Perfect Blue
[Title: Perfect Blue]

I discoverd Perfect Blue completely by accident. I had never heard of the film nor the book, and had never seen any images of any of the characters from the film. By pure luck, I happened to see it on the shelf at a video store, and the odd title caught my attention. As I read the back of the videobox, I became highly intrigued. I accidentally grabbed the dubbed version, but I am very thankful that I did, as I believe the film would have lost its initial impact on me had I seen the subtitled version and had the extra task of literally "reading" the film - there is a lot happening visually in Perfect Blue, including the intertextual example below.

Based on the novel by Yoshekazu Takeuchi, the anime film Perfect Blue focuses on the identity crisis of Mima Kirigoe, a Japanese pop idol who leaves the all-girl group Cham to pursue an acting career in Tokyo. Although initially a point of contention between the two managers of her talent agency, Mima's first major acting role is in a new television drama-thriller, "Double Bind." Dream and reality become inextricably intertwined, ultimately resulting in the spectator's own confusion of what is real, what is attributable to Mima's acting, and what is a dream. Adding to Mima's growing paranoia and skepticism, some of the people closest to her are stalked and murdered. Furthermore, someone has posted a fan site on the World Wide Web ("Mima's Room"), which claims to be the first-person account of both mundane and important events in Mima Kirigoe's life and new career; "Mima's Room" posts extremely intimate knowledge of the former idol's actions, habits, and inner thoughts, which also deeply troubles the young entertainer.


One of the best treasures of Perfect Blue is its reference to the first episode of the original Bubblegum Crisis series. Reminiscent of the three-part upward panning shot of Priss S. Asagiri as she dresses for a concert, Mima is shown wearing a mostly-white dress with a frilly skirt covered by a transparent-white blouse, kneeling in the spotlight, eyes closed, slightly pouting, and arms crossed over her chest before the filming actually begins. In the three-part vertical pan of a standing Priss, the first part of the shot holds and focuses on Priss' thighs and panty-covered crotch; without a cut, a quick upward pan holds and focuses next on her breasts as her hands work behind her back to tie on her strapless bra-like top; again without a cut, another quick vertical pan holds and focuses on her scowling face as her hands continue to fumble with the top's long straps. This three-part panning shot is referenced in Perfect Blue in similar fashion, except that the shot begins with a quick pan from Mima's knees (as she kneels upon the small stage) up to focus on her crotch; after an uncut upward pan, the second part of the shot focuses on her chest, with her arms crossed protectively over her breasts; again after a quick unedited upward pan, the final part of the shot clearly shows Mima's face framed by her bangs and long hair.

While Mima's star persona references the three-part vertical panning shot of Priss due to their shared status as entertainment commodities, the three-part vertical panning shot of Mima further stresses both her youth and her vulnerability, two concepts which are forced into the spectator's attention by the combination of the unusual shot, Mima's costume, and the blinding spotlight which shines down upon her (and, momentarily, the actual scene of "Double Bind" which is about to be filmed). Mima's "pinkish-white" skin, while darker than usual given her kneeling position in relation to the source of the shot's lighting, also plays into the importance of Mima's (and her television character's) innocence. Moreover, whereas the vertical pan of Priss in Bubblegum Crisis fragments her anatomy for the purposes of visually enhancing her sexually-charged performance image (brought strongly to the foreground as part of a sequence in which the spectator watches Priss prepare for a concert), Mima's referencing shot fragments her anatomy to "foreshadow" the forthcoming scene of "Double Bind."

[Image of Perfect Blue VHS Cover]

[Image of Cham at their final concert as a trio]
Idol Culture

Although casting off her singing career to pursue acting, Mima is just one of many (pop) idols in anime - other well-known idols include Priss from the Bubblegum Crisis series, the main cast of Idol Project, Lynn Minmay and Yellow Dancer of Robotech, Sharon Apple of Macross Plus, and The Three Starlights from Sailor Moon: Sailor Stars. An understanding of Japan's real-world idol culture can be of tremendous benefit to truly understand the mindset of Mima Kirigoe at the beginning of Perfect Blue.

A good book on Japan's idol culture is Steve McClure's Nippon Pop, published by Tuttle Publishing (1998). McClure not only looks at idol culture's history and genres, but also at the formation of an idol (solo or group) and the attempts to go global. This is very much a "who's who" of recent and current idols in Japan.