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Anime / Perfect Blue

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"Excuse me. Who are you?"

Perfect Blue is the 1997 film debut of director Satoshi Kon, who would go on to produce other work investigating the boundary between the real and the imaginary such as Paprika, Paranoia Agent and Millennium Actress. Technically it's based off of a novel, titled Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis, but very loosely.

Mima Kirigoe is a mildly-popular Idol Singer who decides to leave her group to pursue a serious career as an actress. She manages to land a small role on a sexually-charged murder mystery series, but starts to struggle with the increasingly-intense demands of her part.

After her character is involved in a rape scene, Mima discovers an internet blog supposedly written by herself, or rather, the "innocent" persona she used as an Idol Singer. Mima has no memory of writing such a thing, but the entries are far too accurate and personal to be a hoax. Is it a Stalker with a Crush? Has Mima developed a Split Personality? Or is something far more sinister afoot?


Perfect Blue was originally released in the West in 1999 by Manga Entertainment. Around the film's 20th anniversary, Shout Factory and GKIDS released a remastered edition of the film in March 2019.

Perfect Blue provides examples of:

  • Acting in the Dark: In-universe, what the director of Double Bind does to his actors, making the parallels between then real Mima and the character she plays in the show even creepier as both start to suspect that they have been killing people and then blocking out the memories.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the original novel, Mr. Me-Mania the crazy stalker fan was just a Red Herring, while in the movie he commits at least one actual murder.
  • Adult Fear:
    • In the middle of all the violent drama and Mind Screw moments is a surprisingly realistic tale of people taking issue with a grown woman deciding to change her career and public image, and resorting to violence when she ignores their chaste expectations. Mima's mother calls her to express worry about changing careers in such a fashion, and Mima herself becomes worried when her stalker, Me-Mania, appears wherever she goes.
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    • In the climax, a bleeding woman is screaming for help and running for her life, but all the sidewalks are empty and the passing traffic doesn't notice her. Only one truck stops when they nearly run her and her assailant over, and call for an ambulance.
  • Animated Adaptation: Adapted from a novel. Sort of.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Or, at least, apologetic actor. During Mima's rape scene in the drama show, during a pause in the action, one of the actors who was leaning over her quietly apologizes to Mima for the actions during the scene. Thankfully, for both Mima and the unnamed actor, it's all a fake, and she's able to accept it since it was simply a part of the job.
  • Arc Words:
    • "Excuse me. Who are you?" This is Mima's first line on Double Bind, the acting job that sends her down this rabbit hole of insanity, and it gradually becomes very relevant as the theme of Loss of Identity sinks in. Who are you, Mima?
    • "The real Mima" and variants thereof come up a lot — specifically, who and what everyone perceives the "real" Mima to be, and if Mima is even sure herself. This comes to a head in two very different ways in the ending, depending on if you're watching the original Japanese or the English dub. In the Japanese version, the last line is Mima saying "I'm the real one" in Rumi's voice, which is quite chilling when you consider the implications. But in the English version, Mima says, in her own voice, "I'm the real thing," and the effect is surprisingly uplifting.
  • Asshole Victim: Pretty much everybody who got murdered, though the sheer brutality of their murders far outstripped any of the ways they'd wronged Mima. The one exception to this would be the one justifiable homicide committed in self-defense against a would-be rapist and murderer.
  • Attempted Rape: Near the end of the film the stalker Me-Mania attempts to rape and kill Mima, but she knocks him out by slamming a hammer into the side of his head.
  • Author Appeal: In-universe - it's suggested that the seedier aspects of Double Bind are done largely so the screenwriter can indulge his own perverted fantasies.
  • Ax-Crazy: Me-Mania, Mima at one point and Rumi.
  • Bait the Dog:
    • Me-Mania after his Establishing Character Moment stops some thugs from rabble-rousing at Mima's last concert, and she even smiles at him. Then after the "real Mima" asks him to get rid of her "impostor," he zealously obliges.
    • Likewise, Rumi seems to be protecting Mima's best interests and attempts to support her transition from a bubbly pop star to an actress, by not getting exploited. Then Rumi starts killing people and wants the real Mima to be her last victim.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Played with—when Mima poses nude, her pubic hair is shown, but there is still no sign of her actual genitalia.
  • Be Careful What You Say: Mima's managers tell the Double Bind producers that they want Mima to have a bigger role and more than one line. This inspires the screenwriter to write a rape scene with Mima's character.
  • Big Bad Friend: Rumi .
  • Bland-Name Product: A "Niken" camera appears early on, but a "Nikon F4" camera shows up later. The Niken is actually an in-universe example, and only appears on the set of Double Bind; the Nikon is the photographer's own camera.
  • Break the Cutie: Mima's sanity slowly erodes over the course of the movie as her identity is assaulted.
  • Celebrity Is Overrated: Either as an Idol Singer or as a starting actress. Lampshaded by Mima when in a conversation to her mother she explains that the pop idol image is "suffocating".
  • Central Theme: Identity. Specifically, the difference between how we identify ourselves, and how others choose to identify us... and what happens when you lose your identity, be it the one you see for yourself, or the one that others have assigned to you.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The mention early on that Rumi was a former idol singer herself.
    • Mima looking at herself in mirrors.
  • Contractual Purity: In-universe example, which has some horrible consequences.
  • Cuckoo Nest: A particularly confusing example, in which Mima's in-universe character who she plays on Double Bind apparently is deluded into thinking that the horrifying things that happened to her were just a TV show that she played on. What really throws the viewer for a loop is that they don't make clear that this is a scene on Double Bind until after the scene is over, leading the viewer to briefly mistake the plot of the show for the plot of Perfect Blue.
  • Damsel out of Distress: Mima when facing Me-Mania and Rumi. Although she's terrified and fleeing for her life, she does manage to escape both times and prove herself more resourceful and resilient than her character on Double Bind.
  • Dark Reprise: A far-off, muffled version of "Angel of Love" is heard in the parking garage when the screenwriter for Double Bind is murdered.
  • Deconstruction: Of Idol Singer (via the stalker angle and the scenes depicting the ins and outs of the business and its consequences) and of Fanservice, as almost every significant instance of it has decidedly ugly undertones.
  • Dedication: A dedication to Harutoshi Ogata, the film's editor, appears at the end of the film.
  • Detective Drama: Mima's first post-singer role is as a rape victim in one of these.
  • Determinator: Mima has always been this; she wanted to be an idol since she was little, and now that she's succeeded she wants to get out of her comfort zone and become an actress. Even in the middle of Sanity Slippage she is giving her best performance, which everyone recognizes.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Me-Mania makes himself visible to Mima at CHAM's last performance, and several times thereafter.
  • Dream Within a Dream: Used multiple times (as well as showing us conversations or scenes that seem like they're really happening, only for a director to yell "cut!" — the main character was just filming a scene in the television show she's in) to ramp up the suspense and paranoia that the main character feels.
  • Dub-Induced Plot Hole: In the final Wham Line, Mima's expression of "I'm the real one!" is said in Rumi's voice, giving the viewer one final Mind Screw as to whether it truly is Mima or not. This is lost in the dub where not only is the line changed to the less intimidating "I'm the real thing!", but it is also said in Mima's voice.
  • Dull Eyes of Unhappiness: As Mima loses her grip on reality, she does this more and more often.
  • Dying Dream: Sometime after a near-death encounter with a truck, Mima speculates that this trope is in play as she doubts that she's really alive.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: In the end, when visiting Rumi in the mental hospital, we see that Mima's not only a famous actress now, but also seems to be quite well-adjusted. In the Japanese version, one last Mind Screw makes the nature of this scene ambiguous, but it's accidentally played straight in the English dub which gets confused regarding the voice of the final line.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Me-Mania watches the CHAM performance with his hand outstretched and one eye closed, simulating the illusion that Mima is dancing in the palm of his hand. This sets the tone for his character throughout the film.
    • Likewise, while Mima is performing there are cuts to her shopping in the grocery store in normal clothes, which shows that she's concerned about balancing her public image with who she actually is.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • It's revealed that Mima didn't want to do the rape scene, but she didn't want to say anything for fear of disappointing everyone.
    • Despite everything that has happened, Mima can't bear to see Rumi getting run over by a truck and saves her life.
    • The truck drivers in the climax stop after they nearly run over Rumi and Mima and quickly call for an ambulance.
  • Extreme Doormat: Mima, at least for a good chunk of the movie.
  • Eye Scream: A man gets stabbed in the eye by a supposed pizza delivery guy. Another man is murdered, and later on his body is shown with the eye sockets all bloody and the eyes missing. Me-Mania gets hit in the eye with a hammer. There's basically a sample of this in every murder — in a film about perception and reality, eyes and seeing make for an obvious motif.
  • Fan Disservice: Happens every single time there is nudity in the movie. There's the rape scenes, the scenes where Mima is getting photographed naked, etc.
    • Rumi, a middle aged, slightly overweight woman, in a pop singer costume. It's not as appealing as she thinks, unless you're as delusional as she is.
    • Eri Ochiai, changed to being an idol singer and rival of Mima in Complete Metamorphosis, is raped and skinned alive by an obsessive stalker.
  • Foot Focus: There are a number of scenes with Mima being barefoot, with close ups of her feet included.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The fan letter briefly shown in the beginning of the film is actually an angry letter, complaining about the declining quality of Mima’s performances, and saying that Tadokoro "will not be forgiven" for what he's doing to her.
    • The name of the website "Mima's Room" and how Mima knows she didn't write it although the details are accurate. The climax starts in a replica of Mima's actual room, right down to the fish.
    • The running visual of glass breaking. Guess what nearly kills Rumi.
    • Rumi starts crying and leaves the studio during the filming of the rape scene.
  • Freak Out!: Mima, coming home at the end of a particular traumatic day after filming a rape scene, finds her beloved pet fish dead, and loses control for a moment, trashing her apartment. She (as well as Rumi) has numerous moments where she freaks out throughout the rest of the movie.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Averted, and somewhat justified. Although Mima's apartment is lavishly furnished, there isn't much space and she has to squeeze through to get around. The justification is that Japanese cities focus on conserving space and Tadokoro mentions offhand that CHAM hasn't been doing as well as he would have liked.
  • Glamour Failure: When Rumi is chasing after Mima, we see the fake Mima elegantly prancing after Mima while the reflection on the store windows in the background shows Rumi running and looking quite grotesque and noticeably out of breath.
  • A Glass in the Hand: Mima does this with a teacup at one point.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Rumi, as a result of her delusion coming crashing down and failing to kill Mima, is seen permanently delusional and institutionalized at a mental hospital.
  • Gonk: Arguably a few characters due to the art style, but most definitely Me-Mania (see Nightmare Face below).
  • Groin Attack: One of the murder victims is repeatedly stabbed in the crotch with a screwdriver.
  • Harassing Phone Call: After Mima converts to acting from her pop-idol career, she receives at least one threatening message and phone call (each from her stalker Me-Mania).
  • He Really Can Act: In-Universe, everyone is surprised by how good Mima's performance on Double Bind is — even those that had doubts about having a former pop idol on the show wind up praising her.
  • Horrible Hollywood: A big theme of the movie is the way the entertainment industry treats people as products, especially young women, pushing them into exploitative positions, with or without their consent. The TV industry puts Mima through hell, and a lot of her comments imply that her life as a pop idol wasn't great for her mental health, either. Interestingly, it's not just the higher-ups calling the shots that make it this way — the film goes out of its way to show how even the stars' so-called fans can make the experience awful. Yeah, studios may push their idols into Contractual Purity and create Fanservicey scenes that exploit actresses — but who creates a backlash when the idols fail to uphold that standard, and who consumes the content with those exploitative scenes, again?
    • Word of God says that this is not the primary intent of the film. Kon wanted to tell a story about a young woman going through an identity crisis and coming out the other side with more agency and maturity, but since his main character was a former idol he just stumbled into talking about the down side of that world.
    Satoshi Kon: If the audience gets the impression from watching the film that the idol system in Japan is like that, I’m embarrassed. Of course I did research before making the film and I visited a number of these idol events, but I didn’t see the kind of example that is used in the film.
  • I Am Not Spock: Inverted in-universe. When Me-Mania pins Mima to the ground and says he's protecting "his Mima-rin," Mima says that she is Mima-rin.
  • Idol Singer:
    • Mima, Yukiko and Rei, making up the idol group CHAM.
    • Rumi was one when she was younger.
  • I Just Want to Be You: Rumi is like this toward Mima by the end.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Mima tries this with Rumi at several points in the climax. It doesn't work.
  • Improvised Weapon: An umbrella, in this case, and a hammer.
  • Internet Mimic: Rumi posing as Mima, with the help of Me-mania, who also thinks he's in contact with the real Mima.
  • Jerkass: The punks at the beginning of the film making a scene at CHAM's final performance with Mima.
  • Jump Cut: Faster and faster as Mima loses her grip on reality.
  • Kansai Regional Accent: Mima and her mother both use the Kansai dialect in their phone conversation in the beginning.
  • Kill the Cutie: Both Me-Mania and Rumi come very close to killing Mima.
  • Leitmotif: Mima, Me-Mania, and the Other Mima all have themes in the score.
  • Loony Fan: Me-Mania is an obsessed stalker of Mima.
  • Loss of Identity: This is arguably the central theme of the film. For most of the story, Mima is caught between the horns of a dilemma — on one hand is the idol life she's trying to escape, with the fixed persona demanded by Contractual Purity; on the other is the world of acting, where one's identity is uncertain by nature. Not only does she have to conquer her fears and doubts about this new, more fluid self (as a psychiatrist points out), but certain people are very interested in forcing her back into the chains of her old self — or stealing her old identity from her since she no longer wants it. The climax of the film boils down to her rejection of Me-mania's and Rumi/Idol-Mima's assertion that abandoning her old image makes her a fraud.
  • Loving a Shadow: Me-Mania for Mima, wanting to protect "his" Mima-rin from the impostor that is acting.
  • Madonna–Whore Complex / My Celebrity Crush Is Not A Slut: Me-Mania seems to have this issue.
  • Male Gaze: Ties into the Loss of Identity themes above. Mima has no control over her image, over how other people see her, and Tadokoro is cynically guiding her career in directions he thinks will appeal to a male audience — as a contractually-pure Idol Singer or a sexually self-aware actress.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Me-Mania turns out to be working for Rumi.
  • The Man in the Mirror Talks Back: The CHAM-costumed version of Mima that harasses and berates her.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: When Mima's Double Bind character is manhandled and raped by a rowdy crowd, the actor playing said rapist quietly stammers "I'm so sorry." between takes.
  • Mind Screw: Until the climax, which partially serves as a Mind Screwdriver, until the Wham Line. It gets worse when you notice Mima was singing her solo at the beginning in Rumi's voice.
  • The Mirror Shows Your True Self:
    • In the final confrontation between Mima and her alter ego, both Mima and the audience see the alter ego as the phantom Idol Singer Mima that has been haunting Mima. Only the mirror reflection shows the truth — that it's really Rumi dressed up as Mima.
    • Inverted in the mental hospital. Mima (and the audience) see Rumi in real life, and her reflection in the window is Idol Singer Mima, demonstrating that Mima has moved past the movie's events while Rumi is still stuck in her delusion.
  • Ms. Fanservice: In-Universe, Mima is propelled into this following the end of her singing career, and moving onto acting. Of course, she's very reluctant to do it, but she can't say it out loud, because she'd look ungrateful to the director and everyone else on the set if she said no. With this, it quickly turns to Fan Disservice with the rape scene and photoshoot later on.
  • Mukokuseki: Almost entirely averted in this movie, in that it avoids the typical Western-looking idealized art style other anime typically uses; though all four of the pop-idol (or former pop idol) girls in this story have slightly larger-than-realistic eyes and look a bit paler-skinned than most, no one else is the least bit Westernized, and everyone mostly looks like actual Japanese people, with brown-to-black hair and pale yellowish-bronze skin and slightly squinted eyes. One shot of a highly-stylized drawing of an anime girl with enormous eyes and pink hair on the sliding-glass front door of a store in one scene seems to be intended to mock this trope, as it immediately slides aside to contrast her with three minor realistically-drawn Japanese guys who look nothing like her at all.
  • Napoleon Delusion: Non-Napoleon example. Rumi, Mima's manager, increasingly comes to believe that she is Mima.
  • Never Found the Body: Seems to be the case with Me-Mania at first, then subverted pretty hard.
  • Nightmare Face:
    • Me-Mania's face is visibly deformed.
    • There is a more subtle case with Rumi, whose eyes are just a little too far apart from each other.
  • No Name Given: Me-Mania's real name is never spoken in the film, and you'll have a hard time finding it unless you own the soundtrack, in which the Leitmotif associated with him is called "Uchida's Theme".
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: While not as extreme as many examples, Mima's persona in CHAM! seems very deliberately girlish and childlike. Her attempts to overcome this trope are what sets the plot in motion.
  • Not Himself: Both Mima and Rumi.
  • Oh, Crap!: Mima gets one when at the end of the film when she is pursued by Rumi to the point where she gets stabbed in her abdomen with an umbrella.
  • One-Woman Wail: Used in the song 'Virtua Mima'.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: A repeated narrative device in the movie.
  • Otaku: In this case there's an otaku for Mima.
  • Panty Shot: We receive one from Rumi near the end while she is wearing the pop idol outfit. It is definitely Fan Disservice considering she just accidentally impaled herself on a shard of glass and is struggling to walk.
  • Parasol of Pain: Umbrellas are not meant to be used that way, Rumi.
  • Parking Garage: The screenwriter of Double Bind is murdered in the elevator of a spooky parking garage.
  • Personal Horror: Along with a healthy dose of Psychological Horror and Surreal Horror. Yay, loss of identity and emotional insecurity!
  • Psychological Horror: A particularly horrifying one, at that.
  • Psycho Supporter: Me-Mania.
  • Public Exposure: Mima poses for a photographer who gradually convinces her to undress.
  • Punny Name: "Me-Mania" is "Mimania" is "Mima mania".
  • Reality Ensues: In the climax, Mima is physically healthier than Rumi and thus can keep outpacing her when the latter is chasing her, due to Rumi being out of shape. Even so, Mima is staggering from the stab wound in her shoulder, suffering some nasty falls, and having fought off Me-Mania.
  • Reality Subtext: In universe: When they finish shooting Double Bind, everyone congratulates Mima on her performance as a mentally disturbed woman with a split personality. She may have been that good because she herself has... issues.
  • Reluctant Fanservice Girl: Mima's willing to take nude photos or participate in sexually graphic scenes, because it's just "part of the job," but she does not enjoy it, nor does she enjoy the way the public's perception of her shifts because of this.
  • Room Full of Crazy:
    • Me-Mania's room is full of pictures of Mima.
    • Rumi's room looks like an exact copy of Mima's room.
  • Save the Villain: Mima dives in front of a truck to save Rumi at the end.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In Mima's first acting role, two characters in the scene discuss a serial killer who removes his victims' skin because he wants to be a woman. That plot sounds a little familiar.
    • Tadokoro also mentions "Jodie whatshername" in a later conversation about Mima's career. He was specifically referring to The Accused, in which Foster plays a rape victim.
  • Shower of Angst: Mima takes a bath in the middle of the movie after all the shit she goes through.
  • Slut-Shaming: Mima gets this from the public and Reflection!Mima after she makes career moves that give her a less-than-squeaky-clean image, such as filming a graphic rape scene, or doing a nude photoshoot.
  • Show Within a Show: Extreme type 4 example, such that at times it's unclear whether what you're watching is happening to Mima or her character (or maybe both).
  • Society Marches On: When the film was originally released in 1997, the Internet was still a relatively new phenomenon. Today, the scene where Rumi explains to Mima how computers and e-mails work is either amusing or redundant.
  • Soft Glass:
    • Averted: Rumi gets a serious cut from leaning through a broken window.
    • Played straight when that window (one in a storefront, no less) was completely shattered in the first place by being hit by an umbrella.
    • Also averted when the photographer is murdered.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
    • How the hell can they play something as upbeat as "Season" over the end credits of a movie this horrific?
    • The light, happy bubblegum J-pop tune "Ai no Tenshi" underscores the gruesome carnage throughout the movie. It's even heard when Double Bind's writer, Shibuya, gets killed.
  • Split Personality:
    • Rumi, at least.
    • Another disorder related to schizophrenia, called Folie à deux. The subjective nature of a person's image and how it may differ from that actual person, possibly even taking on a life of its own, is one of the major points of the film.
  • Spotting the Thread: Mima realizes that she's not in her own apartment when she notices the fish in the tank aren't dead and the CHAM poster is still on the wall.
  • Stalker Shrine:
    • Me-Mania's room, which is covered wall-to-wall in posters of Mima.
    • Rumi's room is an exact replica of Mima's room.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Me-Mania is obsessed with Mima.
  • Stepford Smiler: Both Mima (Depressed) and Rumi (Unstable).
  • Stylistic Suck: The show-within-a-show Double Bind features abundant sex and violence and borrows rather heavily from other well-known psychological thrillers.
  • Surprisingly Happy Ending: After all the horror, the last scene shows a fully recovered Mima, now a successful actress. Subverted by the Japanese version, which ends with a final Mind Screw that throws the happy ending into question, but played straight by the English dub.
  • Tears of Fear: Mima during the rape scene, during her Freak Out moment after returning to her apartment, and as she's running for her life from Rumi.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Satoshi Kon loves this one. It's hard to say what in the film is real — we're seeing it through Mima's perspective, and she doesn't have a damn clue herself.
  • Troubled Fetal Position: Mima does this while having a bath, underwater.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Mima.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Me-Mania for Rumi.
  • The Voiceless: Me-Mania for most of the movie.
  • Wham Line: The final line in the film in the original Japanese version. Mima gets into her car, checks herself in the rear-view mirror and says:
    Mima: (In Rumi’s voice) I’m the real one.Japanese 
    • Not so in the English dub, where the line is "I'm the real thing" and said in Mima's normal voice. Given that the dub is otherwise accurate, it seems they just didn't catch that nuance. The dubbers also apparently overlooked the driver's hair in the foreground of the shot, which doesn't have any of Mima's stray locks curling out from it. While Rumi and Mima are both shown elsewhere in the film to be dark brunettes (as are a great many Japanese people in general, in fact), Rumi's hair is always slicked down straight while Mima's tends to splay out a bit in front as one can see in the mirror's reflection. What the implications of this are, given that Rumi's voice was also the one singing Mima's solo at the beginning of the movie, is left for those of us in the audience to decide.
  • White-Dwarf Starlet: Mima's overweight, middle-aged female manager Rumi was a former pop idol who didn't last and now thinks she's the real Mima.
  • Yandere: Me-Mania for Mima. He starts off harmless enough, if a bit too into his Celebrity Crush — starting a fight to defend her at a concert, having a room that is covered in her merchandise, and obsessively reading a blog allegedly written by her. But by the end, he's willing to rape and kill Mima, since he doesn't believe she's the "real" Mima — after all, his precious, pure Mima-rin would never do such horrible things as film a sexually graphic scene or take nude photographs! Therefore, it's obviously his job to humiliate and destroy this impostor. Rumi didn't help matters there...
  • You Got Murder: While Mima is trying out an acting bit on a crime procedural series, her two managers are discussing her part with the writer and producer when they receive a letter. It blows up in the face of one of them, who is later seen with bandaged hands. It was sent by Me-Mania, a Stalker with a Crush.
  • You Have Failed Me: Mentioned in passing and briefly shown. While giving her little "Reason You Suck" Speech to Mima, Rumi mentions how the "real" Mima's fans will do any favor she asks of them, and notes that "Of course, Me-Mania screwed that last one up ever so slightly..." Just a bit earlier, when Mima is trying to call Tadokoro, we see him lying dead with his eyes gouged out — next to Me-Mania, who's also lying there dead from being stabbed in the eye. Apparently, neither Rumi nor the "real" Mima approved of Me-Mania's failed rape-and-murder attempt.
  • You Would Make a Great Model: Happens to Mima's character in Double Bind.
  • Zettai Ryouiki: The CHAM costumes feature this as well.

I'm the real thing!


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