Satoshi Kon was one of anime’s greatest directors and visionaries, which is all the more impressive considering he died so young at 46 in 2010. His works have inspired many over the years, including Hollywood’s Christopher Nolan and Darren Aronofsky. I will attempt to rank Kon’s four films, each of which could arguably be placed at number one. I hope to do one entry per blog post; I have a lot to say about each film.
2. Perfect Blue
Perfect Blue is as enigmatic as its title (interpret it as you please), but stands as one of the most impactful animated films ever. The film follows Mima, a former pop star looking to start a new career in acting, much to her fans’ outrage. Seen as a direct inspiration for the Oscar-winning Black Swan, Perfect Blue explores the psychological frailty of young performers dealing with stress.
Perfect Blue is a rare cinematic anime thriller that takes place in our own world. There are no robots, aliens, or time warps in sight. However, the film’s commentary on the Japanese pop industry shows that unlike its saccharine performers, it is anything but happy. Once the pure, peppy, and dolled-up Mima leaves her artificial world, her life becomes a waking nightmare spurred by a deranged stalker, Me-Mania, and her clingy manager, Rumi.
When the cast and crew of Mima’s television series debut (Double Bind) begin to get killed off, Mima fears for her safety. Arguably more terrifying is the fact that Mima’s life appears to resemble Double Bind’s dark, thriller plotline, complete with murders and the heroine’s identity crisis. The best example of this occurs when Mima is walking through town on a seemingly normal day, but she slowly realizes she is being followed. Paranoid, she turns around and cries “Excuse me, who are you?” (a line used throughout the film to brilliant effect). The camera angle widens to reveals the Double Bind crew filming a scene on location. From the deranged look on her face, it is clear that Mima was not merely acting.
What makes Perfect Blue great is its ability to place us in Mima’s mind. Upon first viewing, the audience will most likely be as confused as Mima as her world gradually escalates to madness. However, after repeated viewings, it becomes easier to spot the smaller details and perceive between reality and nightmare.
A challenging labyrinth of deception, Perfect Blue stands as one of the most sublime directorial debuts in cinema history.