From Book to Film: Perfect Blue

If you’re an anime fan (or a fan of animation in general) you’ve probably seen or at least heard of the anime film Perfect Blue, directed by the late Satoshi Kon.

Image result for perfect blue poster

What you probably didn’t know was that the anime is actually an adaptation of a book: Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis by Yoshikazu Takeuchi.

Originally published in 1991 (the anime came out in 1997), the book was only picked up for an English translation and release this winter. It’s pretty short and simple to read, but man, what a read!

Recently I’ve had trouble reading actual books (that weren’t comics); I would pick up one book with interest only to abandon it later. But with this book, I could not put it down. It kept me hooked from start to finish. It was a genuine thriller, with a lot of twists and a smashing ending.

It is worth noting, however, that the book is actually quite different from the anime.

In the book, Mima does not switch careers from a pop idol to an actress; she stays an idol but decides to revamp her image. An unnamed male stalker does not like the idea of his seemingly pure, perfect, virginal idol becoming sexier and ‘tarnished’. He’ll go to any lengths to keep her the way she is. It’s a really chillingly accurate and scary depiction of an obsessed, misogynistic fan who views female celebrities as icons and not as real people, feeling entitled to them and not taking it well when they no longer fit his image, but takes it to a very, very, VERY extreme.

The book is actually pretty simple and straightforward. This is an instance of a film adaptation that actually adds MORE detail and layers rather than simplifying it. The film focuses less on the stalker and more on Mima and how the pressures of changing careers and how the world views her takes a toll on her mental health, blurring the lines between what’s real and what’s not. It’s not just a stalker she has to worry about; someone she thought she could trust turns on her as well.

I can definitely understand why the adaptation is not totally faithful to the book though. If it was, the film would be too short (probably only about an hour long) and WAAAY too gross (flaying is involved. That’s all I’m going to spoil). It also explores the messed up world of pop idols in further detail from the pop idol’s point of view.

While the movie is a definite work of art, there were a few things I actually did like better in the book. Mainly, the characters. While Mima has a bigger role in the movie, I find her more confident and assertive in the book. And I like how the people she works with genuinely care about her and want her to succeed, rather than exploit her. The movie also isn’t exactly the best depiction of mental health, either.

That said, I can absolutely enjoy both versions of the story. They serve as great companion pieces for each other. They both share the same premise: what happens when a seemingly ‘pure’ girl tries to sex up her image, and how people react to that.

If you like the premise but find the movie too hard to follow (I admit I got a little annoyed at parts), I recommend the book. If you’re interested in a scary, intense thriller, I also recommend the book. If you’re interested in exploring the mind of a stalker and predator that also humanizes the women he preys on, I recommend the book. Actually, I recommend the book to everyone. It helped reinvigorate my love of reading.

Just a few warnings: the book is suggested for ‘older teens’, but I think a mature rating is more appropriate. There’s a lot of graphic violence and sexuality. A child is killed at one point in the story, and another female character is raped and murdered (the rape is censored though). It’s not necessarily exploitative or meant to titillate readers, but it can be upsetting.

If you can get past that, the book is amazing and a great way to explore the world of Japanese storytelling beyond anime and manga. I hope to find more Japanese novels and short stories translated into English; maybe the success of this book can help.



“Excuse me, who are you?” Perfect Blue/Legend of Korra Parallels

Perfect Blue is widely hailed as one of the greatest and most influential anime films of all time. You can actually read about the influence it (and other Satoshi Kon films) had in Hollywood HERE, but I think there’s another piece of media Perfect Blue had an impact on: The Legend of Korra.


PB is about a young woman, Mima, who decides to give up being a pop idol and instead become an actress in a rather seedy production. The stress and pressure of the new part (including a part where she has to film a rape scene and it feels TOO real) begins to wear on her, and the ghosts of her past eat away at her. Most notably, she keeps seeing a vision of her old self, who routinely taunts and haunts her. Mima begins to lose her grip on reality and then shit hits the fan. I can’t really explain the film because it’s so off the wall, but I think I got the basic gist of it.

I think something really similar happens in Korra; at the beginning of the fourth season, Korra is still reeling from a traumatic incident (also akin to a rape scene). She gives up being the Avatar (like Mima gave up on being a pop idol) and is trying to pursue her own path, but every time she tries to move on, she’s visited by the ghost of HER past; a dark version of herself, when she was poisoned and tried to kill her attacker.

This apparition (like in PB, it’s not clear if it’s real, or if it’s in the character’s head, or something else entirely) also taunts and haunts Korra, relentlessly following her and preventing her from getting better. It drives Korra over the edge and nearly kills her. Both Mima and Korra have to fight against this new apparition, even when it takes the form of someone they know who has a personal grudge against them.

These women tell the main character that she is worthless and not needed anymore and essentially not REAL, and they can be replaced. Ultimately, the heroines decide to save/spare the lives of their enemies, stop hallucinating, and are very confident in their identities (at least for Korra; Mima’s case is a little more ambiguous).

It’s a little hard to make a written comparison since most of the parallels are more visual (and there are probably other parallels I missed), so I recommend watching the first few episodes of the fourth season of Legend of Korra and Perfect Blue to see for yourself.