I can’t let the month of October without an anime that people should be watching. This one sticks to the horror-theme we’ve been exploring all month. The anime in question is the first full-length animated feature film from one of Japan’s brightest filmmakers.
Satoshi Kon’s 1998 psychological-thriller, Perfect Blue, works just as well in the classic traditions of the Italian gialli thrillers of the 70’s and 80’s. The film is about a J-Pop idol, Mina Kirigoe, who has decided to retire from the J-Pop group “CHAM!” to pursue a career in acting. This decision of Mina’s is not taken lightly by some of her fans who sees it as a betrayal of everything they’ve come to love and worship in Mina’s J-Pop idol persona.
Before I continue, I need to point out that the idol concept in Japan and Asia is quite similar to the heavily-produced singing groups and solo singers like Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and a host of cookie-cutter acts. These J-Pop idols have money invested in making sure every movement they make, every song they sing and every appearance in pubic create a persona that will appeal to the largest target audience possible. It’s no wonder that a small subset of fans of these idols lose track of what;s real and what’s been fabricated for entertainment.
So, with that in mind Mina’s decision to leave her idol status to become an actress brings out the extreme reactions from some fans. As the film moves forward we also see a gradual decline in how Mina perceives the reality around her. She begins to suspect that she’s being followed and stalked. Even her first big break as an actress — a controversial gang rape scene in a strip club — just adds to her failing grip on reality.
The horror part of Perfect Blue could easily be attributed to the psychological breakdown of a young woman whose past fame and celebrity status has become the very thing which haunts and hounds her. Yet, the film brings in a mysterious slasher element to the narrative that could easily be paying homage to Argento’s gialli from the 80’s like Suspiria. It shares similar themes of a young ingenue put into a situation where reality and fantasy begin to blur not just for her but those who obsess over her. At times, the film almost brings in a dream-like quality to the story which is something Argento has become famous for in many of his work during the late 70’s and early 80’s.
It’s quite an achievement for a first feature-length film that would help catapult Satoshi Kon to be mentioned in the same breath as other Japanese anime filmmakers as Hayao Miyazaki. In fact, with each new film by Kon he became the near-consensus to bear the standard of Japan’s premiere anime filmmaker once Miyazaki finally retires. It’s unfortunate that Satoshi Kon wouldn’t see that day as his untimely passing from cancer at the young age of 46 robbed the film community of one of it’s best and brightest.
Perfect Blue is a perfect example of anime that’s both mature and entertaining without resorting to the so-called “hentai pornography” some outside the community seem to think mature anime tend to be. This psychological thriller could easily be told in live-action and still come out quite good, but in animated form under the talented, guiding hands of Satoshi Kon, it has become one of the best of it’s kind in the anime scene.
So, Perfect Blue is another “Anime You Should Be Watching” and should satisfy one’s need to see a well-made anime with horror roots.
P.S.: You Should Be Watching Every Satoshi Kon anime…Perfect Blue also had a strong influence on Aronofsky’s Black Swan.