Satoshi Kon’s first feature is a chilling psychological character study in adult anime form.
Dir. Satoshi Kon
1997 | Japan | Animation/Mystery/Horror | 81 mins | 1.85:1 | Japanese
R21 (passed clean) for animated sequences of violence and nudity, and for brief language
Cast: Junko Iwao, Rica Matsumoto, Shinpachi Tsuji
Plot: A retired pop singer turned actress’ sense of reality is shaken when she is stalked by an obsessed fan and seemingly a ghost of her past.
Awards: Official Selection (Berlin)
Subject Matter: Mature/Slightly Disturbing
Narrative Style: Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Viewed: The Projector
Satoshi Kon passed away way too early, leaving behind only four feature films. Perfect Blue was his very first, and from the get-go, the Paprika (2006) director already showed evidence of becoming a filmmaker with the requisite skill to tackle heavy and complicated themes.
Adapted from the novel of the same name by Yoshikazu Takeuchi, albeit loosely, Perfect Blue is both a chilling psychological character study of a woman’s mysterious mental affliction, as well as a time capsule of the late ‘90s, when the Internet was so primitive that Netscape Navigator was its most popular browser.
Kon’s work is also a harbinger of the rampant East Asian celebrity culture that continues till this day, particularly the perils of being a famous person in a not-so-private world.
“Excuse me… who are you? Excuse me… who are you?”
As such, it is a remarkably prescient film seen from today’s point-of-view, but I’m sure it was equally a stunning breakthrough in anime filmmaking when it was first released.
Kon’s filmmaking style goes for the jugular—its frenetic editing includes intensified use of match cuts, while the intercutting between the lead protagonist’s mental states and her fallible sense of reality build up to a tense climax where the film becomes fractured and fragmented.
It’s almost like experiencing a broken mirror, where each shard of glass not just reflects a part of one’s unsound mind, but brutally stabs into the subconscious. Perfect Blue continues to be a landmark in adult anime, and at only 80 minutes long, it tackles so many themes in so little time.