I haven’t purchased anime in about two years, but the last time I did was when I found the final three discs of a show called Paranoia Agent on clearance [Geneon had closed its anime distribution by then, I think] and the only reason I bought them is because it was only a 13-episode show and helmed by Satoshi Kon.
A lot of anime is garbage. Can we admit this honestly? Even the ‘good’ titles are often rehashes of familiar scifi and fantasy tropes. But occasionally something comes out that actually makes use of the freedom allowed by the medium of animation to create something well above a pandering cartoon.
Perfect Blue is one of those films. Kon’s first movie is a psychological thriller about a former pop idol who wants to make it as an actress and finds herself stalked by one of her former fans who isn’t pleased with her more adult career choices. The movie displays the start of Kon’s fascinations with the dichotomies of truth and identity, the utter obliteration of what is real and what isn’t, looping back to the same spot again and again, revealing that what you just watched didn’t actually happen [or did it]. It blew me away when I first saw it, and is so much more than the gruesome cover artwork of an icepick-wielding Mima spattered with blood. Yes, there is murder. Yes, there is a rape [or rather, the filming of a rape scene for a movie, a moment which totally freaked a friend out when she saw it for the first time]. But it is a skillfully plotted thriller worth multiple viewings, and a knockout win for a first-time director. Kon joined the Miyazakis and Watanabes on my list of anime makers I would always keep up on, names that would always get me to stop and look at the box.
Kon passed away this week from pancreatic cancer, in the middle of his most recent project. My first thought was that I was a fool for not seeing his most recent work, 2006’s Paprika. But I think now it’s a good thing. It means I’ll have two more hours where I can be wowed by the man’s genius, two more hours to press STOP on the remote and say, ‘What the hell was that?’ in the best possible way. Seeing as it’s based in dreams, knowing Kon, it’ll probably make at least 2/3 of Inception look like a student film. I can’t wait to rent it.
And just because I always thought it was so brilliantly unsettling, I’m throwing in the opening credits to Paranoia Agent, the show I bought years ago, about people who fall into utter despair, only to be smacked in the face with a baseball bat by a boy in golden rollerblades.
Just keep laughing, even as the world ends around you. Primetime viewing in Japan, that.
We lost a good one this time, and at 46, way too young.