Why Perfect Blue is Terrifying: An Addendum

by Raymond H

It's been one year since Super Eyepatch Wolf released Why Perfect Blue is Terrifying. So what better time for Raymond to start some shit by quibbling with one of his analytical idols?
Today's song is ...


This article is meant as an addendum to Super Eyepatch Wolf’s video essay, Why Perfect Blue is Terrifying, so if you haven’t seen that already, please do so, as you may not fully fathom the following otherwise. Also, I must stress that this is meant as an addendum, rather than a refutation or confrontation. Why Perfect Blue is Terrifying is an amazing analysis, and Wolf is an enjoyable essayist very much worth your time and, if you possess the extra funds, your patronage. The reason I felt this addendum was necessary was simply the fact that I believe Wolf neglected to mention a vital aspect of Perfect Blue, which would add much more significance and depth to his already wonderful video. So, if you will have this young upstart and his addendum, I shall begin.

In Why Perfect Blue is Terrifying, Super Eyepatch Wolf discusses the concept of avatars, and how an audience’s perception of someone or something can lend credence to a fictional persona, even if it bears little resemblance to the real individual behind said persona. However, Wolf presents this conflict, and how it plays out in Perfect Blue, as a simple conflict of truth versus fiction. The true Mima the person struggles against the fictional Mima the idol, as the latter takes on a life of her own due to the idea of her built up by her more die-hard fans. However, there is another aspect to this relationship between celebrity-and-fan, reality-and-fiction that Wolf does not discuss: that of ownership. It isn’t simply that Mima’s more radical fans, as represented by the stalker Me-Mania, believe in the existence of Mima’s fictional persona, but rather, that they believe in their ownership of that persona. In the scene Wolf calls upon, where Me-Mania positions his hand so that it appears Mima is dancing in it, he does this not only because he believes fanatically in Mima the idol as opposed to Mima the person, but also because he believes that Mima the idol belongs to him. He owns her. He likens himself to her master, and so when Mima the person dares to defy this order of ownership Me-Mania has constructed, Me-Mania lashes out violently and seeks to destroy the real Mima so that only the fictional Mima will remain.

This is why, despite Wolf being correct on how this story is more relevant than ever thanks to the advent of social media, I am afraid I must disagree with his assertion that the fear behind Perfect Blue is one that can be applied to every mini-celebrity on the internet. Don’t worry, this will be the only time I disagree with Wolf. However, my reasons for this disagreement are the simple fact that, while I believe in the existence of Super Eyepatch Wolf, the fictional persona, at no point do I ever believe that I own Wolf. The fictional Wolf I know may exist to provide me with entertaining and engaging essays on various topics, but he does not exist to fulfill some deeper, darker desire of mine. Indeed, unless you’re a Furry or you get off on agreeable Irish accents, you also most likely receive no sexual satisfaction from watching Wolf’s videos. If the service which Wolf supplies us, his loyal audience, is slow to be put out or does not fulfill our expectations, we may complain bitterly in the comments section, or badger him on social media, but at worst this would only generate extreme annoyance or frustration on Wolf’s part, rather than genuine fear. It is only when the service delves into the realm of sexual desire, as the business of idolatry which Mima is a part of does, that a narrative of horror could truly work.

The business of idols falls right into the realm of Madonnas, Whores, and those who buy into the unquestionable dichotomy that lies between. Denizens of the Japanophile areas of the internet will probably know the story of Minami Minegishi, a member of AKB48 who, after being photographed walking with male idol Alan Shirahama out of his apartment, became the target of a massive fan backlash, was demoted to a lower-tiered unit of AKB, and issued a public apology with a shaved head. This controversy in and of itself became the subject of another, larger controversy concerning the more sinister sexual elements behind idol culture in Japan. You see, the reason Minegishi aroused such uproar was not simply because she violated her no-dating contract with AKB48, but because that contract was expressly put into place so that fans could project a feeling of ownership onto her and her fellow idols. Now, it should be noted that they’re not called idols for nothing. To many fans, idols genuinely serve as people to look up to, as someone whose optimism and cheer helps brighten up our days and whose music brings us comfort and joy, and I would be doing little more than shameless Japan-bashing were I to only focus on the negative aspect of Japanese idol culture. However, this negative aspect does exist, and is at the forefront of Perfect Blue. For all the fans that look up to idols as aspirational models, there are fans that look down on idols as commodities, meant to be purchased and owned for these fans’ own dark satisfaction. If you look at the apartment of Me-Mania, you can see that it is filled to the brim with Mima merchandise, physical aspects of the idol fiction that can be bought and possessed, just as Me-Mania craves to do with the “actual” Mima herself.

However, it goes even deeper than that. Another reason I believe that Wolf’s statement on mini-celebrities is not entirely accurate is the fact that Perfect Blue, and the aspect of entertainment culture which it examines, deals in a specifically gendered realm, that realm being the one I mentioned earlier, with Madonnas, Whores, and those who unquestionably buy into the dichotomy that lies between. Throughout the film, Mima struggles to find an outlet for her creativity that does not box her into either one of those categories. She retires from her profession as an idol because she tires of being boxed into the category of Madonna, and afterwards, the roles and jobs she takes on are ones that portray her in a more explicitly sexual light. However, as she is broken out of the category of Madonna, this career choice initially just causes Mima to be boxed into the different, but no less restrictive, category of Whore. This of course, causes her a great deal of inner turmoil and distress, because after all, Mima does not fit into either the category of Madonna or Whore. No real human being does, and Mima is, as Wolf so eloquently illustrated, a real human being. Eventually, thanks to her giving a glittering performance in the drama she acts in, Mima does seem to finally break out of both categories, and is able to successfully pursue a satisfying career as an actress. However, Mima’s struggle with this dichotomous system is an aspect of Perfect Blue that I believe must be addressed alongside the other excellent thematic analyses made by Wolf.

Finally, before I conclude, it is necessary that I address one final element of the film. For those of you who have not seen Perfect Blue already, please, I must urge you not to continue reading any further, as I will be discussing a MAJOR spoiler, and I wish you to experience the movie without this foreknowledge. If you’ve already seen the movie, or have already been spoiled by someone else, feel free to continue. But otherwise, I must warn you to not read beyond this point.


I meant it.

Still there?

Well, alright. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. Anyways, the element I must address is that of Rumi, Mima’s manager, who ends up being the real killer behind most of the events of the film. The reason I must discuss this should be obvious. After all, I just spent all this time talking about gender politics and the Madonna-Whore Complex. Surely, the fact that Rumi, another woman, is behind everything rather than Me-Mania, a man, completely skews my entire analysis of Perfect Blue. Actually though, it doesn’t. At least, not quite. You see, men are not the only ones who can buy into and enable the Madonna-Whore Complex. Women can be just as vicious and unquestioning in their devotion to this idea; just look at Phyllis Schlafly, or the conflict between anti-pornography and sex-positive feminism that arose in the 1970’s. However, there is a notable difference between Rumi’s obsession and Me-Mania’s obsession, and their concepts of ownership towards the Mima identity, and this difference is tied to their genders. Both want to possess the idolized image of Mima that they have in their heads. However, while Me-Mania wants to own Mima as a separate entity, Rumi wants to own Mima’s identity as her own identity, as shown by her apartment, her running of the Mima’s Room website, and the absolutely terrifying climax, when Rumi’s obsession reaches critical mass. Because of this, while Me-Mania and Rumi’s obsessions are different, I still contend that they both stem from their belief in their ownership of Mima. And this, the idea that we can not only lose control of our avatars, but ownership as well, is an even deeper, and even more terrifying aspect of Perfect Blue than that which was discussed by Super Eyepatch Wolf.

With that, I have said all I believe necessary to say. Once again, if you have not done so already, please check out both Perfect Blue and Super Eyepatch Wolf. I hope that my analysis proved satisfactory to you readers, especially if Wolf himself happens to be one of those readers. And once again, I would like to stress that this was meant purely as an addendum to Wolf’s video, rather than a refutation or confrontation. So, with that, I bid thee farewell and good day. As Himan Brown would say, pleasant…dreams?

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Comments (go to latest)
Arthur B at 11:16 on 2018-05-14
Interesting article. I would take issue "It is only when the service delves into the realm of sexual desire, as the business of idolatry which Mima is a part of does, that a narrative of horror could truly work" though. It's true that sexual desire is a lightning rod for all sorts of intense feelings, and so frequently celebrity stalker types and similar will cite it as a motivation, but people are complex and there's billions of them out there - including people unwell enough to develop unhealthy fixations on anything.

I would say that the larger any particular person's fanbase grows, the more likely it is that that fanbase will include someone with an excessive obsession - perhaps you hit that point faster in highly sexually-charged fields, perhaps not. I've been listening over the last couple weeks to The Last Podcast On the Left's fascinating exploration of the life of Mark David Chapman, the man who shot John Lennon, and the stuff that motivated him was a) far wilder than the simplistic version of the story that gets propagated and b) not particularly sexual in nature.

As far as the avatar thing goes, you remind me that I really need to get around to posting my Videodrome review.
Raymond H at 13:14 on 2018-05-14
That is...a very good point actually. I suppose what motivated this addendum/quibble was the fact that in his video, Wolf specifically cites sexually-charged stalker incidents (such as Perfect Blue and Ricardo Lopez), before proposing his thesis that that kind of thing could happen to any possible type of mini-celebrity, regardless of whatever type of service their audience derives from them. I hadn't actually considered Chapman, but now that you mention it that does raise a further complexity I overlooked. Egads! We've entered triple quibble territory(try saying that fast three times)!
By the way, would you mind at all if I posted this to Wolf's reddit, to see if it elicits a response from anyone?
And you remind me that I still haven't watched The Brood, despite it being on my play-instant queue for several months.
Arthur B at 15:30 on 2018-05-14
We've never been fussy about where people post links, if only because we've never really believed you can control who links to your stuff anyway. :)

You should watch The Brood.
Raymond H at 23:21 on 2018-05-14
Alright then. Thanks!
I know, I know! I keep meaning to, but I rarely have sit-down time for full-length movies these days.
Ichneumon at 03:35 on 2018-05-18
A good op-ed here, although I would have liked if you'd brought up the folie à deux aspect and how it ties into the way a culture of ownership over women's bodies and identities can create a fractured self-image and persona.
Ichneumon at 03:46 on 2018-05-18
Unrelatedly, I have written some paltry sum of anime criticism myself (mostly babbling about the later instalments of the Monogatari franchise for THEM) and certainly have watched far more analyses of Japanese cartoons than is likely healthy, so seeing someone discussing the subject on Ferretbrain is quite intriguing. Fare thee well, friend. :3
Raymond H at 00:36 on 2018-05-21
Oh, thank you. "blush"
Unfortunately I'm afraid I couldn't have met your request, as I'd never even heard the term folie à deux until I read your comment. You bring up a good point though, which is somewhat addressed in more detail in another Wolf video here (it doesn't quite go into the gendered aspect of things, but it does address shared delusions).
Um...who do you mean by THEM? Like, giant mutant ants? The Illuminati? Your parents? Joking aside though, I think I like my current routine (can I even call it that when I've only posted 3 articles?) of odd-numbered articles being anime-related, and even-numbered articles being something else, since I do like other things besides just anime. So hopefully you will see many more anime things here. Thank you very much for your kind words. :)
Ichneumon at 04:57 on 2018-05-30
THEM Anime Reviews is a very long-standing website which, if I am not mistaken, grew out of the University of Arizona's science fiction club back in the '90s. It's a bit of a pleasant time warp. I wound up on staff due through a vacancy and simply being in that orbit for a very long time, although proceedings are leisurely regardless.
Raymond H at 12:14 on 2018-05-30
Ooooh! THEM! I googled "them anime reviews" and suddenly found a site that I'd visited several times but which I'd never bothered to find the name for. It's like THEY'VE been in the shadows all this time, awaiting THEIR glorious return and ascendancy (so kind of like Blockbuster, I guess). Thanks. :)
Robinson L at 18:06 on 2018-06-28
I would've read the spoilers anyway, but strangely enough (considering my limited repertoire) I actually did watch this movie several years ago. It's been long enough that while I remembered all the main beats, many of the details were pretty fuzzy. I believe I liked it at the time, as I'm a sucker for psychological thrillers and stories which play around with 2what is real and what isn't. However, I'm often frustrated when the ending is either a cop-out ("*all* of it was a dream!"), or so ambiguous as to be totally incoherent. I guess I like mysteries in fiction, but I like them to have a satisfying answer. So I was pleased that the ending of Perfect Blue delivered a satisfying, unexpected but plausible solution - with, of course, a small reality-challenging bit thrown in at the very end because I guess that's obligatory.

However, I've never wanted to revisit the film, and even after seeing Super Eyepatch Wolf's video essay and reading this article, I still don't feel any great desire to check it out again. Maybe someday.

Anyway, I enjoyed both the essay and the article, they raise interesting points, which I guess I don't have anything to add to.
Raymond H at 12:08 on 2018-06-30
Thank you. I never really liked the idea of the two switching places though, as it seemed to defeat the whole purpose of the plot.
Robinson L at 00:00 on 2018-07-11
Huh, I don't remember Mima ever literally switching places with Rumi. When did that happen?
Raymond H at 06:39 on 2018-07-15
I thought that was the final mind-screw thing that people say happened but that I didn't actually notice happening: Mima says "I'm the real thing." in Rumi's voice (apparently, although I didn't notice it) at the end, and you're supposed to wonder if the two switched places or something, which, again, I think defeats the entire narrative arc of the film.
Arthur B at 12:02 on 2018-07-15
As I understand it that's actually a goof in the English dub - it was meant to be Mima saying it but they had Rumi's voice actress saying it instead.
Raymond H at 06:26 on 2018-07-16
Ohhh, okay! I was told the opposite, so when I watched the film in Japanese both times and failed to hear the switched voices I thought something was weird. But it was the English dub, not the Japanese dub. Thanks.
Robinson L at 00:00 on 2018-08-03
As I understand it that's actually a goof in the English dub

That also explains how I missed it. I can't remember why, anymore, because it goes against my general preference and tendencies, but the one time I saw Perfect Blue I watched the original Japanese audio track with subtitles, which evidently didn't have that one.
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