Perfect Blue

Mima Kirigoe is the lead singer of a modestly successful all-girl idol trio called CHAM! Under the influence of her agent Tadakoro, and over the objections of Mima’s manager, former idol singer Rumi Hidaka, Mima decides to quit CHAM! and become an actress. She manages to land a small role in a crime thriller, Double Bind – but the price of Tadakoro lobbying for Mima to have a larger role in the drama is her consenting to be the subject of a traumatic rape scene. As a consequence, Mima begins to experience dissociative episodes, in which she is haunted by the image of her former self as an idol singer and told that she is now “filthy”. At the same time, Mima discovers that someone has created a website called Mima’s Room, which inexplicably details her life to the smallest detail; this coincides with the sending of a threatening message accusing her of betraying her fans. Matters begin to take a truly sinister turn when Double Bind’s scriptwriter, Takao Shibuya, is brutally murdered; shortly afterwards, a notorious photographer who tricks Mima into participating in a nude photo shoot is killed in similar circumstances. As Mima’s mental stability deteriorates, the plot of Double Bind and events in the real world become increasingly confused in her mind, while her obsession with the Mima’s Room website and the question of who its creator might be reaches paranoid levels.  With the walls seemingly closing in, Mima manages to get to the end of the filming of Double Bind – but this is when she makes the terrifying discovery of the true weight of her fans’ expectations upon her, and of the hidden agendas being pursued by the very people she thought she could trust the most…

Based on the novel by Yoshikazu Takeuchi and produced by anime studio Madhouse, “Perfect Blue” was directed by the legendary Satoshi Kon and released in Japanese cinemas in 1997. Animated in an old-school hand-drawn style that adds an element of gritty noir realism to proceedings, “Perfect Blue” explores the dark underbelly of the whole “idol” music industry, especially as this manifests itself in Japan, Korea, and other East Asian societies. Beneath the glamour and fame and flashing lights lurk the dark intentions of those who would exploit vulnerable young woman for their own purposes; while the hysteria generated among fans by the idol publicity machine, and the delusions to which it gives rise, become an extra dimension of danger for unwary wannabe popstars. What makes “Perfect Blue” especially relevant to a modern audience is the fact that it raises red flags about the impact of the sexualisation of adolescents, the creation of false images of “purity” juxtaposed against an equally false promise of availability, and the influence of social media – all at a time when the internet had barely started as a mass cultural phenomenon. In so doing, it gives the audience reason to pause and consider how much more magnified all these realities are in modern pop culture. Likewise, the cutscenes featuring commentary by jaded and cynical fans reveals how our consumer mentality – with its competing tides of envy and loathing – equally contributes to the objectification of our idolised “stars”. Violent, confronting, and compelling in its depiction of psychological deterioration, “Perfect Blue” is part “Play Misty For Me”, part “Cracker” and part “Wire in the Blood”, combined into an arresting and well-executed thriller.

Text ©Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2021. All rights reserved.