Perfect Blue: The Horror of Being Idolised

Perfect Blue

Dir. Ken Satoshi’s Perfect Blue is an incredibly tragic and lonely animated film, released in 1997. It took the Japanese (and the World) cinema by storm by being extremely popular with its beautiful animation and mind-boggling storyline. Perfect Blue is a story of being the object of obsession and idealization yet remaining completely and utterly alone.

Mima Kirigoe, a beloved idol, takes her departure from singing in a group, toward acting. But things start to awry when she starts to see her alter ego from her idol career, haunting her as she tries to make waves in acting. She is horrifyingly exploited and coerced into doing things she did not want to. Additionally, she is stalked by a murderous maniac who kills anyone who hurts her, making things worse for her as she starts to lose her sense of reality and starts seeing an aspiration of her former self haunting her every move.

Duality of self

Perfect Blue

Chris Rojek, the definitive pioneer of contemporary celebrity studies, defined a celebrity as ‘the attribution of glamorous or notorious status within the public sphere’. 1 He says that celebrity is a split between the public and private self.

In the opening scene, Mima announces her departure from her popstar group to pursue an acting career, a decision that does not go down well with some of her die-hard fans.

The event makes a crack into her reality, as a literal personification of her alter ego of the idol’s past starts to haunt her and refuses to let her move on. What’s real and what’s not soon starts to bleed into each other, driving our protagonist into severe depression forced onto her body by her mind and outside forces. What is ironic is the show Mima is acting in: It similarly depicts a dissociated identity of the character acting the part of herself and her sister and committing crimes; while a similar phenomenon is acting out in the movie we are watching, making us question whether Mima is being haunted or is she losing her sanity and committing the crimes herself through her alternative self. Additionally, the film’s conclusion which reveals Mima’s manager Rumi to be playing the part of Mima’s Idol self in her disillusionment, all of which, further blurs the line between what’s real and what’s not, even for us, the viewers.

The exploitation of idols

In Broey Deschanel’s video essay titled ‘The Sysmetic Abuse of Celebrities’, she argues three facets of abuse: Persona, authenticity, and Intimacy. Persona is a crucial aspect of parasocial relationships.

According to Horton and Wall, the public’s closeness with a celebrity is contingent upon their appreciation for how well they manage to present themselves as a real person, regardless of how constructed that realness may be when we get a glimpse of the celebrity’s private image, it’s typically complementary to their public image. Mima’s public image is that of a doll-like idol that is always pretty and modest, it’s when she is forced to break this image by doing nude photoshoots and explicit acting sequences that hardcore fans scrutinize her for being different, as she longer fits their idol image of her.

Full of constructing a private image for the celebrity is a means of simulating the performance of authenticity. In an essay on celebrity authenticity, Erin Meyer says ‘the supposedly true, intimate, and behind-the-scenes details of a celebrity’s private life are of the utmost concern for media sources as they emphasize the notion of a real celebrity who in her unguarded or supposedly outside the public eye moments is just like the average person.’ 2 This forceful demand for authenticity is subverted in Perfect Blue, which chokes Mima into carrying out an idol persona she has been beloved to be, her private life is completely disregarded as the fans and paparazzi stalk outside her apartment and the characters she’s acting out our celebrated, while the real person is discarded the second the director says ‘cut!’.

Intimacy is potentially the most defining aspect of parasocial relationships, this dynamic completely hinges upon the idea that members of the public forge a connection with celebrities that’s much closer from their perspective than the stars. Mima’s stalker creates a literal parasocial relationship with Mima, viewing her as an object of his admiration and obsession. Refer to this early scene in the movie that depicts Mima as a musical dancing doll:

Perfect Blue


Mima leaves her years-long idol singing group to pursue acting, yet she has formed no friendship between the other two girls and herself, as they celebrate the success of their new single while Mima is in the other room, standing uninvited.

The most tragic aspect of perfect blue is the utter loneliness Mima faces while she is going through such abject horrors. She has no one, and even while progressively getting popular, she still has no one. With only a small apartment and her fish (which die off as well). At her lowest, her manager comes over only to end up trying to kill her. In all the chaos, Satoshi Ken beautifully portrays the incredible loneliness: walking the viewer through Mima’s mundane life, her apartment filled with her possessions and quiet errands; all of which presents her personality and loneliness, despite her stardom.

Perfect Blue

Perfect Blue is a hauntingly iridescent story of fan obsession and the duality of stardom which is a crucial topic of discussion still. The rise of social media has blurred the line between fans and celebrities even further, and the discussion becomes even more important today. Satoshi Ken’s Perfect Blue is and will remain, an evergreen movie that will continue to haunt us in years to come.

Works Cited

  1. Rojek, Chris. ‘A Cultural Analysis of the Right of Publicity and Passing Off’ (2017)
  2. Meyers, Erin. ‘‘Can You Handle My Truth?’’: Authenticity and the Celebrity Star Image (2009)

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. This hitchcockian thriller is a fantastic exercise in genre and a brilliant deconstruction of celebrity and obsession.

  2. Sweetie

    I have only watched Perfect Blue and not any other anime. Where should I begin? Give me recommendations.

    • attack on titan, before season 4 came out, was very beginner friendly as it mainly focused on killing titans and stuff, not delving into genocide and politics etc

      i would also say demon slayer is a great beginner-friendly anime as the plot is very easily picked up, has great animation and music and is suitable for most audiences.. although the humour can be quite startling due to cultural differences in japan lolol

    • I wanna see a list of good/great anime that ISN’T good for newcomers.

    • If you wanna get someone into anime try Death note or psycho pass (Season 1), crime thrillers are easy to get into. Stay away from shonen or extremly lengthy series.

    • I would say some great ones would be
      1. OPM
      2. Naruto
      3. Demon slayer

    • i love madhouse animation style art

    • kortist

      I have my own top 5 recommendations based on being traumatized early on by a way too violent anime, example: Akira, Ninja scroll. And now you need something similar too feel something.
      1. Gantz
      2. Hellsing and hellsing ultimate
      3. Berserk
      4. Elfen lied
      5. Devilman cry baby.

    • Berserk is a good first anime if you are into Nietzsche or Greek tragedies.

    • Have you seen the Castlevania Netflix anime?

    • Miranda

      The first anime I ever watched was Naruto off of my friends recommendation. It might not be the best written or philosophical as other animes but it still is in my favorite top 10.

    • I feel like it depends what you like but I got into anime watching Your Name and ive used it to get everyone else into it. Seriously it seems like no matter who the person is they all seem to love that movie. I’ve gotten people you’d ever expect into anime with it, so I guess I’d probably throw it out as a good one too. 🙂

    • Braelyn

      What about Hunter x Hunter. It gets better the longer you watch it…… until you get to Chimera Ant arc, which is the most boring, uninteresting, drawn out, snail paced arc I’ve ever watched in a show. I only watched because all my friends said the last 10 episodes make sitting there through the first 50 worth it….. except it wasn’t. I probably would have loved HxH more if half the show wasn’t about those stupid bugs.

    • All of classic Studio Ghibli.

    • Paprika, Millennium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers (movies) and Paranoia Agent (series) are also created and directed by Satoshi Kon.

  3. Nielsen

    I never really liked this movie, It’s not terrifying, it’s just very weird and I can’t be scared of a movie if I have no idea of what is going on. I mean, it’s not like you don’t know what is the monster or paranormal force, what they do or how the attack, it’s just that the story is weird and confusing (for me at least) and I spend more time procesing what I have just seen than being scared (or disgusted because it’s more of a disturbing movie than a scary one).

  4. Japanese horrors are something else.

  5. Michaela

    The death of Satoshi Kon has been such a big loss, I was really sad when it happened. I felt the same thing only when Kubrick died.

  6. I haven’t watched a good anime in years and i think this is gonna be the one.

  7. Why is it called Perfect Blue?

    • In the title of the movie, ‘blue’ can refer either to the psychological state Mima falls into, or to the meaning that this color has in Japanese culture, which stands for purity and the female energy that any Japanese idol tries to achieve.

  8. I watched this movie for the first time high on Shrooms. It was pretty crazy.

  9. Something that has always creeped me out is happy, cheerful music playing while something horrible is happening in the screen. It makes me feel like I’m a child, seeing something that no one else can see, something painful and disturbing while everyone cheers.

  10. Jada Le

    Greatest movie for a reason it was also copiedor inspired in Hollywood known as (Black Swan).

  11. Marshall

    Perfect Blue is my favorite movie of all time. No one else has ever captured the feeling of having a stalker and not having anyone to turn to for help. It’s perfectly horrifying, perfectly isolating, and perfectly empowering in the end. I adore this movie.

  12. It really made a great statement about how dangerous and malicious parasocial relationships can be without anyone knowing it. Mima’s slow fall into insanity was insane and heartbreaking to see. My favorite scenes had to be when they were filming “Double Bind” and kept alluding to story beats yet to come in a way felt subtle and not too on-the-nose.

    • EXACTLY. It just doesn’t make sense why waste your whole energy on someone who doesn’t even know you exist. That’s why i stopped idolizing celebrities cause i realized it was getting unhealthy

  13. Lilyana

    Maybe im just acting as a tough girl but i went and watched the movie before this article and didn’t find it scary at all.

    • I didn’t appreciate Perfect Blue for what it was but I knew it was a technical masterpiece.

  14. Sunni Rashad

    Great article!

  15. Preston

    I liked it but didn’t love it. Just because it’s anime doesn’t over-shadow it’s failings. It doesn’t hold a candle to Tokyo godfathers, a film that would be worse with real actorsv as opposed to perfect blue.

    • Emanuel

      I disagree – I think PB is Kon’s best film, though TG and Millennium Actress aren’t far behind.

  16. So sad that satoshi passed so young, he has so many amazing creations and had plenty of years left to make more ):

  17. This anime was recommended by a friend a long time ago and I can’t watch it, it’s depressing.

  18. This movie is terrifying if you have a strong sense of identity. It is much less so otherwise. That isn’t to say that it isn’t a great animation in all aspects of the sense, just that if you go into expecting to be terrified or disturbed you may be disappointed. However, that’s the only way you’ll be disappointed! Lol it’s a must watch so don’t let my dumb comment deter you

  19. Perfect blue is my favorite movie of all time. Satoshi kon died too soon.

  20. Katherine

    The fact that the film is called Perfect Blue and also features so much red also subverts expectations, right down to the title.

  21. As a fan of both Anime and Horror, “Perfect Blue” is one of the fewer anime films that really felt close to psychological horror. Not only was it uniquely unnerving and it gets under your skin, but it’s scary how relevant its underlying message is. It’s still a shame that Satoshi Kon is not here with us anymore. What a true artist he was.

  22. A movie that I will never watch again. It traumatized me.

  23. Always saw Ads for this and Macross Plus in my dad’s Heavy Metal magazines when I was little. Saw it absently on Starz late night anime movies early teens. Didn’t really catch me as much as Paprika or Tokyo Godfathers did. Have to rewatch it sometime.

  24. Absolutely fabulous movie, if you haven’t seen it I can’t recommend it enough.

  25. This movie was cute childsplay compared to some other anime. Very overhyped movie imo.

  26. I remember being traumatized watching this movie as a child. It definitely left an impact! As you say, the relationship between celebrities and their fans can really be an imbalanced and distorted one.

  27. allan reis

    Great reading! I love Perfect Blue and it has so many things to be discussed! Never thought deeply about the idolisation side though. Loved it!

  28. “Perfect Blue” brilliantly explores the dark side of idolization, offering a chilling perspective on its horror. A must-watch for anyone interested in the complexities of fame and identity. 🌟👀 #PerfectBlue #IdolizationHorror

  29. Siothrún

    What a great break down of this movie! I only watched Perfect Blue once, but it really stuck with me because of the way that the themes you examine were portrayed! Perfect Blue also reminds me of Serial Experiments Lain in a way, as they both have an unsettling nature woven within the day to day. Nice read, and great work!

  30. The interplay between reality and illusion within the narrative engenders a disconcerting ambiance, compelling viewers to question the authenticity of Mima’s experiences.

  31. I once saw a video on Youtube about Rumi Hidaka posted by the creator The Vile Eye, and he did a good job explaining the downside of celebrity status. Most of Mima’s fans loved her stage personality, not her as a person, and they turned on her once she went against the values of this persona. It’s sad that people prioritized the comfort they got out of Mima’s career, rather than trying understanding her as an individual.

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