Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue: A Woman in Trouble

(This post contains spoilers for Perfect Blue, Black Swan, Taxi Driver and Fight Club. Black Swan is touched on only in comparison to Perfect; a post where its entirety is devoted to the film is Black Swan: Traumanovelle. Some of the stills featured in this post from Perfect Blue contain very graphic violence and gore.)

The first full-length film of Satoshi Kon, part of an impressive oeuvre that was produced so quickly, and ended too soon. A movie about doubles, and not just doubles, but quadruples; by the film’s end, we realize that the heroine is in fact a projected figure, one of four, imagined by one of the supporting characters. I heard of it, as many do, as the supposed genesis for Black Swan. I present the association in discrete, polite terms, while a post at Cracked states it in ruder, eye catching ones: “7 Classic Movies You Didn’t Know Were Rip-Offs”. The pre-eminent literary form of our time is the listicle, just as in another time and place it might have been the western. All the western requires is a horse, a cattle thief, some guns, and a cowboy; all else is incidental. Since they primarily written for an audience without familiarity with the milieu, all they require is verisimiltude, the appearance of truth, and whether the details are truthful is inconsequential. All that the listicle requires is a number of items of information; the items, and the concept of the list itself, are designed for provocation and succinct reading, with, again, only the appearance of truth necessary, and actual truth of secondary or no importance. Where a dime western benefits from a Chicago reader’s utter ignorance in horse breaking or cattle thievery, giving the writer license in this area, this listicle benefits from its reader’s ignorance of a somehwat obscure japanese movie – but anyone who has seen both films will most likely consider the charge ridiculous, reckless, and malicious.

The allegation here of plagiarism is based on the most commonplace and mundane details, removed from any meaningful context. We might look at a youtube video laying out the case1 to see the speciousness of the charges: Swan wins the lead role in a ballet; Mima gets a bit role on a TV show. Mima is applauded by the TV crew; Nina is applauded by her fellow dancers. Mima rides a subway and sees in the glass of the door, her double; Nina’s reflection turns towards her. Mima curls up in her bathtub; Nina lies in the water of her bathtub2. Rather than go through these comparisons exhaustively, I list them all in the previous footnote. None of the images that I think are truly disturbing and memorable from Swan, Nina in the bath suddenly seeing her own malevolent self above the water, Nina walking on a stage dark except for a single light, Nina briefly becoming someone very different as she cuts her in nails before a mirror, Nina passing a vampish vision of herself3 – are anywhere in Perfect. If footage which shares the theme of a woman applauded or a woman in a bath constitutes plagiarism, then the movies which plagiarize Perfect, and which Perfect has plagiarized, are innumerable.

More crucially, when people accuse Swan of thieving the underlying themes of Perfect, it suggests something else: that these viewers, among whom are rabid anime and Satoshi Kon partisans, either do know not Perfect that well, or have let their paristanship get the best of them, like a child with unlike puzzle pieces, who forces a fit by disregarding the distinctions of their respective shapes. To disagree with the charge of plagiarism, and to condemn it, is not the same as championing one movie over the other: I think they’re both very good. To say that both are alike is to do both a disservice, rendering them both into something more generic, so that they may be said to be alike. There are countless movies and books involving male doubles, whether it be The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Edgar Allan Poe’s “William Wilson”, Raising Cain, Fight Club, the list is properly endless – that someone is entirely us, but acts how we truly yearn to act, without code or restraint, is an eternal subject, and will still be there after this writer and any readers have left the earth. There is the obvious note that male doubles seem to always revolve around violence, a physically timid and an agressive type, while female doubles always seem to involve carnality, a chaste and a more sexually experienced one. And there is another, more germane observation to be made. When something like Fight Club can be considered a distinct story from Jekyll, while Swan is an immediate transgression on the established territory of Perfect, it suggests a perhaps unintended and ridiculous idea: men have many lives, and so their stories may be told over and over, while women have only one, so any story devoted to them risks redundancy.

The detail always brought up when discussing these two movies is the following, taken from the always reliable IMDB, and often cited as evidence that Swan is an uncredited re-make of Perfect:

Darren Aronofsky owns the American filming rights to this movie, which he purchased for $59,000, just so he could film the now infamous “bath scene” with Jennifer Connelly in his own film Requiem for a Dream. The staged rape scene in Perfect Blue also inspired a scene toward the end of Aronofsky’s film in which a group of perverted men circle around and cheer on a vulgar sexual event.

(link)

There is no citation for this information, and though this detail is repeated throughout the internet, I can find no reporting such as purchase records or interviews with any of the key parties which confirms it.

It is a strange declaration, which can be legitimately questioned on two points. The two shots of the bathtub scenes are very similar, and I don’t think it is any great statement to say that one influenced the other4. However, you don’t need to buy the re-make rights of a movie for such simple, short quotes. The end of Boogie Nights is a very clear reprise of the end scene of Raging Bull; Luke Skywalker witnessing his burning home is a quote of Ethan Edwards seeing his own home burn in The Searchers; the opening of the titular relic of Raiders of the Lost Ark quotes from the scene where a lethal briefcase is opened in Kiss Me Deadly. These are only a handful of countless examples, not to mention comedies such as High Anxiety, Airplane!, The Naked Gun series, and others, which quote other movies in order to satirize them. None of these pictures need to buy “remake rights” of the movies they referenced in order to do so, and were they required to do so, it would make something like Airplane!, chock full of such gags, prohibitively expensive. Were a studio able to enforce a copyright on such simple, short images, those with extensive libraries could extort fees from any producer for using images from Hitchcock, Welles, or The Wizard of Oz that have become so ubiquitous as to go unnoticed as quoting, but are accepted as common as punctuation marks.

Burning homes in A New Hope and The Searchers.

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Opening the magic box in Kiss Me Deadly and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

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So, there’s the obvious problem that Darren Aronofsky would not have to pay for re-make rights to simply have an overhead shot of a woman in a bathtub, followed by her underwater, letting out an angry scream. The other problem is that $59 000 is very, very low to pay for such rights. This isn’t a literary property, where it’s uncertain how successful it will be as a movie – this was already a movie that has been a critical and commercial success. It had grossed over $100 000 – in very, very limited distribution – in the United States alone5. Wouldn’t the pricing floor for re-make rights be at least what it grossed in the principal market for that re-make? There is the other problem that, unless this was an exceptional situation, the production company, in this case Mad House, would own all rights associated with the production, not Kon. They may well want a quality production, but they also will want to sell it to someone who has the wherewithal – easy access to resources and investment money – to get it made, and so they would most likely sell it to a studio or a very successful producer. Even without any cut in the re-make’s gross, the original studio benefits from a re-make being very successful because it brings about renewed interest in the original property. Selling the re-make rights to a high profile, very powerful studio is exactly what Mad House did when they sold the rights to the anime Ninja Scroll to Warner Brothers6. Before that deal, Mad House had been actively involved in other deals with american studios, collaborating with Warner Brothers on the Matrix animated series, The Animatrix7, and selling the North American distribution rights for Millenium Actress to Dreamworks8. I cannot definitively say who owns the re-make rights to Perfect, but: does it not seem strange at all that in the midst of these deals with well-connected studios, Mad House would sell the live action rights of a prestigious and award-heavy property to a director who had only one major film credit at that time – a major critical success, but no financial blockbuster – for an amount that was less than half the movie’s North American gross? Those are my skeptical notes about this supposed purchase, and I move on.

Perfect is a movie veiled in dreams and fantasy, with its true character and plot somewhat obscured behind a veil. It is easy to discern without much difficulty, but some effort must be made to discern it. The underlying theme of Swan is open to question; it might be about aesthetic commitment (“Performance Anxiety”, by Richard Brody), a young girl abused by her mother (“Black Swan: Movie about Mother-Daughter Sexual Abuse”), or, my preferred one, a young girl who has been sexually abused by her father (“Black Swan: Traumanovelle”). It’s unnecessary to adopt one theory over another in order to find Swan, conceptually, a very distinct creature from Perfect, as its very outward details, the very doubles employed, make its focus, despite the shared plot point of doubles, very different.

Perfect is the story of Takakura Yoko, who looks exactly like, and appears in the dream storyline as, Mima’s agent, Hidaka Rumi – this is the heroine of the movie, not Mima, who is a projection, a double, of Yoko’s. This woman has led a tragic, difficult life, where she often felt herself to be unattractive, certainly less attractive than her beautiful, glamorous model sister, Takakura Rika, a woman who looked much like Mima. After she was gang raped by a group of men in a strip club, she developed a hostility towards all men, and a hatred for her sister, a woman who had an ease in life because of her beauty that she, Yoko, lacked. She murdered her sister. She ran over a man in the street, simply because he was a man. She killed a number of men, targeting them for how they looked at her, the central fact that they were men: she gouged out their eyes and stabbed them in the genitals. She is eventually caught, and placed in an asylum. She remains entirely mad, disassociating herself from her rape, which was only a scene in a movie which took place with someone else, and her killings; the murders took place on a TV show, and they were committed by a repulsive outcast. The time she ran over a man, the man who is the disfigured outcast of her fantasy, becomes instead her own martyrdom, as she is almost run over, again and again. The movie ends with her in the asylum, her disassociative fantasy still at work, as she becomes, yet again, the idol Mima who looks just like her sister, visiting her at the hospital, a beautiful woman with greater freedom than her, who freely leaves. The last moment is of this projection, Mima, entering her car and seeing in the rearview mirror another, separate projection, the saccharine ideal that’s always haunted her: the always happy, always innocent girl singer.

Much of the preceding is explained by the character of Dr. Toko Asamiya, the police psychiatrist.

YAMASHIRO
You mean…the murderer is an illusion she created?

TOKO ASAMIYA
Yes. She fears an imaginary security guard…and then doubles that figure with the serial murderer of top models.

YAMASHIRO
But illusions don’t kill.

TOKO
But…what if that illusion found someone to possess?

YAMASHIRO
Possess?? Then…all those men who got murdered?

TOKO
Were those who were no longer of any use to her.

YAMASHIRO
She thinks she’s a new young actress named Kirigoe Mima.

TOKO
Dissociative Identity Disorder. In other words, “multiple personality syndrome.” All those crimes took place when she was some other persona.

DETECTIVE
So where’s the persona of the original Yoko?

TOKO
Takakura Yoko, the original persona, is nothing more than a character in a drama for her. Being a “normal” girl…how she was raped in a strip club…everything happened as part of her drama series. By doing so, she salvaged her heart. The original persona, Takakura Yoko, no longer exists. By killing, and later becoming, her sister the top-model, she salvaged her heart.

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

The movie opens with a re-creation of her being visited by detectives after she has killed her older sister, the top model.

YAMASHIRO
The younger sister of Rika, the murder victim, is here. Would you like to see her?

TOKO
Yamashiro-kun. Do you know why the culprit pulls the skin off his victims?

YAMASHIRO
I assume he gets sexual stimulation from such activities…

TOKO
He wants to become one.

YAMASHIRO
Become…what?

TOKO
A woman…or…

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Whether Yoko actually did anything like this, or killed any women other than her sister, is unknown, since it isn’t recreated for us on the TV series. In the conversation between the detectives, it is left unsaid why the killer might tear off the skin of the victims, but an obvious answer is there in the context of how Yoko feels about herself. She already is a woman, but there is something distinct and beautiful about the skin of a top model, and she wishes to become a beautiful woman like this. She does indeed become such a woman, in her mad fantasy, taking over the role of her own sister.

We see the crime scene of one dead top-model, and this is most likely a memory of the aftermath of her own sister’s murder:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

That Yoko looks like Rumi, fantasizing that she is her sister, Rika, a woman who looks like Mima, is there in one of the last scenes, right before Rumi and Mima fight.

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Yoko hates herself, doesn’t want to be herself, so she is Mima, defeating Rumi, the woman who looks like Yoko. Yoko killed her older sister, ran over a man in a hit and run, but Yoko does not want to have done these things, so instead she is Mima who saves the older woman.

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

That Yoko looks like Rumi, plays the part of Rumi, but continues to project herself in the made-up figure of Mima is there in the surreal last scene at the asylum. Remember, the detectives make clear that Kirigoe Mima doesn’t exist, that Yoko’s delusion is her belief that she’s this woman. We have Yoko, who looks exactly like Rumi, gaze into a mirror, and staring back is Mima as innocent teen idol. It is then that the scene gets stranger, because we are still very much in Yoko’s mad world. We move outside the asylum ward as the doctor explains that Yoko still sees herself as Rumi, and he is explaining it to Yoko’s made-up singer, Kirigoe Mima. There is an intended double meaning when Mima says to the doctor, “thanks to her, I am who I am today.” This is a movie about illusions that are more vivid, more satisfying than reality, and Mima is the figment of a lunatic woman’s mind who is given the movie’s last line, “I’m real!” Swan has been accused of quoting from Perfect, but Perfect‘s last one shot itself feels like a quote from one of the final shots of Taxi Driver: Travis Bickle catches himself looking in his rear-view mirror, and this confirms that he is still mad. Mima looks in the rear view mirror and sees the saccharine singer Mima looking back, and it’s confirmed that we’re still trapped in Yoko’s lunatic world. It is unknown to me whether Mad House owns the remake rights to Taxi Driver.

DOCTOR
I didn’t know you were visiting. You must be very busy lately.

MIMA
Oh, no.

DOCTOR
Once in a while, she returns to her Rumi-San persona, but…

MIMA
I know I’ll never see HER ever again.

MIMA CONT’D
But, thanks to her, I am who I am today.

NURSES
You’re lying! There’s no way Kirigoe Mima would be HERE of all places!

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Looking in the rear view mirror, Taxi Driver and Perfect Blue.

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Yoko is a woman who feels unattractive, who sees herself as ugly, views ugliness as stigmatic, and associates ugliness with villainy. So, the person who is actually committing the murders is at first not Mima, but a disfigured security guard. His very disfigurement marks him as evil, and his first appearance is as Kingburg, the adversary of Powertron in the opening sketch:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

This man haunts Mima, and he haunts Yoko as well, for he may be based on someone from her past, a past victim, just as Mima is a re-creation of her sister. This security guard acts out what Yoko wants, killing those she wants killed, like the boy who disrupts the concert that the guard later runs over9. This is one more crime that Yoko herself committed, yet she makes herself into the martyr, rather than the perpetrator. The guard nearly runs her over in his truck and later, the guard tries to kill her. Yoko killed her older sister, but it is Mima who saves the life of Rumi when she pushes her out of the way of an on-coming truck. Yoko creates a fantasy life for Mima, yet it is not her creating the fantasy life, but this villain, the security guard who constructs a virtual life for the idol.

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

I think it would be morbid and unnecessary to spend much time on the scene of Mima’s rape, which is a re-enactment of Yoko’s own rape. In this movie where Mima and Rumi are often together, bonded like sisters, where Mima goes through many of Yoko’s experiences, an image binds these two after this ordeal; first Rumi weeps tears, then Mima weeps tears, both in the same manner.

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

The men that are targeted in the movie are all those who are involved in the degradation of Mima: the show’s writer, the photographer, her agent. When they are killed, the eyes of all these men are stabbed. Yoko considers the male gaze always something suspect, that there is a hidden predatory hunger always involved. A man on a train stares at Mima, then quickly moves his eyes away when she catches him. After Mima kills the security guard, the eye over which his hair always falls, the hidden gaze, is the one torn out. When the photographer is killed, his genitals are stabbed as well.

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Mima is Yoko’s own ideal, but she also embodies all of Yoko’s own anxieties; she may be an ideal, but she can never be ideal enough. The singer Mima, who always projects happiness, confidence, and innocence, is a vision that haunts this woman. She attempts to match this image by being a figure of blind optimism, yet she cannot sustain this, and she collapses into fatigue and sadness. Her managers debate how she can best be used10. The decision to go with the rape scene depends on her agency, not her figurative personal agency, but her literal one.

PRODUCER
Hey, hey, hey! I saw next week’s script, Shibuya-chan! You’re wonderful! I didn’t think it would come to this!

SHIBUYA
To tell the truth, I have an even more drastic idea.

PRODUCER
Fantastic!

SHIBUYA
But…I wonder if it would be alright for Mima…or rather, her agency.

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

She is incidental to her own image, which is the actual product. This is a movie that ends with the illusion overcoming the real, and it begins with children preferring the virtual warriors on TV to the same characters in tangible form on stage. Her image is her and not her, but it is certainly not her own. During Mima’s opening performance, the security guard holds her in the palm of his hand11. This same man creates the “Mima’s Room” website which uncannily captures some of the events of her day, while dictating her very thoughts. She starts to have doubts over what took place in her day – if a fan site says she went to Harajuku (Tokyo’s shopping district), she must have gone to Harajuku. This is part of the movie’s larger theme of women feeling their own image is dictated by others, but also the nature of celebrity and fandom, specifically the often hyper-obsessive asian pop fandom12. Who you actually are is of less relevance to how you are seen, and how others want to see you.

When Mima takes off her clothes, when she is raped in a TV series, she loses fans because these things tarnish her image of innocence. The one person to take her side is the security guard, and he does so that he can save her13. Even this, however, has a shameful, aggressive aspect beneath its veneer: this same man who worships her, who supposedly wants to protect her, ends up trying to rape her. Because of Yoko’s rape, and because it is Yoko’s story, sex in Perfect is always exploitive, always brutal, always public, always anonymous. The group of men who assault Mima dissolve into a crowd of men roaring for Mima the singer; it is the same mob feeling transmuted from one focus to another. The stage lights of the auditorium are like the lights of the strip club, which are like the lights of an oncoming truck about to kill her. The cameras that click and flash for her nude photo session are like the cameras of the paparazzi; the cameras at a fashion show cut to the police photographer taking pictures of her dead sister. This is the movie’s only vision of sex, with none other offered. There is Mima chaste, and Mima exploited. Yoko dearly wants to be more like the pure Mima singer, the ever present, nettlesome ghost, not because it is a role that provides her any greater benefit or opportunity, but because it carries no stigma.

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

There are countless differences between Swan and Perfect, but the difference in the conception behind these doubles is central. Nina may be chaste, but she dearly wants to be more like the strong, sexually confident Lily. There is no stigma, weakness, or exploitation associated with Lily’s sexuality. Nina’s earrings are always soft and rounded, while Lily’s are almost always sharp and elongated, like small swords; it is Nina who is the vulnerable one, not Lily. When Nina passes a vision of herself as a seductress with a devastating gaze, there is nothing of corruption or decay in this double; Nina doesn’t envy innocence, she envies the sexual power of this mirror self. There may be reasons for why she fears it as well – whether because of past abuse or something else – but there is no question that Lily is presented sympathetically, and that the whole film is about Nina trying to be more like Lily, culminating in her playing the black swan. Were the second movie to be a rip-off of the first, it would have to be about Lily, a Lily damaged because of her sexual experience, who wanted to be more like the chaste Nina. This movie would be such a polar reflection of the one we have now, that it would have to be called White Swan.

Yoko desires to be more like Mima, not because it is something she herself wants, but because Mima is closer to a public ideal. She does not want to be thinner, more beautiful, more virginal, to attract any specific man, but in order to please a crowd of men, the entirety of men. She wishes to be this ideal, but she hates it as well. This is always Yoko’s vision, and we see hints of how she may have wanted to be her model sister, but resented her as well. Mima goes to play her part, and she gives Rumi her coat to hold. When Rumi comments that it’s only one line Mima has to say, it’s a barbed comment on what Yoko saw as her sister’s self-importance and intellectual vacancy14. When Rumi tries to teach Mima how the internet works (the movie takes place in the mid-nineties), Mima comes across as an ignorant child15. Yoko sees herself as Rumi, and though she dearly wants to be Mima, this scene makes clear her own ambivalence: why do men want me to be more like this fool?

Nina does not aspire to any public ideal, but an aesthetic one. It’s never clear whether Mima has any ability as a singer or a dancer, but Nina is playing a coveted lead, probably the most coveted part in ballet. She does not train endlessly for hours because she wishes to conform to the images of some advertising campaign, but because this is a necessary part of being a great dancer. It can be argued whether something else is subsumed in this endless practice, but what can be taken off the table is that she does this to be more attractive to men. Where Mima and Rumi are seen as entirely alone, Nina attracts Leroy, she attracts the boys in the club, Tom and Andy16, she attracts Lily. The focus of Perfect is about the constrained image a woman must conform to, as well as how it dovetails with fame and celebrity. Nina’s training is not about conforming to any such appearance, but achievement. It is analogous to movies about male athletes who must suffer equally stressful rigors in order to achieve some trophy or belt. Whether Nina’s constant cutting and scratching, in conjunction with her regimen, expresses a hatred of her own body is another question. I think it does, and there is a definition tension between her remaining this chaste type, and becoming more like Lily. She wants to remain virginal, while at the same time not wanting this at all: she throws out her toys, she rebels against her mother, she goes clubbing. Lily, the woman she wants to be, is more carnal, more curvaceous, and eats whatever she wants. When the audience applauds Mima, it is for her image as the chaste singer; the crowning triumph for Nina, the achievement that receives its own roaring applause and what she sacrifices everything for, is her dance as the black swan. The roar is for a dancer’s achievement, not her playing the part of a beautiful innocent.

These are two movies that feature heroines of heartbreaking pathos, but characters whose best efforts at happiness are overwhelmed by tragedy are not uncommon in fiction, nor, unfortunately, in life. That they share this same pathos does not make them identical or even alike, whether in character or crisis they face. The differences between the two women are so essential, and so central to both films, that in not seeing them, or willfully ignoring them, a writer diminishes two great movies, transforming exotica into featureless banality: a woman in trouble.

(As usual, there are some rough patches in this post, which will be fixed with subsequent edits over the next few days. Many changes and corrections were made on March 24th.)

FOOTNOTES

1 Black Swan vs Perfect Blue: The Little Details:

2 In Perfect, they want Mima for a bit part in a TV series where she has one line in the first episode:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

In Swan, Nina wins the coveted lead that every dancer would want to play:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Mima receives a fax, which says “Traitor” over and over again. Duly noted:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Someone writes WHORE on a bathroom mirror. The reason why Mima receives the fax is because her fans think she’s betraying her former image; the word is scrawled on the mirror because they think Nina got the part after she slept with the director.

Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan

Mima is distracted from the breaks in her fantasy that she forgets her lines:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Leroy asks Nina to do a take, again and again:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Mima is asked to act in a rape scene:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Leroy suggests that Nina get into character by masturbating:

Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan

Mima poses for nude photos:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

In bed, Nina masturbates:

Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan

Mima is on a train and sees her double reflected back, who talks to her:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Nina’s mirror reflection turns towards her:

Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan

Mima, angry over having agreed to the strip club scene, throws her toys and furnishings about:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Nina, gradually becoming someone else, gathers up all her toys to throw them out:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Mima throws a pillow at her double, a reflection in the mirror:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Nina’s double, Lily, suddenly becomes Nina herself, who suffocates her with a pillow:

Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan

Mima is in a bathtub:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

A bathtub, with Nina:

Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan

The pictures of Mima give comfort and approval to the monstrous security guard:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Various pictures by Erica, Nina’s mother, distort bizarrely and aggressively turn on Nina:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Mima sees a ghostly vision of herself, still with her old band:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Nina sees Lily practicing for the understudy role of her part:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

After a very tense Mima breaks a glass, her hands bleed from the shards:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Nina suffers from a bleeding back rash:

Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan

Mima and her double fight:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

In the dressing room, there is a fight between the two women:

Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan

When Rumi loses her wig, she loses some crucial element that defines her as Mima. She moves down to pick it up, and ends up stabbing herself on a shard of glass:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Nina stabs Lily with a mirror piece:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

After Mima stabs the photographer to death, she sees the pizza outfit covered in blood. She puts it further back in her closet.

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Nina uses a blanket to stop the flow of blood from the closet in which Lily’s body is hidden:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Mima is applauded for her film take by the crew, as the camera swirls in a three sixty:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Her fellow dancers gather around Nina and applaud at the end of the performance:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

3 In case you’ve forgotten:

Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan

4 Perfect Blue / Requiem For A Dream Bath Scene Comparison:

5 Box office / business for Perfect Blue at IMDB.

6 From “Japan’s Madhouse sells Ninja Scroll remake rights” by Liz Shackleton:

Japanese animation studio Madhouse has sold live-action remake rights to cult anime title Ninja Scroll to Warner Bros Pictures.

Directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, the film sold more than 1 million DVD copies in the US and had a successful theatrical run in its home market. The remake deal with Warner Bros was brokered by CAA’s John Levin.

7 From “Japan’s Madhouse sells Ninja Scroll remake rights” by Liz Shackleton:

Japanese animation studio Madhouse has sold live-action remake rights to cult anime title Ninja Scroll to Warner Bros Pictures.

Directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, the film sold more than 1 million DVD copies in the US and had a successful theatrical run in its home market. The remake deal with Warner Bros was brokered by CAA’s John Levin.

The two companies previously worked together on The Matrix animated direct-to-video spin-off The Animatrix.

8 From “True Grit” by Ilya Garger:

Perfect Blue garnered a handful of international awards, including the prize for Best Asian Film at Montreal’s Fant-Asia Film Festival. And Kon’s follow-up, Millennium Actress, a lyrical life story of a fictional movie star, so impressed U.S.-based DreamWorks that it bought the North American distribution rights and released it in theaters this fall.

9 With my poor ability at facial recognition, I originally thought the security guard and the man in the poster were one and the same. In some ways, I prefer this interpretation. The footnoted paragraph read originally as follows:

He haunts Mima, and he haunts Yoko as well, because this is the man who she killed in a hit and run. She steps into an elevator, and in a moment that seems to serve no purpose, sees a notice in the paper of a young man dead in such an accident. She turns away from the notice, and we see the security guard, a damaged ghoul, staring and smiling at her. When she re-plays this incident, she is the victim, or the hero. It is she who is run down by the truck driven by the guard, or she who saves Rumi from being hit.

10 During the meeting after the top model’s body is discovered:

TADOKORO
On record sales we make practically nothing! But I do wish that they’d use her a little bit more…

RECORD EXECUTIVE
Sorry we’re not that profitable.

11 From the opening concert:

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

12 John Seabrook’s very good “Factory Girls”, goes into some of the details of various K-Pop bands, including the obsessive behaviour of fans. He asks members of Girls’ Generation about dealing with this obsessiveness:

Do netizens chronicle their movements on the Internet?

“Yeah, that’s true,” Jessica said. “I’ll be at a restaurant and it will be on Twitter in, like, ten minutes.”

“What’s it like living with that?” I asked.

“I think we’ve been brought up to be really careful and to take responsibility in our actions, in order to be in this position,” Tiffany said. She added, “We always stay at home.”

I mentioned a news item I had seen about how the Girls tried to disguise themselves in the streets of Seoul but that their limbs alone—the shape of their arms and legs—gave them away. Was that true?

“It is,” Tiffany said, shooting an accusatory glance at her arm. “It’s just so . . .” she paused, searching for the right thing to say. “Freakishly cool!”

13 From the comic store scene:

FANBOY #1
Why do all psycho-thrillers made in Japan turn out that way?

FANBOY #2
Mima-rin’s not in it!

FANBOY #1
Oh yeah. How many scenes was she in last week? Four?

FANBOY #3
Three.

FANBOY #1
Somebody save Mina-rin! PLEASE!

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

14 From right before Mima does her first take on “Double Bind”:

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
Rika’s sister, you’re on!

MIMA
Here!

MIMA CONT’D
Hold this!

MIMA gives RUMI her coat.

RUMI
Nervous?

MIMA
A bit.

RUMI opens up the script.

RUMI
Not much to get nervous about when you have only one line…

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

15 Rumi helps out Mima:

RUMI
We’re all set now.

MIMA
Rumi-chan, you’re really amazing.

RUMI
I’ll sign you up for on-line services now.

MIMA
Okay.

RUMI
Anyway, Mima, I’ll explain all of this, so listen carefully.

MIMA
Okay.

RUMI
This is a browser for the World Wide Web. You launch it by double-clicking here.

MIMA
What? Double clip? What are you going to do with a clip? But…

RUMI
See, next to “location”, you enter the URL. It’s not hard, is it?

MIMA
Come on, Rumi-chan! Can’t you explain it to me in Japanese?

RUMI
Boy! Why did you buy a computer when you didn’t know anything about it?

MIMA
Because they said it was easy!

RUMI
Oh, all right. I’ll explain it from the beginning once more…

MIMA
Okay!

Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue

16 Whose names might be a reference, though I can’t be bothered to look it up, to the group known for their cinematic scores, Tomandandy.

(Perfect Blue images copyright Mad House, Black Swan images copyright Fox Searchlight, Taxi Driver images copyright Columbia Pictures.)

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