Did Black Swan Take (Too Much) Inspiration From Perfect Blue?

After watching the popular film Black Swan, my cousin informed me of its alleged inspiration, an anime called Perfect Blue. Although the director of Black Swan denies any influence, there are clear similarities between the two. I noticed these similar aspects in the films, but I am disappointed by the lack of attention the anime received in comparison to its counterpart. 

Directed by Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan is a psychological thriller following a ballerina’s strive for perfection and eventual demise. Starring Natalie Portman, the film shows how the young dancer slowly loses her mind after receiving the role of Swan Queen in the popular ballet Swan Lake.

Perfect Blue is about Mima, an ex-popstar and current wannabe actress. She makes life altering decisions and defies her morals in an attempt to appeal to a new audience; simultaneously, a stalker takes a liking to Mima, and her sense of reality slowly dissipates.

There are immediate similarities between the two films. One of the easiest to spot is the iconic “bathtub scene,” in which the protagonists submerge themselves in the bathtub. In addition, the main characters’ names are very similar: Nina and Mima. Nina is a ballerina, which may be an ode to Mima’s ballerina-esque outfit that she wears when performing. The general plotlines of the films are also very similar. The main characters each think the world is against them, but are really their own worst enemies. Both involve young women attempting to perfect their craft, and slowly giving up their morals as they spiral into delusion. 

There is debate over whether or not Aronofsky “copied” Perfect Blue. He denies it, but any viewer can see the similarities between the two. Whether or not the director actually copied Perfect Blue is not the problem. The problem lies in the fact that Black Swan, an American live-action film, receives significantly more praise than Perfect Blue, a Japanese anime. People are quick to dismiss animation as something for children, when, in reality, animated movies can be just as sophisticated as live action. In the case of Perfect Blue, not only is the plot complex, but the director uses animation to add to the mind-bending qualities of the film by playing with color, physics, and character composition.

The difference in popularity also highlights Western society’s tendency to only popularize American movies. International films are often more complex and informative than American media, but they are overshadowed by their high-budget, star-studded American counterparts. There needs to be an increase in appreciation for movies made outside of America. 

 Perfect Blue and Black Swan have their own unique qualities, but there are undeniable similarities. More people who watch Black Swan should be aware of Perfect Blue. I recommend watching the two and deciding for yourself if Black Swan truly is copied from Perfect Blue.

(Sources: Netflix, The Odyssey Online, Reddit)

Categories: Culture, Lifestyle

2 replies »

  1. There may be similarities in the style of imagery or general themes, however, by a very long shot. I watched Black Swan before Perfect Blue and it was advertised as a complete rip off of the anime. In my opinion, that is just false. The purpose and central conflict of both films is drastically different and Black Swan does a remarkable job of portraying it, as does Perfect Blue. But in no capacity are they comparable. They are very different films of the same genre.

  2. Studio Ghibli definitely didn’t have anything to do with Perfect Blue. Satoshi Kon directed it. Madhouse produced it. Very, very different vibes than what Ghibli puts out. Everything else is share, but has already been covered inn articles that came out years ago.

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