, however, her manager is wearing a replica of Mima's CHAM! costume and fully believing, in a psychotic break, that she is Mima herself. Rumi is in fact the false diarist of Mima's Room, who believes she is the "real Mima". Rumi is angry that Mima—who has been suffering from folie à deux throughout the film—has been ruining the "real Mima's" reputation, and decides to save "Mima's" pristine pop idol image by murdering the original, who she believes is an imposter. Mima manages to incapacitate Rumi in self-defense after a chase through the city despite being wounded herself, then saves Rumi from an oncoming truck. Severely wounded and fully delirious, Rumi mistakes the truck's headlights for stage lights. Both parties collapse as the truck's occupants call for an ambulance.

Some time later, Mima, now an accomplished actress, shows up at a mental institution to visit Rumi, who, believing the flowers Mima leaves for her are from her adoring fans, seems to now permanently exist in her "Mima" delusion. As Mima leaves, she overhears the nursing staff believing that she is a Mima lookalike, as the real Mima Kirigoe would supposedly have no reason to visit an institution. Mima enters her car and, looking into the rear view mirror, declares "I'm the real thing" and smiles.

Voice cast[edit]

Character Japanese English[3]
Mima Kirigoe Junko Iwao Ruby Marlowe[4]
Rumi Rica Matsumoto Wendee Lee[5]
Tadokoro Shinpachi Tsuji Gil Starberry
Me-Mania Masaaki Ōkura Bob Marx[6]
Tejima Yōsuke Akimoto Steve Bulen
Takao Shibuya Yoku Shioya Jimmy Theodore
Sakuragi Hideyuki Hori Sparky Thornton[7]
Eri Ochiai Emi Shinohara Lia Sargent
Mureno Masashi Ebara Jamieson Price
Director Kiyoyuki Yanada Richard Plantagenet
Yatazaki Tōru Furusawa
Yukiko Emiko Furukawa Bambi Darro
Rei Shiho Niiyama Melissa Williamson
Tadashi Doi Akio Suyama
Cham Manager Dylan Tully

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.[8]


Originally, the film was supposed to be a live action direct to video series, but after the Kobe earthquake of 1995 damaged the production studio, the budget for the film was reduced to an original video animation. Katsuhiro Otomo was credited as "Special Supervisor" to help the film sell abroad, and as a result, the film was screened in many film festivals around the world. While touring the world it received a fair amount of acclaim, jump-starting Kon's career as a filmmaker.[9]

Kon and Murai did not think that the original novel would make a good film and asked if they could change the contents. This change was approved so long as they kept a few of the original concepts from the novel. A live action film Perfect Blue: Yume Nara Samete was later made (released in 2002) that is much closer to the novel. This version was directed by Toshiki Satō from a screenplay by Shinji Imaoka and Masahiro Kobayashi.[10]

Themes and analysis[edit]

Susan Napier uses feminist film theory 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."[9] 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.[9] Otaku described the film as "critique of the consumer society of contemporary Japan."[9][Note 1]

Like many other works by director Satoshi Kon, Perfect Blue creates intentional ambiguity in its themes and characters. One such instance is the final line, "I'm the real thing", which Mima speaks into her car's rear-view mirror, looking toward the viewer in a seeming fourth wall break. In the original Japanese language version of the film, this line was spoken by the character of Mima but from the voice actress Rica Matsumoto,[citation needed] who voiced Rumi. This was left out of the English dub, where the line was spoken by Ruby Marlowe.


The film was released in cinemas in the United Kingdom by Manga Entertainment in 1999 and the United States by Manga Entertainment on VHS of the same year on both an R-rated version and its original unrated uncut version. It was later released in 2000 in an unrated-only DVD release. The film was also released on UMD by Anchor Bay Entertainment on December 6, 2005.[11] 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.[12][13]

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.[14]


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.[15] The film holds a 75% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus stating, "Perfect Blue is overstylized, but its core mystery is always compelling, as are the visual theatrics."[16] However, some critics were more mixed and associated the film with common anime stereotypes of gratuitous sex and violence.

Time included the film on its Top 5 Anime film list,[17] and Terry Gilliam, of whom Kon was a fan[18] included it in his list of the Top 50 animated films.[19] Perfect Blue ranked #25 on Total Film's all-time animated films.[20] It also made the list for Entertainment Weekly's best movies never seen from 1991–2011.[21]

Tim Henderson from Anime News Network, described the movie 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". [22]


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.[23][24]

American filmmaker Darren Aronofsky purchased the rights for a live-action remake of Perfect Blue. The project never got off the ground, but it influenced the bathtub scene in his 2000 film Requiem for a Dream. His later 2010 film Black Swan bears more striking similarities to Perfect Blue. In 2010, Aronofsky acknowledged the similarities, but denied that Black Swan was inspired by Perfect Blue.[25][26] 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.[27] In addition, Kon blogged about his meeting with Aronofsky in 2001.[28]

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.[29]

See also[edit]

  • Dr. Frost, a TV series whose pilot episode features a comparable plot and theme


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


  1. ^ "Perfect Blue (1999)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 4, 2016.
  2. ^ "Satoshi Kon, Anime's Dream Weaver". Washington Post. June 15, 2007.
  3. ^ Patten, Fred (2005). Beck, Jerry, ed. The Animated Movie Guide. Chicago Review Press. p. 190. ISBN 9781569762226.
  4. ^ Interview with English Mima (DVD). Manga Entertainment. 2000.
  5. ^ Interview with English Rumi (DVD). Manga Entertainment. 2000.
  6. ^ Interview with Mr. Me-Mania (DVD). Manga Entertainment. 2000.
  7. ^ "Original Animation". Retrieved August 2, 2015.
  8. ^ A Perfect Blue Day (DVD). Manga Entertainment. 2000. – closing credits
  9. ^ a b c d Brown, Steven (September 2008). Cinema Anime - "Excuse Me, Who Are You?": Performance, the Gaze, and the Female in the Works of Kon Satoshi by Susan Napier. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 23–43. ISBN 978-0-230-60621-0.
  10. ^ "夢なら醒めて…". Japanese Cinema Database. Archived from the original on August 29, 2010. Retrieved October 18, 2009.
  11. ^ "PSP Perfect Blue". Archived from the original on January 25, 2006. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
  12. ^ Josh Hurtado (March 2, 2014). "Now on Blu-ray: PERFECT BLUE Gets Some Much Needed Attention From Anime Ltd. (UK)". Screen Anarchy. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  13. ^ Phelim O'Neill (November 23, 2013). "Perfect Blue, out this week on DVD & Blu-ray". The Guardian. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  14. ^ Alex Mateo (August 3, 2018). "Fandango Lists Fathom Events Screenings of Perfect Blue in U.S." Anime News Network. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
  15. ^ "Perfect Blue". Animerica. April 7, 2000. Archived from the original on June 13, 2004.
  16. ^ [1]
  17. ^ "5 Top Anime Movies on DVD". New York Times. July 31, 2005.
  18. ^ "Interview 03". Archived from the original on October 15, 2007.
  19. ^ "Time Out's 50 Greatest Animated Films – Part 3 with Time Out Film - Time Out London". Archived from the original on October 8, 2009. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
  20. ^ Kinnear, Simon. "50 Greatest Animated Movies". Retrieved January 4, 2013.
  21. ^ "50 Best Movies You've Never Seen". Entertainment Weekly's. July 16, 2012. Archived from the original on July 17, 2012. Retrieved August 2, 2015.
  22. ^ Tim Henderson, Perfect Blue Review, August 12, 2010. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  23. ^ Clements & McCarthy 2012 – entry: Urotsukidoji
  24. ^ Cinquemani, Sal (September 10, 2001). "Madonna: Drowned World Tour Review". Slant Magazine. Archived from the original on March 20, 2007. Retrieved August 29, 2015. Though her Cowgirl image is easily her least significant incarnation to date, Drowned World proves that Madonna is still unmatched in her ability to lift cultural iconography into the mainstream. The Geisha cycle is epilogued with hard techno beats and violent imagery taken from the groundbreaking Japanese anime film, Perfect Blue. The story's main character, Mima, a former pop star haunted by ghosts from her past, dreams of becoming an actress but resorts to porn gigs in her search for success.
  25. ^ "The cult Japanese filmmaker that inspired Darren Aronofsky". Dazed. August 27, 2015.
  26. ^ "KON'S TONE » VSダーレン". January 23, 2001. Retrieved January 28, 2015.
  27. ^ 2011/06/22 水曜日 - 高橋かしこ (June 22, 2011). "コンズ便り »コンズ便り» ブログアーカイブ » 雑食日誌2000 - KON'S TONE". Retrieved January 4, 2013.
  28. ^ "VS Dahlen". January 23, 2001. Retrieved June 19, 2017.
  29. ^ "Seven Seas Licenses Yoshikazu Takeuchi's Original Perfect Blue Novels". Anime News Network. April 10, 2017. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
Book references

External links[edit]