Database for Animation Studies


Making Sense of Complex Narration in Perfect Blue

Although identified as a feature of the film by both critics and researchers, the narrative complexity of Perfect Blue (Satoshi Kon, Madhouse, 1997) has been ambiguously defined. In this article, the authors examine the complex narration in Kon’s first feature film, equivocal and obscure in its more confusing points, through a narratological analysis of the film’s most ambiguous scenes. Using cognitive film theory as introduced by David Bordwell and Edward Branigan, they link its approach in terms of the modulation of information flow throughout the film – high knowledgeability, high self-consciousness and (occasionally) low communicativeness – with the conventions of the slasher genre. Their analysis of the more perplexing scenes in Perfect Blue is reinforced by monitoring the veiled changes of focalization between the film’s three focalizers: Mima, Uchida (aka Me-Mania) and Rumi. In order to do this, they explore how the narration – in the tradition of contemporary puzzle films – makes use of judgements, preconceptions and cognitive illusions in the spectators’ activity to conceal Rumi’s involvement in the persecution of Mima and the murders committed. In the conclusion, they associate the film’s complex narration with its critical commentary on the representation of Japanese pop idols (and former idols) and the state of audiovisual entertainment in Japan.

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Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal
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