Perfect Blue (1997)

Half a decade ago I reviewed a charming little animé named Tokyo Godfathers from legendary director Satoshi Kon and about as representative of his oeuvre as Interdimensional Cable 2 is of the career of Werner Herzog.  True, Kon only directed four films in his tragically short life, but Tokyo Godfathers is definitely the outlier of those four. Perfect Blue, conversely, was Kon’s breakthrough first feature and is probably the film that he is best known for.
In the wake of Akira  in 1988, the nineties saw a tsunami of animé arriving in the West. There had been Japanese animation on Western screens long before that of course, but those had been shows that either fit into the Western preconception of animation as being for children (Astro Boy, Speed Racer) or could be made to fit with judicious editing and a wacky robot sidekick (Voltron).
By contrast, in the nineties, animé was out and proud in all its violent, cool, mothers-lock-up-your-daughters-Mr. Octopus-is-single-and-ready-to-mingle weirdness and was starting to bump hard against the deeply ingrained preconceptions of animation in the West. There were a lot of concerned thinkpieces being published, a lot of ominous local news segments beginning with the words “They call it “AH-NEE-MAY”. My first exposure to Perfect Blue was in my local video rental place where they used to publish a weekly magazine advertising the upcoming releases.

“Then, I’d ride the trolley for tuppence.”

In this magazine they had a whole dedicated section for the new animé releases, and I remember Perfect Blue being advertised with the usual breathless ad copy but also a disclaimer at the end saying “please note this movie is not for children”. Back then “animation=harmless fun for my innocent little angels” was still a pretty hard-wired instinct in your typical Western parent and Xtra-vision were obviously trying to head off any complaints from people who’d inadvertantly subjected their kids to the kind of childhood trauma that usually results in a Batman villain.  Point is, Perfect Blue was kind of the poster child for why animé was an entirely different beast than Western animation, not simply for its content but also for its sophistication, gritty adult storytelling and reputation as the “scariest animé ever made”.

Only if you’ve never seen “Cardcaptor Sakura”.

Now, as any comics fan will tell you, anything from the nineties that claimed to be “gritty and mature” at the time should be sealed in an airlock until all the scans have been completed because there is a damn good chance that it’s held up about as well as the general public’s trust in the polling industry. Plus, “shocking” films tend to look increasingly tame as time goes by. So let’s take a look at Perfect Blue and see if it still deserves either of those descriptions.

So our main character is Mima Kirigoe, a young Japanese singer and lead vocalist in the girl group CHAM! (that’s how they spell the name, I’m not just randomly yelling the word “cham”). CHAM! are doing…fine. They’re bringing in decent enough crowds but they’ve never had a top 100 hit. So, bigger than Spinal Tap in America, but nowhere close to Spinal Tap in Japan. Their fans are gathered at a small outdoor venue to watch them perform, as there are rumours that Mima is leaving the band.

Animation-wise, Perfect Blue is a bit of a mixed bag. Most of the animation involving Mima and the other main characters is good to excellent, with some sequences that are flat out masterful. But there are definitely places where you can see corners being cut.

You want faces? In this economy?!

For example, some of these early scenes where Mima’s fans are talking to each other; the animation is so limited and jerky that I’m not convinced Satoshi wasn’t just puppeting the cels by hand.

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Anyway, as the concert starts we see flashbacks to Mima sitting silently in a meeting between her manager, a former pop-idol named Rumi, and her manager Tadokoro. Tadokoro tells them that Mima’s been offered an ongoing part in a drama series but only if she can commit to it full time, which means leaving CHAM!. Rumi argues that Mima is happier as a singer, but Tadokoro says that the offer is too good to pass up and Mima silently acquiesces.

Back in the present, Mima haltingly announces onstange that she’s leaving CHAM! This causes a mini-riot when a bunch of uncouth louts start flinging cans at the stage until they’re attacked by some kind of Japanese fish man.

This is Mamoru Uchida. He’s obsessed with Mima and he’s got a face only a mother could love, and even then only a mother with pretty eclectic taste in faces.

After leaving CHAM! she returns to her apartment and starts reading through her fan mail. Mima’s apartment is the most important location in the movie and a wonderful piece of design.

théo on Twitter: "the evolution of mima's room in perfect blue (1997) which represents her mental health state throughout the movie… "

It feels cosy and intimate and safe, which adds to the sense of unease and violation when Mima’s world starts crashing in on her. Every little detail contributes to the story, whether its the stuffed animals showing that she’s still a very young woman, or the fish that she talks to and lovingly cares for. But just as important is its size. This place is tiny, and cramped. And that shows something very important. Mima is famous, but she is not rich. Not close. And being in the public eye but not having the wealth to protect yourself from the less desirable attention that inevitably comes with fame (particularly for young, attractive women)…that’s not a fun place to be.

She reads her fanmail and one of the letters tells her that the sender has “set up a link to Mima’s Room” but Mima doesn’t know what that means. She also gets a threatening phone call of someone breathing down the line and a fax calling her a traitor.

Ha! Remember faxes? What’s that? No one does? I’m literally the last person on Earth old enough to remember them? I see.

The next day, Mima and Rumi, her manager, are on the set of Double Bind, the TV show that Mima has a small recurring role in. Mima asks Rumi what “Mima’s Room” is and Rumi tells her that it is a “web site” on the “inter-net” and Mima innocently replies “Oh yes, that’s really popular these days”.

“Of course, it does seem like an interconnected data network would be the perfect vector for malicious information spread by bad actors in order to polarise and destabalise civil society thus paving the way for a new era of violent authoritarianism but what do I know, I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

Mima goes and does her scene which consists of a single line and is clearly feeling lost and out of place on the TV set. Double Bind is kind of like “Japanese Silence of the Lambs: The Series” where a female and male detective track a serial killer who’s killing women because he wants to be one. In the show, Mima plays the sister of one of the victims.

The set is visited by Takao Shibuya, the screenwriter, and Tejima, the producer. Tadokoro and Rumi corner them both and Tadokoro pleads with them to expand Mima’s part, while Rumi looks on in silence, clearly thrilled.

The writer isn’t really happy with the idea, as he has a low opinion of pop idols but agrees to think about it. The four watch Mima do her scene and Tadokoro is given a letter which explodes when he opens it, badly injuring him.

This is how we used to cyber-bully back in the day, kids.

Later, back in Mima’s apartment, Rumi helps her set up a Macintosh Performa so that she can surf the world wide web like a real leet hacker. Mima asks Rumi if she doesn’t think maybe they should have called the police over the letter bomb but Rumi says that Tadokoro doesn’t want to make a fuss because in Japan I think that actually carries higher legal penalties than terrorism.

After Rumi goes, Mima spends the night tooling around the internet and find “Mima’s Room”, a fansite dedicated to her. At first she’s amused, but starts to get seriously freaked out as she begins to read “Mima’s Diary”, a blog supposedly written by her and which is disturbingly accurate and specific. This happens more often than you’d think, actually. Around a third of the reviews on this blog are written by a stalker pretending to be me who got access to my log in details. But hell, they work for free and it lets me take a week off now and then so why complain?

“And then I, Mouse, professed my love for Sarcastic Map of Wartime Europe and we had sex in the butt. The End?”

Mima starts becoming increasingly paranoid that someone is watching her on her journey home. She finds a newspaper clipping pinned to the wall of her elevator stating that one of the yobs who caused a riot at her last concert is in a critical condition after a hit and run. She looks around, and sees Uchida watching her from the end of the hallway.

At the agency, Mima learns that CHAM! have just made the Top 100 for the first time and they did it without her. Also, Tadokoro gives her some good news; her part in Double Bind is being greatly expanded. But Rumi is horrified when she learns that the script calls for Mima’s character to be violently gang-raped in a strip club. Rumi tells Mima that they’ll tell the production company that there’s no way in Hell she’s going to do that, but Mima doesn’t want to rock the boat and agrees to do the scene. Tadokoro congratulates her and tells her it’ll be great for her career. On the train ride home, Mima briefly sees her own reflection dressed in her CHAM! outfit, angrily saying that she’ll never do the scene.

The next day, Rumi and Tadokoro watch in mortified silence as Mima films the rape scene. Tadokoro is clearly very uncomfortable, but Rumi breaks down in tears and flees the set. As for Mima herself, she gives a chillingly convincing performance but afterwards she seems fine. Ashamed and abashed, Tadokoro takes her out for a meal and leaves her back in her apartment.

Entering her apartment, Mima goes to feed her fish and sees…

A Masterpiece Film | Perfect Blue | Anime Amino

Seeing her fish dead, Mima breaks down in tears, trashing her apartment before collapsing on her bed sobbing “Of course I didn’t want to do it!” She hears a voice mocking her and looks up to see herself on the screen of the Mac. This is a hallucination, obviously, as the image is appearing on a Macintosh Performa and doesn’t look like complete ass.

Uh, bullSHIT she’s getting that kind of resolution.

This apparition, believe it or not, is a fairly major character so I’m just going to call her Real Mima as that’s what she calls herself, not to be confused with the real Mima, who we’ll just call Mima.

“So Real Mima isn’t real and the real Mima isn’t Real Mima?”

“See? Easy.”

Mima throws a pillow at the screen and Real Mima vanishes.

Meanwhile, Uchida is reading Mima’s Room where “Mima” has posted that she desperately wants to get out of this drama series because the screenwriter is a total pervert and oh my wouldn’t it be just swell if somebody would take care of him so that Mima could go back to dancing in front of her adoring fans?

This will be fine.

The next day, Tadokoro drives Mima to a photo shoot and she learns that Shibuya, the screenwriter, was brutally murdered the night before. She asks Tadokoro if he thinks there’s any connection between the murder and the letter bomb he received before and he tells her she watches too many TV shows because apparently that leads to making logical connections. She has another vision of Real Mima in a car across from her who mouths the words “Serves You Right” to her.

Mima has her photo shoot and the photographer starts taking liberties and before you know it there are full frontal nude photos of her in every magazine in Japan. Shocked and appalled by what “his” Mima has been doing, Momoru buys up as many of the magazines as he can stop other men looking at her (suuuuuuuure) and starts emailing Mima’s Room. He gets an email back telling him that the Mima who appeared in those photos is in an imposter. Momoru promises that he’ll get rid of the imposter Mima.

This will be fine.

Real Mima appears by his side and thanks him, telling him that once the imposter is gone they can be together.

Mima is filming a scene for Double Bind with her co-star, a much more experienced actor named Eri Ochiai who plays Dr Toukou, the lead female detective/psychiatrist trying to solve the case. Mima sees Uchida watching from the crowd which causes her to mess up the take, ruining the day’s shooting as it immediately starts to rain.

Later, Tadokoro takes Mima to a radio station where CHAM! are doing a show to catch up with her old bandmates. She looks into the studio and is shocked to see:

She chases Real Mima through the station and out into the street where she runs in front of a van being driven by Uchida and suddenly wakes up in her apartment.

Okay, so it’s at this point that the movie enters what I like to call The 10 Solid Minutes of Bullshit and it’s really here that the movie loses me in a big way.

The 10 SMoB proceed thusly:

  1. Mima wakes up in her apartment.
  2. Rumi visits her and warns against looking at Mima’s Room.
  3. SUDDENLY she’s back filming Double Bind with no idea how she got there. She sees Uchida and then he vanishes.
  4. She wakes up in her apartment, AGAIN.
  5. Rumi visits her and Mima asks if the last time she visited was real.
  6. Mima spends her nights reading Mima’s Room.
  7. We cut to a scene from Double Bind where the two detectives discuss Mima’s character. Toukou says that Mima’s character has created the mental illusion of a serial killer. The male says that illusions can’t kill people but Toukou counters…
  8.  We THEN see that this episode is being watched by the photographer who took the nude photos of Mima. A pizza guy whose face we can’t see knocks at his door and then murders him with a screwdriver it is really fucking graphic and disturbing thanks for asking. And then we see that the murderer is…

OH SHIT IT’S MIMA!

10. But THEN Mima wakes up in her room AGAIN so phew, that’s a relief right?

It Was All A Dream GIFs | Tenor

11. But oh no! Mima gets a call from Tadokoro telling her that the photographer really was murdered and when she goes to look in her closet she finds BLOODSTAINED CLOTHES!

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12. Then she’s on the set of Double Bind with Rumi (sure, why not?) and she’s asked to do a scene where she’s just murdered a guy with a screwdriver (which was the same murder weapon that was used on the screenwriter and the photographer) but suddenly the actor playing the corpse gets up and its the eyeless photographer OH SHIT and Mima passes out.

13. She wakes up in her room. A-fucking-GAIN.

14. And then suddenly she’s being interviewed by Dr. Toukou who asks her who she is. She tells her she’s Mima Kiragoe and that she’s an actress and former pop idol. Eri then goes and talks to two other detectives and tells them that Mima is just a personality created by a girl named Yoko Takakura who suffers from Disassociative Identity Disorder and committed multiple crimes in the Mima persona after she was raped in a strip club.

15. Then that scene gets re-wound and we see it again, but THIS time Mima gives her name as Rika Takakura and Toukou says that she created this persona to become her sister after killing her (guys, I’m trying I swear to God, I’m trying).

16. And THEN we see that scene being filmed and everyone congratulating Mima on the successful completion of Double Bind.

This is that special kind of frustrating you get from playing a game with someone who’s blatantly cheating. You can’t win, and it’s no fun to even try when you know the game is rigged. When the movie is blatantly revealing itself as an unreliable narrator and telling me that nothing it says can be trusted…why should I pay attention to any of it? What is the point of my continued engagement? For any story, but especially a mystery, this repeated yanking of the carpet just destroys any sense that the mystery is something that can be fairly solved by paying attention. So why bother?

I dunno, maybe it’s just me. I used to watch a lot of Star Trek in the nineties and they pulled this kind of plot a lot, and it usually meant they had twenty minutes of plot for an hour long episode.

Anyway, Double Bind is in the can and everyone is getting ready to go to the wrap party. Tadokoro and Rumi congratulate Mima on a job well done. Mima goes to get changed and bumps into Eri, who she calls “Doctor Touko”. Eri laughs and tells her that the show’s over now and then quotes a line of dialogue to her.

She watches Eri go and sees a figure walking towards her up the corridor.

Outside, Tadokoro and Rumi wait for Mima and wonder what’s taking her so long. Tadokoro says that he’s heading on. Rumi asks him what’s next for Mima, and he says that he’s got her a role in a straight to video feature. He says its got a few sketchy scenes, but whatyagonna do?

Rumi smiles.

In the studio, Mima has been cornered by Uchida who attacks her with a knife and possibly the worst-cast vocal performance in animé history. Seriously, both the Japanese AND American vocal performances are impossible to take seriously. Japanese Uchida sounds like the Squeaky Voiced Teen from the Simpsons and American Uchida sounds like…I don’t even know. He sounds like one of the asshole gym leaders in Pokémon. Menacing he is not.

He tries to rape her but she seemingly manages to kill him with a hammer she finds on set.

Rumi finds Mima staggering around the set half-naked and asks her what happened. Mima takes her back to the set but Uchida’s body is gone. Rumi tells her it was probably a dream (you know, one of those waking, tear your own clothes off dreams?) and says she’ll drive Mima home to “Mima’s Room”. Not “your room”, but whatever, I’m sure it’s nothing.

Back in her apartment, while Rumi fixes them something in the kitchen, Mima decides to call Tadokoro to let him know she’s okay. There’s no answer however, and we see why. In the studio, Tadokoro’s phone rings unanswered. Tadokoro is dead, his eyes gouged out, and his body stashed in a hiding place along with Uchida’s corpse.

Looking around the apartment, Mima notices that her fish are still alive. And the CHAM! poster that she took down is still on her wall. And that there’s apparently a train line running much closer to her window than before.

And that’s when she realises that Rumi has painstakingly turned her apartment into a perfect replica of Mima’s room. And then Rumi comes back in…

So it turns out that Rumi has gone cray cray and now thinks that she is the Real Mima and chases Mima with a screwdriver, trying to kill her. And Mima actually sees her as Real Mima and not Rumi…

Yes, yes, we’ll discuss why that makes no sense in a minute, let me wrap up. Rumi chases Mima into the street and Mima finally fights back, managing to impale Rumi on some broken glass from a shattered window. Rumi staggers out into the street in front of an oncoming van and Mima pushes her out of the way, saving her life.

Some time later, Mima visits Rumi in a psychiatric hospital. One of the doctors tells her that occasionally Rumi’s personality surfaces but that for the most part she still thinks that she’s Mima Kiragoe. Mima says that she knows she’ll never see Rumi again, but she owes her everything. As she leaves the hospital, two nurses whisper to each other than they can’t believe that the REAL Mima Kiragoe is visiting the hospital and say that she must be a lookalike.

Mima gets into her fancy car, looks right at the audience and says “No. I’m real!”

***

 

Krusty What The Hell Was That GIFs | Tenor

Okay first things first.

Perfect Blue is very good at a great many things.

As a critique of Japanese culture’s commodification of female purity and toxic fandom it is still depressingly relevant.

As a warning on how our online personas can take on lives of their own outside of our control it is shockingly prescient.

As a piece of animation it is excellent.

As a mood piece and and an example of how to use an evocative score and colour to create an atmosphere of sustained, almost unbearable menace it is fantastic.

And as a mystery thriller it…kinda…sucks.

If you take the plot at face value, it relies on a pretty stunning coincidence. In this movie Mima Kiragoe undergoes a serious psychological breakdown complete with lost time and incredibly vivid, complex hallucinations where she manifests a new personality, Real Mima, who torments her for giving up her life as a pop idol.

Likewise, Rumi undergoes a serious psychological breakdown where she believes that she is Mima Kiragoe and must kill Mima to punish her for giving up her life as a pop idol.

And both these women have these incredibly ornate, complimentary hallucinatory episodes at the exact same time. That’s like me experiencing hallucinations of Jason Voorhees trying to kill me, while some person in my life coincidentally starts believing that they’re Jason Voorhees and start trying to kill me. To quote Lady Bracknell; one Jason Voorhees may be regarded as a misfortune; two looks like incredibly contrived writing.

Now, I’ve seen and read plenty of reviews of this movie that make the point that it’s a beautiful work of art that is meant to be meditated on, not some tawdry puzzle meant to be solved.

Which is a really nice sentiment. For QUITTERS.

See, I think there IS an explanation for the plot of Perfect Blue, it just requires correctly identifying its genre. This is not, as it’s usually classified, a psychological thriller.

Perfect Blue is a horror movie. Why do I say that? Because while a thriller can have horrific elements, they all have a real world explanation. Horror traffics in the unknown and the supernatural.

Follow me closely. What if Rumi is psychic?

I know, I know. A woman with supernatural powers? In ANIMÉ?! The very idea is ridiculous. But what if Rumi has psychic powers that allowed her to create an alternate personality that could exist independently of her? What if her obsession with her lost pop idol days and fixation on Mima created Real Mima, and Real Mima was not simply a hallucination? What if Real Mima was, well, real? What if she was then able to haunt Mima, and possess Rumi, making her an unwitting puppet in her attempts to kill those responsible for tarnishing Mima’s image? And I know what you’re going to say.

Mouse, that’s insane.

There is not a shred of evidence for anything supernatural in this film. There is not a hint of anything like that…

Yup. I think this is our smoking gun. I think this is where Kon laid out what is actually happening here. Now, about that ending.

In every synopsis of this movie I’ve come across, it states that Mima visits Rumi in the hospital after becoming a famous actress. But here’s the thing, she’s clearly become successful, but no one ever actually mentions her being an actress.  What if, say, she’s actually famous for being a singer? What if she jacked acting in and went back to doing what she loved? Well, what difference would that make?

Here’s a weird little suggestion. When Mima collided with Rumi to knock her out of the way of the oncoming van, they swapped bodies. Real Mina possessed Mima’s body, and Mima ended up in Rumi’s. So the Mima personality that Rumi is manifesting in the psychiatric hospital is actually our Mima, the Mima that we’ve been following since the beginning.

And the Mima who leaves the hospital?

Well, here’s an interesting little factoid.

The English language dub is overall pretty faithful to the original but the dubbing did make one small, crucial error. In the English dub, where Mima looks at the camera and says “No, I’m real!” she’s voiced by Mima’s voice actor.

But in the Japanese dub? She’s voiced by Rumi’s voice actor.

So that’s it. I have solved Perfect Blue and there are no more questions to be answered.

“So why is it called “Perfect Blue”?

“…”

“SMOWE, I love you. I always have. Let’s have sex in the butt.”

THE END?

NEXT UPDATE: 17 December 2020

NEXT TIME: We join Peter Parker as he tours the post-apocalyptic hell-scape of a post-snap Europe.

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32 comments

  1. The big problem of complimentary hallucinations could have worked if they made it a folie a faux. Make it obvious that Rumi influenced Mima into being delusional. It would be difficult, but when has writing been made better by taking a shortcut?

    1. do you think rumi was giving mima drugs or something how did the hallucinations feel so real? yeah m a bit slow as you can see XD

  2. I caught this movie once on the sci-fi channel when I was home sick. Couldn’t make heads or tails out of what was going on, but I assumed that was due to a combination of fever and cold meds. Sounds like I was more lucid than I thought, and it’s the movie that was high.

    Still, your review made it about as clear as humanly possible I think, and I probably ought to watch it again. I love both Tokyo Godfathers and Paprika. Still need to see Millennium Actress.

  3. This sounds like an… interesting movie. At first I was really excited about it, saying “man, I gotta watch this!”, because only the mere description of how Mima is stalked was chilling. Then, after the 10 minutes of bullshit I decided that nope, it’s one of those confusing, impossible to understand movies and it’s not worth it. Then, after your explanation (theory?), I have decided to watch it anyway. Should be interesting…

      1. Well, I really liked Tokyo Godfathers, but that’s the outsider in his filmography, isn’t it? So I’m not sure I’d like a “pure” Satoshi Kon movie. Still, I should watch it first and then form an opinion.

      2. How it is an outsider? It is typical Satoshi Kon, with a central theme and a supernatural element in it. In this case the central theme is shame and the supernatural element is the deliberate use of coincidences through the movie, which would actually be a major weakness if not for the lampshading.

        Granted, I haven’t seen all of Satoshi Kon yet, but I have yet to see anything from him I didn’t love. He was such a talent!

      3. Tokyo Godfathers is set in a realistic modern Japan with ambiguous supernatural elements and a plot that constantly twists back on itself. It’s not that much of an outlier.

  4. I remember watching this back in the 1990s when it seemed like the only anime that was released on home video in the United States was all disturbingly violent and occasionally pornographic. I remember thinking that it was a technically excellent movie that almost made sense. There seemed to be enough clues to let you figure out what was going on and make sense of the plot, but only if you ignored some major details.

    I actually thought I missed something when I saw it. It’s nice to know that I wasn’t the only one really confused by the plot.

  5. I don’t mind the double break because I always read it as Rumi triggering the break in Mima by constantly putting her under pressure (which she can do easily because she controls nearly every aspect of her life due to Mima still being very immature). And I read the ending (the actual one, not the nice dubbed one in which Mima claimed herself back) as Rumi having managed to slip so far into Mina’s self-image by her actions (not some supernatural ability), that Mima is now unable to completely get rid of her.

    It’s btw more obvious that she is an actress in the end if you know a little bit more about Japanese culture. Basically the moment she decided to get rid of the innocent girl image she was burned for the idol scene. After that the only way forward was to be successful as an actress, no way that she could go back to being a singer again. At least not as idol.

    1. Hard agree on Millennium Actress. I’m too much of a concrete to tend to enjoy really reality warping media but it’s one of my favourite films ever. So smart and so emotional. If you haven’t seen it, Unshaved Mouse, you really should.

  6. The Krusty reaction seems rather appropriate.
    By the way, that Hedgehog mimics you so well it’s rather eerie, I mean put the two of you next to each other and how do I tell one from the other?

  7. Hey, if you ever get the chance, I highly recommend checking out The Owl House. It’s a really good show that blew up in popularity earlier this year. If you like Gravity Falls, there’s a good chance you’ll like The Owl House. Alex Hirsch is even a voice actor in the show.

  8. “And then I, Mouse, professed my love for Sarcastic Map of Wartime Europe and we had sex in the butt. The End?”

    There goes my SMOWE/Comrade Crow ship, down in flames like a huge Hindenburg.

  9. “When the movie is blatantly revealing itself as an unreliable narrator and telling me that nothing it says can be trusted…why should I pay attention to any of it?”

    I haven’t seen Perfect Blue, but I’ve seen the rest of Kon’s films and Millennium Actress basically makes that effect work. You can never trust anything you’re seeing to be what it appears to be, and whether a lot of the movie is real or fictional is deliberately ambiguous. I think that’s the trick though; the question isn’t reality vs delusion, it’s reality vs film, which is quite different. I do tend to interpret Millennium Actress in a more literal supernatural sense, but everything that explains could be symbolic or coincidence without hurting the logic of the film.

    Tokyo Godfathers alone out of Kon’s work doesn’t doesn’t have the questioning of reality as a major theme, and even it has a few hallucination sequences. His later works do draw clearer distinctions between their realities however, with Paprika’s dreams, MA’s films, and Paranoia Agent’s woodcut world. Even if it is unclear with side of the line you’re on at any given time.

    1. I am usually not into that kind of movies, but if Satoshi Kon does it, I am so in for the ride. I think partly because it is usually not really important what is real or not, the important part is what the PoV character perceives. Kind of like we KNOW that our memories are more unreliable than we would like to admit and yet we make decisions based on them.

  10. Hello, Mouse! Long time reader, first time commenter here. I’m also a fan of this movie, though I agree with you about the flaws. I wanted to offer my personal take on the story.

    It was interesting what you said about taking the plot at face value, because my theory goes even further and requires you to not take *any* of the plot at face value and look at the film in an entirely metaphorical angle. What if (bear with me here, I know this is cliched) Mima and Rumi are the same person?

    I’m not so great at comment essays or explaining my thoughts coherently, so I’ll just lay out the points of my line of thinking here:

    – The rape at the nightclub actually happened, when Rumi was a young woman
    – She suffered a psychotic break shortly after, and unconsciously created this “Real Mima” persona to escape from the reality of what she went through
    – Her younger self (aka Mima) is the part of her desperately trying to remember her real self, while “Real Mima” is trying to protect herself from that reality
    – Everything that happens before the hospital scene is purely metaphorical, and represents the struggle of Rumi’s real self trying to resurface during her treatment. Real Mima/Rumi getting almost killed near the end is one of these resurfacings
    – The Mima who “visits” the hospital at the end is not real

    Yeah, so… It’s been a few years since the last time I watched this movie, so I’m a little fuzzy on some of the details, but that’s what I came up with at the time. I realize this theory is full of holes, cliched as hell, and I don’t for a second beleive this is what Kon intended with the story, but I just find it a fun way of interpreting the film (well, as “fun” as someone’s rape and mental breakdown can be, anyway).

  11. Mouse, I am a great fan of your reviews but I have to disagree with you on this one. I don’t think that Rumi and Mima both suffering simultaneous mental breakdowns is that stunning a coincidence. Tadokoro makes Mima stop being a pop-idol and focus on her acting career against her will, and it later turns out that CHAM! actually does better without her whilst her own dignity is literally being stripped away from her on TV and on print, so her descent into madness is justified. As for Rumi, I always saw her as someone re-living her pop-idol days vicariously through Mima to the point of obsession – in the replica of Mima’s room where it’s revealed that Rumi is Real Mima, Rumi/Real Mima basically states that she manipulated Me-Mania/Uchida into trying to kill Mima, so you can draw the conclusion that Rumi is the creator of the virtual Mima’s Room as well. As the virtual Mima’s Room has been online for quite a while, we can also draw the conclusion that Rumi must’ve had a long-standing obsession with Mima’s life and career, so Rumi was never in her right frame of mind from the start. Rumi seeing Mima being forced to give up her pop-idol career and being humiliated as an actress would be like experiencing that herself, and would be just the sort of thing to push Rumi over the edge. Rumi’s abnormally wide set eyes also resemble Me-Mania/Uchida’s, which has always linked the two in my mind as the ones in the movie not playing with a full deck.

    On top of that, I actually perversely enjoy that 10 Solid Minutes of Bullshit, because it’s then that we, the audience, are taken along for the ride and experience the spiraling psychosis that Mima/Rumi is suffering. Or maybe it’s just because I’m not a Trekkie.

  12. Perfect Blue is definitely a hell of a trip. Think you nailed it that it’s not really a great mystery thriller but is an excellent mood piece and shockingly prescient commentary on Japanese culture and internet culture. Definitely one that I enjoy revisiting every once in a while because of how unique an unsettling an experience it is.

  13. Mouse, I can only compliment you on holding onto your patience throughout what seems to have been a most vexingly unfair-play mystery: one will definitely be giving this one a miss.

    Best wishes to Mrs Mouse, the Mouselets and yourself!

    1. Oh, and you should probably keep an eye on Tiggywinklel33t@yahoo.com – he is adorable, spiky and clearly doomed to attract a fan following mad enough to seize on him the way Germany caught up those 95 theses posted on All Hallows Eve! (Really, after seeing him I’m tempted to switch the mental image of my local avatar from a tuxedo cat with a bowtie to a hedgehog with a monocle*).

      *Bowties are cool, but I’m not sure they’d work with spikes …

  14. I pretty much agree here, Mouse. I watched this movie a few years back and had a hard time keeping up with all these twists and turns. Tbh, Tokyo Godfathers is the only Satoshi Kon movie I like.

  15. I definitely think Real Mima has taken on a life of her own, but she isn’t so much a creation of Rumi as an entity born out of the collectively held idea of Mima’s image as a pop idol, with the power to possess or influence anyone in thrall to that idea. Rumi’s delusion is one emanation of Real Mima, as is Mamoru’s obsession and, perhaps, the actual Mima’s crisis of identity.

    Or, in other words, Real Mima is an egregore, a distinct non-physical entity that arises from a collective group of people.

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