So this post was planned to go up on 31st October as part of the KawaiiPaperPandas Spooktober Spooktacular but as Robert Burns said in his 1786 poem, To A Mouse, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley” or translated from Scots to English, “The best laid plains of mice and men often go awry”.
Something that truly terrifies me is the idea losing grasp of myself and the reality around me. The idea that what I percieve as truth may in fact be a lie or a construct of someone else’s imagination, and this is something that the late anime director Satoshi Kon explored in two of his films, Paprika (2006) and Perfect Blue (1997). Kon is one of my favourite anime directors, and this is because his films force me to question my own perspective on morality and reality. For example, Tokyo Godfathers (2003) questions the moral choice between returning an abandoned infant to a mentally unfit parent, or raising the child without the resources to provide a good quality of life for them. This is all veiled by a comedic and Christmassy tone in a cold and crazy Tokyo winter.
But back to the main point of this post, the terrifying reality of a chaotic lack of reality. Paprika explores the blurring lines between dreams and real life as the characters become less and less able to grasp what is real or fake around them, and if they are ever truly awake. This film has a much lighter tone, but the existential dread of this nihilistic concept really reverbirated throughout my body during my first watch of this feature. But when this is twisted into a horrifying and psychological theme, you can truly experience that raw terror that the concept presents.
I was inspired to talk about this when watching an episode of Black Mirror called ‘Playtest’ with my sister a few weeks ago. The episode follows a man who goes to test a new piece of gaming software that layers a game over reality (basically like some crazy augmented reality equipment) and throughout the episode we see him slowly lose grasp on reality, and the first thing that came to mind was Perfect Blue.
If you haven’t seen Perfect Blue (and you should do so if you haven’t, it’s a masterpiece), it follows a J-Pop idol singer called Mima as she retires from idol work in order to persue a serious acting career. This causes a backlash from her fans who begin to rebel against the change and an imposter begins posting very personal information about her online which causes her to question whether her public persona is acting on its own as she spirals into insanity, all whilst being followed by a dangerous and murderous stalker.
The truly terrifying aspect to Perfect Blue is that it’s more relevant now than its initial release with the growth of and wide usage of the Internet, with everyone having different personas on different social medias. For example, in the flesh, I don’t act or dress as a weeb. I don’t hide the fact that I watch anime but I don’t talk about it all the time, I don’t buy much anime merch (in fact I only have one figurine that I won from a machine in Japan). But on KawaiiPaperPandas, Twitter, and YouTube, I’m openly a weeb and work that into my online personality. I know that this example is not as extreme as what is presented in Perfect Blue but the point is that in this age of online conversation people develop different personalities for different online groups, and whilst I don’t lie about who I am, there are portions of myself I hide from you, and portions I hide from my friends in real life.
Another aspect I find terrifying (that is raised in the episode of Black Mirror is the truth that there are people out there that experience confusion with their reality via demmentia and alzhiemers, something I’ve experienced first hand with my own grandparents. The fear of forgetting who I am or portions of my life and living a confusing existence is something I genuinely am scared of and hope I never have to go through.
Out of his small library, what’s your favourite Kon work? Also does this aspect of Perfect Blue terrify you? Let me know below!