If anyone were to name a significant lost for the anime industry, Satoshi Kon would be one of them. I still hold onto the idea that his Paranoia Agent remains one of the best anime that has aired on television. He was just one of those directors that constantly proved again and again that anime isn’t just for children through his own works that showcased a blend of psychology and societal problems — they should easily be considered some of the best Japanese films in general, not just animated. Right up there with the likes of screenplay writer Chiaki J. Konaka and director Hideaki Anno in terms of quality work in anime.
To honor this man, let’s look into one of his first and best works — Perfect Blue. A psychological thriller flick that delves into sense of identity, losing your grip on reality, as well as the stressful and paranoia-fueled “dark side” of celebrity life.
Pop-idol star Mima Kirigoe, of the idol group “CHAM1”, decides to throw away her image as a pop-idol in order to become a face in acting. This brings out an interestingly accurate interpretation of the idol fandom in Japan — as expected, her otaku fans are disgruntled, but the real problem arise with stalkers and online impersonators. In Perfect Blue, Mima’s stalker (who is introduced as “Me-Mania”) sends her threatening faxes, a letter for her that contained a bomb, and appears to be running a website which, under the guise of Mima’s own personal blog, chronicles every single intricate detail about her everyday activities — to a very disturbing degree. And of course, mysterious murders are happening to people who are closely connected with Mimi’s work.
Even though the inner workings seem to be laid out to the viewer at first glance, it’s soon made apparent that the plot isn’t something that’s easily figured out. Once the stress of the job gets to Mima (sketchy scenes such as rape, nude modelling, etc.) and she begins to doubt her choice, the movie begins to frequently skip between reality and delusion, to the point where the viewer doubts if any of this is happening in her head, if it’s real, or if she’s really the one responsible for these murders. Which, in my opinion, is a quality of the film that makes it stand out and come across as somewhat disturbing and freaky. It confuses the viewer and many interpretations can be made about the meaning behind certain sequences — especially when the big unexpected revelation comes out.
It’s one of those films that requires multiple viewings in order to pick up on certain things in the scenery and dialogue that weren’t noticed during the first viewing. I expect nothing less from the man behind the anime adaptation of Paprika, which was no doubt an early inspiration for Christopher Nolan’s Inception — this decade’s token “mind-fuck” movie.
As for the animation and art, it’s what you would expect from MADHOUSE — endless amounts of quality and fluid movements. And as a film directed by Satoshi Kon, the character designs take on realistic proportions (while still taking on traits recognizable as anime) that fit the film’s serious tone. An impressive amount of work was done with camera angles and scenery just adds to the psychotic atmosphere of the movie. Usually in anime, the animation just complements the atmosphere, so it’s a very nice treat when animators take the flexibility of the medium and use it to its full potential by adding to the mood. It would be a godsend if the same quality could be seen in more televised anime!