Perfect Blue – A Secret Santa Review

Hello, it’s been awhile. I hadn’t intended to take a whole year off from blogging; I intended last year’s secret Santa review (of the excellent Interstella5555, which I still routinely re-watch) to be the kick start of a more productive year of anime blogging. I’d just started feeling like discussing animation again after 5 months had passed since the Kyoto Animation fire (which I now think of as a foreshock of what 2020 turned out to be). I also had the desire to see if I could increase my stats for 2020 over 2019 as the last time I had a yearly increase in views was 2009. Then 2020 happened … and, yeah …. here we are. The funny thing is I was able to accomplish my goal; with a week left of 2020 and this being my first post of 2020, I’ve increased my views for the year by over 2500 from 2019.

But, one is never done blogging. Something will always bring you back and for me it’s participating in the anime Secret Santa project and I’m excited to see what this year has in store for me. This year marks, I believe, the 12th year of the Secret Santa Project and my ninth year participating. Reverse Thieves started the project and continued it for ten years and this year marks the second year that All Geeks Considered hosts this absolutely enjoyable project.

Story

Perfect Blue follows a Mima Kirigoe as she decides to move on from being a member of an idol group towards becoming an actress. The change is difficult for her and for those around her as incidences begin to occur to people connected to her new acting career. Her problems are further compounded when she discovers a website that purports to be Mima’s and contains information that she’d only know and has been around from before she even learned what the Internet was. (Yes, the movie came out in 1998.)

Thoughts and Impressions

As you probably know, each person is given three choices of what to watch and they are asked to review just one for this Secret Santa project. I like to start these reviews with a short explanation of how I picked what I picked to watch.

My three choices were:

Perfect Blue
Robot Carnival
Golgo 13

There is one anime that has been among my three choices multiple times over the years and that is Perfect Blue; my Secret Santa even went so far this year to say – “I was actually surprised that this wasn’t on there.” The reason for this is because Perfect Blue is the last work directed by Satoshi Kon that I have not seen and I didn’t want to be able to say I’ve seen all his work. I liked the idea of there being one more movie of his that I still needed to see. (F*ck cancer!)

I probably could have hid behind one of the stated goals of this project which is to try something new and have gone with Golgo 13, even if I wasn’t sure exactly which Golgo 13 I was supposed to watch – the 1983 anime film, the 1998 OVA, or the 2008 anime series. I decided, however, it was time to bite the bullet and watch Perfect Blue.

Wow!

I’m not shocked I liked Perfect Blue; I think that was a forgone conclusion. I am shocked that for being his first directed movie how completely Satoshi Kon it was. This wasn’t a movie of someone still trying to find their groove, this was a movie by a master – a master who still found room to improve even more, but a master nonetheless.

And that presents it’s own challenges in writing a review, especially when I don’t like to divulge spoilers.

If you’ve watched anything by Satoshi Kon, enjoyed it, and haven’t seen Perfect Blue, just know that you should go watch it. If you haven’t seen anything by Satoshi Kon – an increasingly likely possibility as the years increasingly pass since his death in 2010. What is most striking about Perfect Blue, and many of his other works, is how it is able to blur the lines between what is real and what is imaginary. The viewer, along with the main character – Mima Kirigoe, slowly becomes more and more unsure to exactly what is happening as the movie progresses. For the viewer this is accomplished by the film’s presentation; the information we’re given, the information we’re not given, the imaginative and interesting scene transitions, the pacing, the shot compositions, the scene blocking and staging. What is surprisingly largely absent here is what some people would call “sakuga” animation. It’s not really needed here and I didn’t realize it’s absence until towards the end when one particular scene jumped out as being a very nicely animated scene. Madhouse handled the animation for this and all of Satoshi Kon’s work. I read somewhere that an earthquake caused production issues which makes sense as Madhouse has always been able to produce a nicely animated shows.

Nope, not creepy in the slightest.

Of course, for most people, a movie that merely confuses it’s viewer is not a good movie. They need a reason or two to continue watching and not deciding to turn away for something else. Perfect Blue does not forget this. The first reason people might decide to continue watching is to know if it’s ever explained what exactly was happening, and, without ruining the ending, know that yes the viewer finally is clued in on what is really going on. Knowing the truth will make the viewer want to immediately rewatch the movie. Another reason that might convince the viewer to continue watching is the viewer becomes invested in what’s happening to the main character and here, once again, Perfect Blue does an excellent job of getting us to care about Mima. No matter how one feels about the idol industry of Japan and the movie industry, we want to see Mima succeed. She is very much an underdog in this movie as nearly everyone around her feels like they are owed a pound of her flesh so she can pursue her dream.

In one of those serendipitous timing things, I’m currently playing the game Yakuza 5. One of the playable characters in it is Haruka Sawamura, the often kidnapped kid in need of rescuing in earlier games. Here, she’s now a teenager and is working towards her dream of becoming an idol and also being able to financially help the other younger kids at the orphanage she’s been living at. Though it’s ultimate portrayal of being an idol is more positive than in Perfect Blue, it really drove home to me how crappy being an idol is. I wouldn’t wish this life on my enemies and that presents a problem. I really respect the girls, like Mima and Haruka, that have to go through this. I don’t understand the desire the subject oneself to this, but, I respect the ones that do. It makes me want to support them and I realize that’s the feeling the industry wants to foster – it makes me wonder if they’re purposely like they are because they know how fans will react. How do you show your respect without feeding and perpetuating the system?

From Paprika, his last completed movie.

I also wonder how anime would have been different in these last 10 years if Satoshi Kon hadn’t died in 2010. He was only 46, he had potential decades of movies still to make. At that same age, Hayao Miyazaki had only directed three movies – the Lupin movie: The Castle of Cagliostro, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and Castle in the Sky. He was working on My Neighbor Totoro and that would have been Miyazaki’s unfinished work people would have always wondered about as Dreaming Machine is Satoshi Kon’s. To continue this depressing comparison, Miyazaki made his best work – Spirited Away – when he was 60.

Sorry. If you need a pick-me-up right now, go track down and watch, if you haven’t already, Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers. It’s a fabulous Christmas movie, one of the best.

On a lighter note, look at the technology of 1998, when the majority of people didn’t know what the Internet was and Netscape Navigator was the browser to use if you did know.

You don’t need to be able to ready Japanese to realize this is a threatening fax.
Is that a Playstation 1 I see?
Those were the days. 🙂
Did you forget to buy some floppy disks?

In conclusion, I wouldn’t say Perfect Blue is my favorite Satoshi Kon movie. It’s an exceptionally good movie, but, the ordeal that Mima Kirigoe has to endure is difficult to watch; though, the ending makes me want to dive right back and rewatch it. I also liked how, even though it came out in 1998, it’s warning about the potential dangers of the Internet is all the more relevant today. I’m glad my secret Santa picked it for me to watch and that I finally decided to watch it. I highly recommend it for those who haven’t seen it. It does contain a slew of adult content and one should take care where they watch it.

Final Score: 12/12 A – Perfect

MAL Score: 10/10 – Masterpiece

Ending: 3/3 – Exceptional
Production Values: 2/3 – Excellent
Rewatchablity: 3/3 – Exceptional

Recommended? – Yes. It’s a Satoshi Kon movie, that’s all one need’s to know. There’s a reason why his influence reached even as far as Hollywood. The only caveat is this movie contains more “adult” material than his other work and should be avoided if this would upset the viewer.

You Might Also Like: His other work – Paprika, Paranoia Agent, Tokyo Godfathers (a great Christmas movie), and Millennial Actress as well as Higurashi, Monster, Boogiepop wa Warawanai

And to all my readers, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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