Mere words can’t describe this masterpiece. This movie blew my mind when I first watched it a few years back. It’s a journey through the conscious and subconscious, through dreams and reality that are colliding, overriding and merging as one. Paprika is the fourth movie that Satoshi Kon directed and the third of his works I have watched. It features tremendous directing, ingenious themes and meaningful messages… This movie has influenced many films of the sci-fi/psychological genre and it is a MUST WATCH for all anime fans.
In the near future, psychotherapy treatment has reached a new level. Machines were used to monitor and record patient’s dreams, but a revolutionary invention created by Doctor Kosaku Tokita progressed that even further… the DC-mini: a device that allows the user to enter the dream of another human, enabling the therapist to guide and counsel the patient through his visions. After the theft of three prototype devices, the odd behavior of Chief Torataro Shima, and the disappearance of a researcher, Himuro, one of the head researchers, Atsuko Chiba, takes matters in her own hands. The journey to find the missing devices and solving the mystery behind it has just began…
The story is really fast-paced and doesn’t even give you time to take a breath. The movie goes from the introduction to DC-mini and its mind-blowing capabilities and Konakawa’s crazy but altogether meaningful dream to the identity crisis of Chiba/Paprika and ultimately the misuse of technology and the horror that comes with it. The plot is divided in three parts: Each one had a different but equally important meaning that shapes the conclusion of the film. To explain the world of Paprika and its variety of concepts, it’s better to analyze each character and their unique theme separately.
I’ll start with science and the role of Atsuko Chiba/Paprika and Kosaku Tokita. On one hand, they are two sides of the same coin. Chiba is a cool-headed and serious scientist and one of the head researchers. She used the DC-mini illegally to treat patients with her alter-ego persona, Paprika, an enchanting woman full of energy. On the other hand, Kosaku Tokita, a brilliant mind and inventor of DC-mini but immature, first ignores the whole issue and the consequences his invention could bring. Tokita represents science at its early stage: how a harmless and innocent idea can bring a reality of hopes and promises, but can also lead to a disaster. He merely invented DC-mini as a way to share the same dream with a different person, but it’s evident that there are others did not have the same views. It’s a fact that humanity has made different inventions for different purposes. Some led to a whole new future but some led to chaos. Chiba and Paprika represent the cautious, funny, but also risky side of science, as Chiba is overly cautious and understands what this invention could bring, but Paprika, always one step forward, is willing to take a risk and pretty much enjoy every moment of the journey and that’s what pretty much science is all about. In science there’s always risk. Every step you tread must be taken with care, but too much caution will lead to nowhere. Risks are part of the game.
We continue with Konakawa, his recurring dream, the Internet, and how fiction is not a part of reality:
‘Don’t you think dreams and the internet are similar? They are both areas where the repressed conscious mind vents.’
This line blew my mind because it was written by Yasutaka Tsutsui, who wrote the novel in 1993, yet it is still relevant today. He was way ahead of his time. In 2006 when Paprika was released, social media was not a thing like it is today. The internet has no limits, no boundaries; you can post everything, see everything, find everything, BE everything (yeah, even the most awkward stuff). Reality and fiction exist together on the internet, where you can find unbelievable yet very real phenomena, right alongside stories we can only be glad are just fiction (such as nuclear apocalypse-type scenarios). But know this: Just as fiction is influenced by reality, reality can be influenced by fiction. In conclusion, this film is all about the impacts of internet and technology on mankind. They offer tremendous potential, but we need to be responsible.
Paprika is undoubtedly one of the best sci-fi/psychological anime movies around. It has the full package: ingenious theme, mystery plot, funny moments, mind-blowing/psychedelic scenery. Every character has their own unique aspects, intense moments, deep conversations, and more. But to be honest, above all, what I like most about Satoshi Kon’s films is his trademark exploration of the realms of reality and fantasy and the theme of identity crisis. If Perfect Blue is a horror mindf*ck, then ‘Paprika’ is a happy/spooky mind-trip. This film is a must-watch, not only for the extraordinary animation but for its various themes: the misuse of technology, the internet, humanity’s relationship with machines, the subconscious realm, ethical and philosophical questions, etc.
I also liked the detective story with Konakawa’s dreams. I found it an interesting mystery/solving dream and the most realistic in that had multiple meanings. All the characters were pretty good, the voice casting was great and Paprika/Chiba is cool as a main character. To be honest, I can’t truly find the right words to praise this movie enough. All those philosophical interactions, the unforgettable scenery, the shift of reality to fantasy and back, deep phrases, the animation: everything is so dazzling that almost makes you dizzy. It is a true masterpiece that inspired many movies and series that came after.
Art and Music
Like all Satoshi Kon’s previous works, Madhouse handled the animation and production. I was so impressed with all the color and background themes, they really did push computer animation to the limit. The environment art was dazzling and the character design was just super. It’s a magnificent work.
The music was composed by Susumu Hirasawa. Not many notable things here for me, though it really suits the visuals. The opening soundtrack is light electronic, techno, MIDI composition, and really goes well with the coloring and the movie theme. The parade music is fun and somehow has a catchy tone (I still remember the rhythm). In total, the music is playful, delightful and, when in need, it can change to something dark and sinister.
Themes and Trivia
Human brain: the secrets behind it and how the subconscious affects the conscious.
The human brain is a powerful, dangerous, frightening, but sacred place. Did you know that, from the day we are born, over 75% of our daily activities are controlled by our subconscious? And did you know that, from, let’s say, a special day or a moment, 10% of any activity is stored in our conscious and the rest in our subconscious? Instinct, emotions, actions are controlled by our subconscious. Scary, isn’t it? How does my thought process relate to Paprika? The realm of dreams/subconscious… specifically psychotherapy treatment. There are many cases throughout history that show the extreme measures humans took to understand how the mind works. One of humanity’s deepest desires is to unlock the secrets of the human brain. Of course, mankind has taken a lot of steps in that department but we still know so little… and to make things even more intriguing, we don’t know even how much of the human brain we actually use, or what using 100% would even be like. Needless to say, the brain is not something to mess with.
Internet, machines and the effects on the human side
In the last few decades, science and technology have taken big steps forward and advanced at a tremendous pace: we are in the age of the internet, artificial intelligence, genetic modifications, bioelectric implants, nuclear weapons, etc. Shouldn’t we be more worried about the world we are creating? It’s not so easy to adjust to this rapid growth and assess the impact it can have in our daily lives. With all this technology, especially social media, we are losing our ability to be in the world in a way that is not mediated by some electronic appendage. My point is: internet and smartphones may be handy, but memories and experiences can’t be made when logged in to a device.
Paprika was Kon’s fourth and final film before his death in 2010 and is based on Yasutaka Tsutsui’s 1993 novel of the same name. Satoshi Kon and Seishi Minakami wrote the script, and Japanese animation studio Madhouse handled the animation and produced the film alongside Sony Pictures Entertainment Japan. Paprika was first released on 2 September 2006 at the 63rd Venice Festival. It screened at the 44th New York Film Festival on 7 October 2006. It competed at the 19th Tokyo International Film Festival on 21–29 October 2006 as the opening screening for the 2006 TIFF Animation CG Festival. It also competed in 27th Fantasporto from 23 February to 3 March 2007. The film received wide acclaim from critics. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle gave it a positive review, saying that the film is a “sophisticated work of the imagination”. Andrez Bergen of Yomiuri Shimbun praised Paprika as the “most mesmerizing animation since Miyazaki‘s Spirited Away“; he also praised the film’s animation and backgrounds. A live-action adaptation of Paprika, to be directed by Wolfgang Petersen, was in development in 2010. However, since the release of Inception, Christopher Nolan’s film which came out that same year and had a similar premise, there has not been any significant update.
Highs & Lows
- Environment artwork
- Character development
- Genius scenario
- Mind-blowing journey
- Sadly, we won’t get any more of this…
Overall, Paprika is an outstanding movie with amazing background themes, a genius script, and fluid animation. It can’t really get any better. It tells a story about the fixation people have with the internet and how different a person can be when online and in real life. If any of you have watched Inception, you will see the resemblance and understand the plot more easily. I don’t really recommend it to newcomers to anime or young fans but it’s worth a shot just to enjoy the animation. BE WARNED for those who haven’t watched it, you must be prepared and focused (probably you will need a re-watch). That said… Have fun mind-tripping!