Some anime fans may have heard of Perfect Blue, a 1997 anime film by the late Satoshi Kon. Maybe they also like delving into psychological thrillers anime, or they are curious as to where the Hollywood movie, Black Swan, is allegedly inspired from.
After watching the film, it’s safe in saying that some viewers became disturbed, or terrified from what they have seen. They can also be intrigued and confused, because the film is a wild rollercoaster ride. It demands your full attention in order to grasp what was happening. Even when devoting all of your focus on the film, it can still be confusing. That is how Satoshi Kon has weaved the jarring difference between what is real or not. And that is what makes Perfect Blue unique.
But the bottomline is: despite Perfect Blue’s rather chaotic scenes, it still managed to convey an important message. The main story and plot can still be easily understood. At the same time, it is relevant. So, why is it so?
Addresses what public figures experience
Being fans of public figures have become more prominent with the rise of K-Pop in the recent years. The terms ‘fandom’ and ‘fan’ have always been commonly used online, with fandoms even having their specific names (eg. ARMY for BTS, Directioners for One Direction, etc.)
In Perfect Blue, the main protagonist, Mima Kirigoe, is a J-Pop idol from the popular “CHAM!” girl group. She has a lot of fans, particularly a guy with the alias, “Me-Mania” who is extremely obsessed with her. This Me-Mania guy is a stalker who plastered a lot of Mima posters on his bedroom, and follows her around. When Mima expressed the desire to leave the group to become an actress, Me-Mania did not accept this. He colluded with Mima’s manager that led to Mima’s mental torment.
Fame comes with the sacrifice of privacy, but that does not mean that fans are entitled to know every single thing about their idols. Most of all, they are not entitled to what their idols wanted or decided to do with their lives. Fans should recognize the boundary between them and the idol, because at the end of the day, they are just supporters. They are not the idol’s significant others, family members, or even close friends. The idea of a ‘close relationship’ to an idol is just an illusion.
Perfect Blue showcases the negative sides of being a fan – most especially those who became way too obsessive. This to the point that they do not see their idols out of simple admiration, but objects they want to possess. This is relevant because fans need to know that their idols are still human. Idols still deserve to have their own privacy and freedom to make decisions for their own lives.
Unfortunately, there are already a lot of fans today that are just like Me-Mania. Most notably, there are some obsessive fans (Korean term: sasaengs) of K-Pop that have gone too far.
2. The squeaky-clean image
Celebrities are most often required to maintain a clean or wholesome image to appeal to the general public. We see this in a lot of celebrities – whenever they would do something that contrasts their supposedly ‘clean’ image, they would get criticized by the public. Most particularly, K-Pop and J-Pop idols should strictly maintain their clean and good image.
So whenever they get embroiled in ‘scandals’ that tarnish their image, the backlash is often severe. A popular example of this is when a former J-Pop idol from AKB48 shaved her head to apologize for spending the night at her boyfriend’s home.
Mima also experienced this in Perfect Blue. She wanted to become an actress, which gave her the chance to explore more mature roles. By doing so, she received threatening letters from fans. Her own manager, Rumi, turned against her.
It is with the tarnishing of Mima’s clean and ‘pure’ idol image that started all of her troubles. Her manager, Rumi, created the website, “Mima’s Room” where she shared Mima’s extremely personal details for fans to see. This invasion of privacy ultimately made Mima feel scared and watched.
She worked with Me-Mania to make Mima become mentally unstable. They committed murders against the staff who worked with Mima in her mature roles. This is because they believed the staff contributed in ruining Mima’s pure image. Rumi is highly obsessive in preserving Mima’s ‘purity’ to the point that she opted to become the “real” Mima instead: the squeaky-clean J-Pop idol.
Perfect Blue shows how perception is significant. The ‘pure’ imagery of celebrities like Mima is manufactured to have widespread appeal. Fans tend to attach themselves in this clean image of the celebrity, to the point of believing this is what they truly are.
Expectations and pressures are being placed upon the celebrity, because this is what fans perceive them to be. And as celebrities, they are obliged to appeal to fans because it is with the fans’ support that will keep them afloat. However, this also puts the celebrity in question in a conflict: pleasing the fans vs being authentic to stay true to oneself.
Faking a clean and pure image for so long may affect the celebrity in the long run, especially when it contrasts to who they really are as a person. However, with it comes with the reactions from fans. There is no doubt that some of them will not take it lightly if the celebrity does not live up to their expectations.
Read More: What is Perfect Blue Anime About?
What does this mean for us who are not public figures?
While Perfect Blue is relevant for us to realize how our perceptions matter towards celebrities, it also applies to us as well.
While we do not have fans like the celebrities have, we do interact with other people everyday. Other people perceive us differently from one another. Even family members and friends have their own perceptions of us. There are also expectations on us to fulfil that mental imagery they have of us, so that we will be accepted.
There are some family members, friends, and acquaintances that demand us to be what they perceive us to be. This also adds unnecessary pressure, especially if they really matter to us. There are times that these expectations lead us into an internal conflict and asking the question: Who am I?
Social media is also a medium where we get to be actors. We tend to share photos and videos that are happy and lighthearted. We actually cultivate an image on social media that does not wholly represent who we are. At times, we tend to consider what others might think, so we do not really express ourselves entirely online. Through these, people form their perceptions of us and believe it to be true. We oftentimes feel pressure to maintain this image so that we will be liked.
In other words, Perfect Blue is relevant in conveying how other people’s perceptions affect us. People’s idea of us can drive an inner conflict within us on who we really are. So it is important to know ourselves, and to never deny ourselves the right to be authentic.