#1 A story about Dissociative Identity
CHAM! is an idol group that has been steadily growing in popularity, but the agency behind its star singer Mima Kirigoe has now decided that she is destined for something bigger; a career as a TV actress; Mima goes along with it and announces her departure, after which she scores a role as a minor character in a psychological TV drama. However, this change doesn’t sit well with everybody, least of all with Mima herself.
Her transition to TV is tough on her and a definite step down from CHAM!, which only increases in popularity after Mima leaves. Her acting roles feels insignificant and soon take a dark turn that force Mima into a raunchier part of the business just to get by. Soon, Mima realizes that she is being watched. A shadow from her time as an idol is following her, punishing those who it feels have wronged her; maybe it’s even targeting Mima herself.
The combined stress of her failing career and the real threat of physical violence builds up and overwhelms the young woman entirely. This gives birth to an alternate self; the Mima Kirigoe who never quit her idol career and seeks to convince the real Mima Kirigoe that she is the fake.
Dissociative Identities are an interesting concept—one that Satoshi Kon has used in his works before and since—but I believe this is his best execution of the subject yet. Perfect Blue goes into a lot of depth and allows you to truly understand Mima’s struggles. It’s an intense story and a must see for anybody who is into psychological thrillers like this.
#2 Grueling visuals
Perfect Blue is a gorgeous anime movie that is ugly in all the right places. The main characters look great, backgrounds and set-design are fantastic, and I love how the fantastical elements clash with the movie’s dark and moody visuals.
However, you’ll frequently spot crowds of ugly-looking characters. These were certainly a cost-saving measure first, but also add to the uneasy atmosphere of the movie. You got scenes where Mima is faced with this crowd of zombie-like onlookers with piercing gazes as she is forced to do her work. And the ugliest fuck of them all is Me-Mania; a man first introduced as a part-time security guard at her concerts who is clearly obsessed with Mima. He gives off an uncanny atmosphere and it doesn’t take a trained psychiatrist to notice by his mannerisms that he probably should be seeing a trained psychiatrist.
Another way in which the ugliness manifests is when Mima’s stalking turns violent. What first appears like mean-spirited pranks turns into outright murder and watching that unfold is grueling, sometimes bordering on genuine horror. In the same vein, the movie features rape scenes that are quite visual and distressing, though censored releases do exist and these scenes aren’t so pivotal that you lose out if you skip them.
#3 Manageable mindfuck
Satoshi’s Kon’s greatest achievement with Perfect Blue is how it makes his trademark storytelling digestible without dumbing it down.
The movie is comparable to Paprika in a lot of ways, featuring a similar blend of reality and fantasy intertwining in ways that leave you questioning which events are real and which ones are a product of Mima’s mind. Scene transitions are very trippy and all semblance of linear storytelling begins to fall apart as the finale approaches. It’s bizarre and challenging to follow, but the plot makes a lot of sense and even its strangest events click into place after the final few plot twists. Even better, they may be clicking into place before the movie reveals the answers itself.
It’s interesting and it makes you feel smart for keeping up with the movie’s twists, while also offering additional depth to discover on any rewatches you may have planned. I have watched the movie three times now and I spot new details every time. This also makes it a favorite movie of mine to watch with others, as it gives us a lot of discuss afterwards.