REVIEW: Perfect Blue – Complete Metamorphosis (1991)

A Book by Yoshikazu Takeuchi

Usually, I’m not too affected by celebrity deaths, however, I can recall one instance when I was fairly upset about one. This was the untimely death of writer/director Satoshi Kon of pancreatic cancer in 2010. He was a visionary anime director that seemed to be more popular as a cult filmmaker here in The West versus his own home country, which is an absolute shame. There are even directors here that have built a career on the back of his work, while taking all of the credit, such as Darren Aronofsky who routinely plagiarized entire scenes from Kon’s films. Kon saw himself as a failure because his films, despite critical acclaim, were generally not big box-office powerhouses and retained a niche audience in japan. He struggled to get films financed at times and died before he started to get much recognition. If you take anything from this review, I recommend venturing into his works because filmmakers like him don’t come around very often.

Like many, my first taste of a work by Satoshi Kon was the film Perfect Blue from 1997. Often imitated, this film was a shock of psychological horror that many did not expect from an animated film at the time. Few people, however realize that the story from Perfect Blue was actually, in itself, an adaptation of a book by the same name by author Yoshikazu Takeuchi. The two projects are similar, but very different in many ways, making this a worthwhile read by fans of the film without it being a complete retread. There are actually two novels in “the series” by the author, and I plan to read the second book fairly soon. Yoshikazu Takeuchi doesn’t have a ton of writing credits under his belt that I can find (perhaps English language sources are incomplete), but what a way to make a splash with a book like this!

THE ORIGINAL NOVEL THAT INSPIRED THE CULT CLASSIC FILM BY SATOSHI KON

Kirigoe Mima is in the third year of her career as a pure and innocent pop idol. Feeling like something big needs to change, she plans to give her image a major update. When the new Mima is revealed–complete with a sexy outfit and a risqué photo book—one of her most obsessive fans refuses to accept her transformation. To restore Mima to the innocent girl of her debut, he puts a terrifying plan to action that throws her life into chaos and mortal peril. “

As with the film of the same name, Perfect Blue tells the story of a Japanese idol pop singer that has “aged out” of her niche as a youthful girl in a frilly dress, and is being pushed into the much seedier world of risque photo shoots and spicier content to capture an adult male audience. This is a risk, but if Kirigoe Mima wants to stay relevant she has to make changes to her career. She does this by risking potentially losing her closest fans to attempt to create new ones. One of these concerned fans is a man utterly obsessed with the virgin wholesomeness of what he perceives to be the character Mima portrays on stage. He lives in near squalor in a small apartment surrounded by VHS tapes of various idol singers, material that he often pleasures himself to. He would never do something so gross with Mima, however, as she is the only women he does not see as using men in some way. That’s why when he hears about the potential changes, he sees himself as the only one that can keep her “pure”. This monstrous character, named Mamoru Uchida in the film, or “The Charming Rose” here, takes a FAR darker role in the book, and is the defacto villain of the story. I won’t spoil what eventually happens, but the book and the film diverge from each other in an abrupt manner towards the middle of the story, and I was pretty shocked as to where it goes.

I’ve seen some say that this original version of the story “lacks social commentary” on other reviews, and I vehemently disagree. One the absolute surface level, this could be seen as an extreme commentary on obsessive fandom. I mean, look at how the public reacts to just about anything on social media now. We have had people quit entire social networking accounts simply because a character is not to the fans liking and they bully said person until they fear for their lives. More importantly, I see this as somehow more relevant than it ever was today, largely due to the rise of the term “Incel”. An Incel is a self-imposed name put on men that feel they are “Involuntarily celibate” due to perceived manipulations from women, who they see as evil in many ways. Their desire for some sort of unattainable standard of a virtuous pure woman that will worship them no matter how they act, has turned into a new form of misogyny that has led to terrorist acts in the past. “The Charming Rose” pre-dates this term dy nearly 30 years, but somehow taps into the very soul of one of these people. He spends his time nurturing a narrative about what Mima is supposed to be, with anything straying being seen as a personal attack on himself. He makes it clear that he hates all women except for this idolized vision of one that honestly does not really exist. Let’s give Yoshikazu Takeuchi credit where it’s due – he predicted the future quite well.

By itself, this is a pulse-pounding thriller that will keep the reader on the edge of their seat for the entire relatively short duration of the novel. For fans of the Satoshi Kon film, a fn will enjoy this not only to see where the story came from, but get an alternate “what if” addition to the plot. Who knows, if the antagonist in the film had not made themselves known, this could have been where the plot would have led afterall. I enjoyed this book a lot, and definitely need to seek out more by the author if I can, otherwise I really should start reading more japanese thrillers as they are quick reads and generally pretty exciting. So, next time you have a big unpopular opinion about a bit of fandom you are into, think about how crazy “The Charming Rose” ended up and step back. Don’t be like that guy.

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