Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue is considered a veritable masterpiece by anime fans and movie buffs alike. It was, by all accounts, the filmmaker’s breakout hit, and for good reason: It's nearly perfect, and a haunting vision that'll stick with you long after viewing it.
The film version of Perfect Blue is a much different beast from the original story that inspired it, however. Much like the Parasite Eve novel that eventually became the basis for the best-selling video game series, it offers a much more personal and involved look into the characters’ heads, where we have to infer much about what they’re thinking and feeling in the film.
For the uninitiated, Perfect Blue is a chilling masterpiece that combines the cutesy, sugary sound of the Japanese pop music world with murder, delusion, and mentally ill stalkers. The film follows Mima Kirigoe, the lead singer of the J-pop idol group "CHAM!" and aspiring actress. When she leaves the idol world to seek out better opportunities as an actress, her fan base is deeply disturbed and upset by her change in career. Mima believes, however, that remaining a singer will ultimately be a dead end. She's looking to become an actress and soon finds her first role.
Mima flourishes as an actress, and she takes on a crime drama called Double Bind. Her fans aren't exactly thrilled, but Mima opts to go down the path that's right for her, or at least one she believes to be right for her. During the filming of Double Bind scenes, though, she stumbles onto some particularly harrowing secrets — namely, a stalker named "Me-Mania" who's been following her every move. If that weren't creepy enough, she also finds a website called "Mima's Room," with diary entries that appear to have been written by her — but that can't be true, can it?
From there, things tend to spiral out of control to the point where it seems Mima is having difficulty discerning reality from the bizarre world that's been crafted around her. Is there another Mima? Has her stalker won? You'll have to see the film to find out.
Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis, by Yoshikazu Takeuchi, is a novel that you might mistakenly label a heavy read if you’re familiar with the anime adaptation, especially since there’s so much subtle terror woven into every thread of the movie. The psychological thriller is rife with contextual horror, unsettling plot devices, and other power moves to make viewers feel as though they know what’s going on when they really don’t. It’s like viewing a dream in many ways, which makes it such a hard watch for some.
The book, while still employing many of these tactics, also fleshes out more of the characters you wish you knew more about, such as Mima herself and the staff she surrounds herself with. Even her stalker gets a special few chapters so we can at the very least begin to understand what he’s about and where he’s coming from, twisted as his ideation may be.
The story also finds Mima remaining an idol rather than looking to swap careers, as she is doing in the movie. In fact, that's an important plot point of the anime adaptation, though it's completely missing from the book. Adding this layer in does allow Kon to play off of this particular choice from Mima, however, so it ends up being an interesting change.
What many fans will appreciate about the novel is its unwillingness to tone things down for the sake of decency. There are some particularly chilling scenes near the end that don't happen in the movie, but gorehounds will certainly wish they did. There are graphic violence and assaults sprinkled throughout the book, and while the anime does include some of these elements, they're much more terrifying in written form.
Enjoying the original foundation for the film is absolutely essential if you want to understand the original character of Mima, and everything Kon and Takeuchi were looking to unravel with their individual portraits of idol culture and the way it can slowly tear away at a person. But before you check out Perfect Blue for the first time or take it in on Blu-ray at home, make sure you read through the novel first. You'll have plenty of additional context you wouldn't have had otherwise, and you'll love it even more — promise!