Kon Retrospective: Perfect Blue – The Confusing Thriller

“The you in you isn’t the you you think is in you.” –Satoshi Kon

Satoshi Kon was known for many things, subjective reality, mentally broken characters, and fluid visuals. He loved using skewed perspectives and messing with the continuity, Kon loved making his audience just as confused as his characters. Kon was also known for making a darn good movie, Perfect Blue, is no exception.

Whew, alright. Perfect Blue, I can do this, I can do this. [Eighty minutes later] I can’t do this! I can’t do this!

Perfect Blue is a pretty interesting case when it comes to Kon’s Movie career. Originally set to be a live-action movie, due to an earthquake that hit the studio the budget was lowered to just an animated OVA. This was when Satoshi Kon was brought on. Kon and Murai (the screenwriter) decided they could do better than the book and was basically given free reign on how they change the story. Due to Otomo being a “Special Advisor” (whatever that means) the budget was raised to a full animated movie.

Animated in 1997 by Madhouse, Perfect Blue marks the true beginning of Kon’s directorial career. In the film you see many themes and styles that we’ve come to recognize as Kon’s. Chief among these are editing style, smoothly cutting from scene to scene, subjective reality, and the theme of the ‘Male Gaze.’

Perfect Blue Body 1

This is a freakin’ confusing movie. Much more so than Kon’s other works, even Paranoia Agent or Paprika. The reason being is that this movie is designed to confuse you. It’s calibrated to have you change opinions every ten minutes. Whereas Kon expects you to understand Paprika and Paranoia Agent. As proof of this, I wrote notes about my thoughts on Perfect Blue while watching it for the second time, and my ideas were all over the place. It’ll be at the bottom the article for you to check out.

But if that isn’t enough to convince you, Satoshi Kon himself said in an interview that he was unsatisfied with the ending of Perfect Blue, and wished he could have made it more confusing… thank goodness he didn’t. It’s hard enough as it is.

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsVqAq-guhc[/embedyt]

Perfect Blue is not supposed to be fully understood. No matter how many times you view this film, it won’t get any easier to understand. Perfect Blue is designed to force you to come up with your own conclusions, your own theories. Similar to the ending of Inception, but with the entire second half. The reason Kon said he didn’t find it all that confusing, was because the continuity is not something that can be pieced together easily, if at all. Mima couldn’t make sense of her life or what was truly going on, so to pull us into her head, neither can we.

Perfect Blue Body 2

It’s hard to come up with an exhaustive writing on the themes of the movie, or how the characters have developed. Even after just finishing the movie it feels like a blur. But that is all intentional, Perfect Blue is Satoshi Kon’s most subjective movie. It’s up to us to make sense of things. It’s up to us to discover the themes. It’s up to you. That is why, I’ll leave it to you. But if you wish to see what I thought, just scroll a little lower. But I warn you, I’m not entirely sure or anything yet. I haven’t come to my own conclusion yet, and I doubt I ever will. But that just adds to my Perfect Blue watching experience.

Kon loved challenging his viewers to make sense of what’s happening, and consider their own perspectives, his movies may seem cynical and pessimistic, but underneath there lies a layer of vain hope. “With feelings of gratitude for all that is good in this world, I put down my pen. Now excuse me, I have to go.” –Satoshi Kon

Perfect Blue Body 3

Watching Notes:

The movie opens up with the “Power-rangers” and then some crowd chatter before going backstage where we see CHAM in chaos. Mima runs on stage and title sequence.

After title sequence we see Mima on a train, listening to her song, while staring at her own reflection. This is an important theme of the movie, either self-image (how you see yourself) or the reflection is a fake mima, of which there are a few.

We cut back and forth between Mima on stage and her everyday life. Showing us a clear distinction between these lifestyles, something that will be contrasted by Mima’s personal life being interfered by her professional one.

We already begin to see the smooth cuts Satoshi Kon is known for. It’s been with him throughout his major directing career, his style of directing was something we didn’t see in Magnetic Rose because he wasn’t directing it.

Four minutes in we have a cut that goes straight from Mima’s chest to her back. This is almost definitely foreshadowing her reliance on sexual content to keep afloat later on, and the rape, both of them.

Right in the beginning we have a, in this case group of, super big fans disrupting Mima’s professional performance, just like the threats we’ll be getting later.

Rumi is really fighting for her singing… just saying…

Five minutes and we’ve met the stalker. What thematic purpose does he have? How much of everything is he really responsible for?

With the hand shot of Mima from the Stalker’s perspective, it’s already established that he objectifies her. The previous group of fans disrupt this… could this signify that the Stalker plays a different role than the group of fans???

Mima’s singing voice sounds nothing like her normal voice.

The lyrics to Mima’s last song is TOTALLY symbolic of her leaving CHAM!

Mima’s Room was started before the show… definitely done by Rumi.

“Bye bye, Mima the Pop Idol” is a really freaky line of dialogue if you’ve seen Perfect Blue before.

That breathy call was supposed to seem like Stalker, but it sounded more… ‘feminine’

This movie most shows its age when Mima is confused about the internet

It’s interesting the two main characters of ‘Double Bind’ slip into character immediately, when Mima get’s lost in her own.

Stalker is on set! I repeat! Stalker is on set!

On ‘Double Bind’ we don’t know who the killer is… just like in Perfect Blue

Rumi looks visibly uncomfortable with Mima not being a Pop Idol… just saying…

Idiot, opening mail that isn’t yours??? Baka

The letter bomb is either from Stalker (supposedly on set) or Rumi (looked uncomfortable when the letter was mentioned)

Rumi used to be an Idol herself??? That’s… suspicious… just saying…

Rumi doesn’t seem too phased by the letter bomb

Of course Rumi belittles it as “A prank”

Rumi’s goal seems to be to mentally disturb Mima, the letter bomb, introducing her to Mima’s Room, and possibly the fax???

The May 12th entry confirms is has to be Rumi

Kinda surprising a primetime show like ‘Double Bind’ has nudity.

Nudity on the POSTER TOO? Japan is crazy…

Stalker seems happy to save ‘Mima-rin’

Stalker definitely killed one of the fans at the beginning “The hit-and-run”

This is where the reality stuff gets complicated…

Mima’s character changes personalities when raped… perhaps real Mima too? It is a scary event, real or not.

CHAM Mima will come out.

Perhaps is this rape this is the cause of the whole Dopple-Mima, the time she fights it off is when she regains herself? Will look out for it.

Stalker is on set! I repeat! Stalker is on set!

Yikes, that is uncomfortable.

At least the guy is sorry.

Wow, that is even more uncomfortable.

Rumi really hates this… it’s ruined any chance of returning to being a Pop Idol… just saying…

Mima seems pretty unfazed by the rape scene. I guess Rumi handled it the worst.

OKAY! WHO KILLED THE FISH! I WILL MURDER THEM UNTIL THEY’RE DEAD! Seriously… that’s just mean.

Fish death means more to Mima than being (fake) raped.

I guess Mima really IS a good actress if she held her emotions in until now.

Yep, as soon as rape was involved, Idol-Mima has appeared.

The fish aren’t dead? Wow, Mima was really affected by that scene. “I see dead people, I mean fish, I see dead fish.”

That scene… showed Stalker writing on Mima’s Room? But.. I thought… Rumi…

These idol fans are pretty obsessed with innocence.

Okay… I can see Stalker writing this. But he must have an amazing ear to have heard the May 12th entry.

Idol-Mima is a combination of Mima’s inner want to be an idol again, and everyone else’s (Rumi and Stalker most notably) desire for that as well.

Idol-Mima’s existence stems from the Rape scene and the stubbornness of ‘Mimi-rin’s’ fans

Gosh, the music in the scene paired with the visuals of Idol-Mima hopping streetlights is sooo chilling. Love it!

Ahh, the first murder. This is almost definitely Stalker, but it still could be Rumi…

“Was stabbed umpteen times” What? Umpteen times?? What does that even mean???

Mima is smothering her feelings about showing her body by showing her body…

Everyone can see Idol-Mima???

Stalker can’t stand other people seeing Mima naked… or does he want it all for himself…

Perhaps Stalker, or Me-mania, isn’t running Mima’s Room? Yeah, I think so.

Right there, “There is no way illusions can come to life.” That answers the riddle! It’s all Rumi either doing the things, or convincing Stalker to! I wish it stayed this easy.

Did Mima get run over by Stalker? Or is this a dream? It’s a dream? Right? Right?

What if… perhaps… just maybe… Rumi and Stalker are related??? Their faces look pretty familiar, at least the eyes do.

So it was all a day-dream from Mima! Ah, how confusing.

Oh, so Mima’s just getting time mixed up now.

Yesterday!? Then why is the news spouting the same story?

Yep, okay. I got it now. In real life, Mima’s illusion is Idol-Mima, who possesses Stalker and Rumi. In Double Bind, Mima’s illusion is a security guard (much like Stalker) that possesses Rumi.

That was a reference to Opus! Cooool.

Yeah, Rumi is the one killing the photographer guy, we’re just seeing Mima’s illusion. Unless Mima’s doing it, and her illusion is possessing her! Probably not.

But Mima has the evidence so… she really did to it?

I really hope this scene is just a clever nod by the screenwriter to Mima’s actual life, and not a hint that perhaps Double Bind is real life, and the ‘real life’ is just a show. I really hope so.

This is Stalker finally doing what he promised Idol-Mima almost twenty minutes ago! Geez Stalker, get your act together.

But now Stalker admits to killing the other two??? Ugh

Stalker isn’t… natural. He didn’t flinch when Mima threw stuff at him, and his head didn’t move at all when she hammered him. Pretty sure he’s just one of her illusions.

Wait that was filming? But filming is done already! a;lsdhj;aosh b;oahg s This is so confusing!!!

Okay, definitely not filming. Whew, that’s not an aspect of confusion anymore.

What Rumi said there, “Back to Mima’s Room.” That is a worrisome line.

This… is not Mima’s real room, it’s too clean and perfect, completely unlike when we last saw it. Weird…

Aaand the fishes are dead again. Great.

Aaand the other producer guy’s dead. Great.

Aaand Stalker’s dead. Great.

Geez, what kind of fish are these? Lazarus fish?

Yep, different room. It was clean, the fish are in a different place. And Mima never had a train outside her window.

AND the Rumi twist is revealed! Bum bum BUUUUUUMMM!

Confirmed: Rumi is running Mima’s Room, and emailed Stalker as Mima.

Confirmed: Rumi killed the others, or at least told Stalker what weapon to use.

Now these fish are dead for real. Right?

Wow that’s a sharp umbrella.

Wow, that image of Idol-Mima standing in front of a moving truck, thinking it’s a crowd… that’s really good.

Gah. This movie is confusing as hell.

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GJ Corban
Hi there, I'm GJ Corban, that stands for Gregory Jr., but I've been accidentally called CJ, DJ, JJ, and even Jesus... thrice. Other than that I'm just a guy obsessed with storytelling and the culture and news that surround it.

1 COMMENT

  1. Hi, I know you posted this awhile ago but I just recently watched Perfect Blue and was reading different articles about it to try and understand it better. The main thing I am wondering is, what is your opinion on the death of the photographer? Do you think mima did it, and maybe repressed her actions later, or did rumi kill him and leave the clothes in mima’s room to further push her over the edge? I know the movie is meant to be ambiguous, but I can’t find any article really discussing that part and I really want someone else’s opinion!

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