Directed by Satoshi Kon
Starring: Junko Iwao, Rica Matsumoto, Shiho Niiyama
Upon release, Perfect Blue’s reality questioning and rumination on toxic celebrity worship influenced two directors: Darren Aronofsky and Christopher Nolan. Aronofsky even tried to buy the film rights so that he could copy shots from the movie and put them in Requiem for a Dream as well as Black Swan. Nolan, meanwhile, cites this film as inspiring him while he drafted Memento. He’d later go back to Satoshi Kon’s work to help him craft the dream world for Inception.
My friends and I are planning a movie trilogy watch party next month, and, after pairing Promising Young Woman with The Invisible Man, we needed a third. I’d watched the film fresh out of college, but it’d been ten years, and I didn’t want to suggest the movie for nostalgia’s sake.
Mima Kirigoe is part of an idol trio called “CHAM!” They’re moderately successful and are about to move up to the A-list when Mima’s management team convinces her to transition to acting. Mima leaves the group, joining an edgy Law-and-Order knockoff. Unfortunately, many lack confidence that Mima will be believable due to her pop background. After pressure from the show, Mima agrees to perform a rape scene and do a racy photography shoot. Afterwards, viewers learn that Mima didn’t want to do any of it, but couldn’t risk being labeled difficult.
Meanwhile, Me Mania, a shut-in fan of CHAM! enacts an online revenge campaign because Mima not only betrayed the group, but also her idol identity by becoming sexualized. Me Mania creates a fake social media profile of Mima where she opines that every decision she’s made since leaving the group is a mistake.
Upon discovering this account, Mima buckles under the pressure and hallucinates a perfect idol version of Mima. It is only this version of Mima that can restore the main character’s purity and righteousness…
Or, perhaps, none of it is real. Mima may still be an idol who’s having a nightmare about an alternate reality. She could even be a character on a Law and Order knockoff played by the idol Mima. As the film progresses, Mima spirals further into madness all while Me Mania gains further control over her identity.
You’ll be obsessed. Inexplicably, this movie has become even more prescient since its release 25 years ago. It deftly predicted online troll culture, celebrity conservatorships, the CSI effect, Disney star meltdowns, and the Incel movement. The fact that The Internet was only available as a public medium for five years at the time is astounding. Perfect Blue saw the precipice society stood on and continues to provide explanations for why young stars spiral into disaster. It also provides a roadmap for those people to rehabilitate.
Additionally, the film dissects the toxic male fan. “Bisexual Superman is yet another concession to our PC culture!” “Jim Gordon’s not black in the comics; they’re ruining what made Batman good!” “Rey Skywalker is a Mary Sue; it’s just not Star Wars anymore.” Perfect Blue’s Me Mania character embodies those traits, claiming that Mima has changed her image from the pure pop idol she began as to an edgy woman who’s been sexually awakened. Me Mania believes that if Mima was always this inside, then she shouldn’t have led her fans on. Instead, he craves the perfect image that the idol Mima presented, completely unaware of how little control the real Mima actually had in the decision.
There’s a sector of society that, unfortunately, has ample experience dealing with the situations and people listed above. For them, Perfect Blue may prove too close to home. For everyone else, this film is a must.
Enjoy is such a strong word. Will your hands cramp because they’ve been gripping the couch too hard? Will your jaw hit the floor, then smash into your downstairs neighbor’s apartment? Will your hot chocolate supply for the winter run out because you can’t warm up your insides afterwards no matter how many mugs you down? Yes to all of these.
In fact, I would argue that, since this film was so ahead of its time, viewers may find it MORE accessible than the audiences of the late 90s did. Dozens of unreliable narrators have splattered film, TV, and streaming services since 1997. Today, we’re more accustomed to the idea that truth for the characters is not necessarily truth for the viewer. Despite the liquid reality and changing identities, I never felt lost while watching Perfect Blue, nor did I ever lose trust in the filmmaker’s vision. I highly recommend this movie to anyone with the stomach to handle it.