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As humans, we have always been cognizant of our image and how it is projected to the outside world. Those in public positions such as celebrities or politicians must always take measured steps and decisions as to not tarnish the image they have created for this world. We keep up appearances with social media even if our audience is a couple of friends from school or work. However, what if we make something different of ourselves? Perhaps it may not be a drastic shift but it’s just enough to rock the boat? At times, this can be insanely difficult. Typecasting is a classic example of this pheomenon. Actors who attempt to act outside their previous character trends have a markedly more difficult time making critics accept and praise them for their work. Perhaps even the actors themselves have a more difficult time acting outside their comfort zones. The anime movie, Perfect Blue (Rated R -- this is a movie mature audiences only), directed by Satoshi Kon, is a terrifyingly surreal movie that deals with some of these themes in one of the best ways I have ever seen.
Perfect Blue is a 1997 movie that could not be told today but holds themes that are still abundantly relevant today. The movie follows Mima Kirigoe, a woman who has recently quit the pop idol business to become an actress. However, between her personal misgivings about changing occupations, her fanbase’s mixed reaction, and a stalker who outright rejects Mima’s change in career, the combination of stresses with work, the stalker, and her own mental duress cause Mima to begin to come unhinged. Her life begins to parallel the crime drama she works on as murders begin to happen around her. Mima begins to literally debate with her pop idol persona as reality and fantasy begin to blur in a flurry of surreal sequences that the audience may have a difficult time deciphering. One of Perfect Blue’s biggest strengths is its ability to let the audience be confused without alienating them. Some of the events of the movie are not directly spelled out to the viewer, but the director lays it out so that the answer still feels like the answers are within reach.
A thematic staple of Perfect Blue is the notion of identity. Kon touches on both the internal and external struggle that Mima goes through particularly well. Mima struggles internally with her shift from pop idol to actress. Her new role as a celebrity ushers her into more mature and sexual roles (such as doing a nude photo shoot), and she struggles with a part of her that rejects this new change. She wrestles with the part of her heart that yearns for the innocence of staying a pop idol. Her struggle is only exacerbated by the people around her, both her managerial team and her fans. As we watch Mima struggle with her self-image, we get shots of fans of her discussing her new ventures into acting with mixed results, and a stalker outright rejects her change altogether. Part of this rejection is manifested through the creation of a website called “Mima’s Room,” in which the stalker has been posing as Mima and writing eerily accurate blog posts about her life. This plot element may not be the same today (Mima actually had to be taught how to use a computer to even visit this site, which would not have been the case today), the idea of the struggle between internal and external identity is still relevant. Public figures and celebrities have to deal with outside feedback whether they like it or not. The stalker goes as far as taking ownership of Mima’s identity online in this case. This only further puts Mima into mental instability. To watch Mima’s lack of control over her external image is both disturbing and fascinating. While this story may not have the same beats if told today, some of these themes and issues are still abundantly relevant. People get their identities taken all the time on social media (‘Catfishing’ immediately comes to mind) in which people take on whole separate identities.
Perfect Blue is the type of movie that requires a second watch. There are plenty of ideas jam-packed into this 81-minute-long movie. If you are a fan of surreal thrillers or horror, this is a must-see movie. The themes of identity and personas still ring true today, and these themes are universal. Even if you are not an anime fan or are not versed in animated movies, you will be bound to get sucked in as if it were a live-action film. The composition, attention to detail, and profound themes make for a ‘perfect’ thriller. Legally, you can rent the movie on Netflix (DVD only), and you can find it on Ebay for as low as $10.00.