perfect blue book

Paraphrasing the words of a certain author, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a book will be almost always better than its movie adaptation. Yes, almost always because, despite the clear propensity of the written source being much more interesting and developed, sometimes flukes happen and the movie is indeed superior. That is why when many avid Japanese literature readers and Satoshi Kon fans found out that Perfect Blue was based on an original book written by Yoshikazu Takeuchi in 1991, they knew they had to read it. They wanted more details on Mima’s descent to apparent insanity due to the pressure that the entertainment business and societal expectations are both parts terrifying and fascinating.

The masterful Satoshi Kon’s cinematography is full of match cuts, and saturated colors, and the spine-chilling musical score was just perfect. Even after all these years, Perfect Blue is still a movie that stands the test of time. If this was the case, it meant that the source material is just as good, but probably in a way that only literature can offer. Unfortunately, there was no translation of the original work in English. However, even before its translation and publication in 2018 by Seven Seas, there were some comments here and there online about the novel’s quality, saying it was “underwhelming”. Since back then there was no way to see if the rumors were true, many fans were excited, that is, until they read the actual book.

What is the plot of the Perfect Blue novel?

Libro Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis (Light Novel) (Perfect Blue (Light Novel)) (libro en Inglés), Yoshikazu Takeuchi, ISBN 9781626926455. Comprar en Buscalibre

Perfect Blue follows the story of Mima Kirigoe, a young woman who works as a solo idol. After three years of moderate success, her management proposes to her a change of image that reflects better her maturity. This obviously translates into a not-so-subtle sexualization that involves more revealing outfits, gravure photoshoots, and racy song lyrics. However, Mima does not seem to mind much. As long her team keeps “things tasteful”, she is all for it. 

This transition is not easy though and the presence of an industry rival named Eri Ochiai makes it even more difficult. This supposedly over-sexualized 16-year-old rookie idol is set on stealing fans from Mima as she hates her previous pure and innocent persona. However, when she feels that Mima is creeping on her turf with her more sexy new persona, Eri decides she needs to ruin her career by manipulating others and spreading rumors that taint her perceived purity. Simultaneously, another person is also unhappy with Mima’s change. A disturbed fan with psychopathic tendencies named “Darling Rose” is upset that his idol does not fit the virginal ideal he has of her in his mind. This will lead to a series of worrying stalking incidents and a bloody conclusion for everyone involved. 

How different is the Perfect Blue Novel from the Anime?

Crunchyroll - Reprints “Perfect Blue” Storyboard Book

One of the main differences is the fact that Mima’s internal conflict is nowhere to be seen. While she is initially uncomfortable with her imposed sexualization, she quickly embraces it. However, this is more an understood business move than a plea for liberation. In fact, if anything, the Perfect Blue book resembles the in-movie TV show, Double-Bind. Just as the police procedure show, there is a killer who skins women to become them and there is an actress named Eri Ochiai, but here she plays the character of a psychiatrist. There is no nuance and social commentary, it is just the tale of an obsessed and dangerous man after Mima.

It seems that Kon knew this was not going to work as it was on paper, so he got creative and took the elements and characters he liked and reconfigured them as he pleased to give them a new life. While any book lover would cringe at the mere idea of changing things up, it is fair to say that the fanbase should be grateful he did. Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue is just that, perfect, and this book seemingly lacks this quality.

Final Thoughts

Perfect Blue review – cult anime pushes teenage girl over the edge | Anime | The Guardian

While the Perfect Blue novel is an interesting piece of collector’s memorabilia and entertaining enough in its own right, this cinematic Mima offered by Satoshi Kon is just more fleshed out and engaging. It is rare and you can count on your fingers how many times it happens, but movies can be superior. Sometimes it just takes a genius director to do so.

The Yoshikazu Takeuchi version of Perfect Blue, while interesting enough to keep the reader engaged in the work, is too vapid to care much about it. The themes of commodification and exploitation are there, but they are explored to a painful surface level. Some might say that the fact that Mima embraces her new image is empowering since she is exploring her own sexuality.

Unfortunately, this conclusion is a stretch since it is never clear that the author was going there on purpose. In this universe, Mima is a product and she is well aware of it. It is disappointing and sad, but at least we have a version of her somewhere that fights for her life to be her own person.

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