Perfect Blue: The Delusional Bind
Tracking the mind and sensibility of Perfect Blue's Mima with hopes of detailing the ways in which human sanity is fostered or wrecked.
The Japanese animated feature film Perfect Blue is a marvelous psychological study regarding the importance in identifying reality and the applications thereof. A film often regarded as one of the most dramatic representations of what genuine deceits the mind is capable of, Perfect Blue, directed by Satoshi Kon, wanders through the imperfect mind of a popular culture icon with hopes of emerging with some great discernment of the nature of truth. A bold and elemental piece of animation, this film is a confident exercise in critical thinking, arguing that if one is unable to discern truth in reality as it can be applied, then one will be lost to this world.
At the center of this film is Mima Kirigoe, a young woman whose beauty and charisma have placed her right in the middle of the popular music trio, CHAM. Mima's success as a vocalist has been mediocre at best, and as the audience enters Perfect Blue, the woman is at a crossroad. While delighted that her childhood goal of becoming an entertainment icon is nearly attained, she is well aware that she can accomplish much more than what she has already managed. This does not come from a feeling of dissatisfaction, but instead from a sense of a lack of fulfillment. As a result, Mima's transition from the music industry into that of television acting is the genesis for a mental conflict that will affect her and everyone she knows.
Mima herself is a very humble and cautious person, often unwilling to do what is unnecessary, and dependent upon others for the clarification of things that she should perhaps already know. She isn't the headstrong and overtly determinate woman that would rather tackle circumstances head on, and she isn't the highly sociable archetype that usually personifies an idol of popular music. Mima Kirigoe is indifferent. Surrounded by an overzealous talent agency manger, Mr. Tadokoro, and an almost motherly business agent by the name of Miss Rumi, Mima, before she even helps Perfect Blue to define itself as a psychological thriller, is an under-confident, reluctant hero unto herself in an environment that fosters pride as the norm.
Via the lens of a fragmented narrative, Perfect Blue illustrates through Mima's experiences and delusions that in order to truly make the transition/evolution from one point in life to another, an individual must define their own motives, endure psychological adversity, and know and understand the different interpretations of reality.
Although Perfect Blue is a thriller film at heart, it critically hinges upon just how personal an interest that each character takes in the main story -- the story of a young woman nearly driven mad by the phantoms of ambition and regret. As such, we find Mima unable to define herself in the midst of conflict. The woman is proof that should one neglect to stand up for their self at key points in personal conflicts, that one person will be lost to the will of society. On a smaller scale, however, it is how an individual defines oneself through decision in personal circumstances that thusly one defines motive, and without motive, a person is not an individual, but a puppet. Additionally, personalizing one's viewpoint is more than establishing a motive; it is also to personalize one's existence as a cognitive being.
When Mima makes the decision to ultimately leave the vocal entertainment business and become an actress, she speaks (however involuntary and impartially) with Mr. Tadokoro and Miss Rumi. Being the passive person that she is, Mima never really asserts whether or not she truly wishes to make this transition at all. While Tadokoro argues that this is an opportunity for growth, Miss Rumi is concerned about the young woman's idol image in general, contesting: "What about Mima's feelings?" A perfect example of situational irony arises as the audience finds two business persons debating over the future progress of someone else. Mima, whom although present, simply nods her head and complies rather pathetically. Most importantly here is that Mima takes to be what is best for her nearly anything and everything that is merely suggested to her. The penultimate harmfulness of a person's complacency and lack of confidence is best observed here.
Neither here nor at any point in Perfect Blue near this specific scene, does the former popular music idol stand up for herself. Persuasion has always been most influential means of authority amongst individuals, and in this particular film, that lack thereof illustrates a particular lack of certainty and conviction that a person, such as Mima, may have within herself. In neglecting to verify her motives for success, Mima refuses time and time again to define herself in both thought and action, resulting in the further weakening of her tolerance in a dangerously persuasive environment.
Another perceptible diminution of the functional mind as an asset to an individual's sanity is the breadth of which a person is able to endure psychological adversity. This is best understood as being able to press forward with confidence, assurance and self-awareness in the wake of situations that are often deemed emotionally or psychosomatically perilous. Of course, said situation can be actual, physical or entirely emotional; the important concept to note is that at this point in time, it is not enough to simply confront challenges; it is now imperative that one successfully survive said challenges.
In Perfect Blue, the television drama that Mima seeks to use as a springboard for her new career involves a story parallel to that of the anime film itself. As production of the drama continues, however, Mima’s character is engaged in more and more abusive situations in the script. The story becomes more violent and the character dynamics become grittier. One instance of this "play within a play" convention is a rape scene. Granted, this event is fictional; however, it is abundantly clear that the realism in execution is key.
As Mima's character entertains an audience of men at a strip club, her enticement and allurement of said audience is too well-crafted for her own good. It is worth mentioning that at this point in the anime film, Mr. Tadokoro and Miss Rumi are off-stage, voyeurs of the artistic recreation of such an oft-hideous nightmare. The two had argued earlier in the film about whether or not the rookie actress was capable of working in risqué scenes such as this... and although they only received the typical passive responses from Mima of "I've made that decision, so that's what I'm going to do" or "It's hard, but I guess it's what I decided to do," the two business partners, as they watch the young woman submit and be ravaged before them, suddenly find a distinct distaste and mistrust in their recent deliberations. The rape occurs on the strip stage, and as Mima's character struggles feverishly to free her self from multiple anxious hands, Mima herself slowly begins to slip into a daze.
Mima's daze forces her in and out of two worlds; one being the dangerous sexual frivolity that surrounds her, the other being the awareness of this as nothing more than a dramatization. The filming of the rape scene is arguably one of the most disturbing moments of Perfect Blue, as viewing audiences will find a young actress forced to inhale and exhale the robust display and reenactment of a morally obtuse circumstance. Her near-naked body, lifelessly slung over the edge of the strip stage like a doll, excitedly quivers at the cheering audience of hungry lechers; her lips puckering only to reassure herself that everything will be all right.
Indeed, emblematic of what will occur to a person's sensibility should they yield to the damaging splendor of societal abstractions, the glorified filth of the rape, in a miraculous way, helps to purify Mima. It is safe to assert that her drama character's will is destroyed, yet upon a closer look, this was a circumstance of remarkable adversity, swelling with sentiments that could more than tarnish an individual's mind –- regardless of how real or fictional that their personality happens to be. Identifying her television work as "a hurdle," Mima did not bend to the familiar, neglectful air of indecisiveness. Yes, she plays coy to the ego of the spotlight; but she nevertheless finds that in surviving what could have easily been psychologically unforgiving, she has a notion of experience in contemplating her threshold of emotion. This becomes an important learned quality of Mima's self-awareness by the end of the film.
The last point of difference wherein an individual may or may not submit their self to the machinations of a torturing society is in fact the truthful configuration of reality. On every perfectly blue day, one must discern three realities from one another: Fantasy (what others feel to be true), Fancy (what one hopes to be true), and Reality (all that is true). In order to find out if you are who you allege to be, and in order to justify that you are "the real thing" as Mima claims in her famous final words, you must dismiss all that is not logically influencing your motive, and use your psychological endurance to carve honesty out of the darkness of your mind.
Throughout the Japanese animated feature film Perfect Blue, Mima encounters a phantasm, alternate version of her slightly younger, "other self" that she had previously "buried deep inside [her] heart," to use Mima's own words. This came as a result of several things, but was chiefly influenced by the young woman's sudden lack of courage to confront this other self's forgotten desires. Mima's inherently passive nature fostered an immature psyche, incapable of excelling with what challenges or adversities that would soon belay her. Instead of maturing, Mima simply jumped ship and crafted another persona. This left the "other [original] self" to haunt the young woman, until Fancy fell prey to Reality.
It is not until Mima is willing to combine her knowledge of purpose with her assertiveness to avoid the delusional frenzy of a fictitious mind that she can establish what is real. Additionally, it is not until Mima constructs her self-worth and sentience so as to compare her self to that Fantasy of others, that her psyche will define existence.
The characters and ideals of Perfect Blue exercise a remote sincerity, limited by their practical applications. It is an observation comparable with the knowledge of its lead protagonist, Mima as an individual searching for evidence of her self in the mired farce of her imagination. If an individual is not willing to defend their self against the social hierarchy, or is not willing to endure the hysterical musings of others, and if an individual is not willing to mature beyond modern deceit, then the individual will fall to disillusionment and false ambition.