The eeriness of Satoshi Kon’s 1997 Japanese anime film Perfect Blue rings true even after 23 years of its release. The film follows the life of a J-pop idol turned actress, Mima, and her spiralling sense of reality. The brilliant and nerve-racking soundtrack, and the jarring, painfully bright colours translate Mima’s anxiety and nervousness for the viewer.
Satoshi Kon, through his innovative cinematography, manages to create multiple versions of Mima in the anime. As Mima’s doppelgänger, Mima’s idol persona, Mima as the actress in the series ‘Double Bind’, the personality of Mima presented through the blog – the real Mima, if at all she exists, is lost to herself. In the ending scene of the anime, Mima says, “No, I am real.”
She appears to be convincing herself that she is the real Mima. We wait in anticipation for the director of the ‘Double Bind’ series to say cut, and it never comes. The ambiguity of the film makes one re-watch it multiple times. I viewed it five times, and it still escapes my comprehension. The film truly makes one question if it is humanly possible to find your “true self” or the “real me”.
I am a multilingual person who speaks English, Telugu and a bit of Hindi. I am also trying to learn Korean. My personality tends to change when I switch from one language to another. I am louder and jovial in Telugu, serious and contemplative in English, and under confident and soft in Hindi. I have assumed multiple versions of myself – numerous doppelgängers.
Societal norms dictate our behaviour. Based on the person we interact with, we mould our personality. We change our character to suit the changing situation. We wear a different image when we interact with our friends, family, peers, colleagues or professors. We do our best to follow the pre-designated rules. At times, patience gets the best of us and we deviate. Only to be chastised and coerced into going back to wearing the carefully, crafted mask. We create doppelgängers, nostalgic about our “true selves” and thus resembling Mima.
The quest to figure out “true selves” driven by consumerism and notions of romanticism has become so vital that I spend my time writing and contemplating this article at 4 am without sleep. “True selves” and the narrative of “real me” enable us to figure out our life goals and about what we want to do with this life. It only makes sense that our generation lives on the verge of anxiety and confusion than ever. Nonetheless, what if the question does not have an answer? Is it possible to have a single idea of “me” when we are on a journey to generate and shape doppelgängers because society wants us to? Or perhaps, because we want to?
In a world where people pass every waking moment of their lives more in the realm of social media and the internet, the realm where they manufacture their images, what is the “real”?
In a world where we fashion and wear plentiful identities, how does one identify their “true selves”? Globalisation and the Internet, in a post-modern society, made possible the ability to consume Italian pasta while listening to K-pop at an Indian restaurant. I am writing on a Japanese anime film in English for an Indian media platform. A French philosopher, Jean-François Lyotard, calls this the post-modern condition. We cherry-pick amongst the several cultures presented to us daily. We experience and wear numerous identities at once, and in a single span of time. Almost like a glitch – we’re constantly morphing.
When our ideas, beliefs and meaning of the “real self” are undergoing such alterations, how is it possible to surely assert, “No, this is the real me.” The question we need to ponder over is whether we have discovered our “real selves” or are we like Mima, merely convincing ourselves that we have figured it out? I do not have the answer to this question, and I do not know if I ever will.
Gnanavi Gummadi is a final year student at Jindal Global Law School, Sonepat.