Friday, 16 February 2018

World Animation: Japan/Paprika/Film Review

Figure 1, Paprika [Poster]

'Paprika' (2006) an animated psychedelic dreamscape trip full of symbols and references to Japanese culture and history was directed by Satoshi Kon and based on sci-fi novel of the same name written by Yasutaka Tsutsui. The dense and overlayed plot is hard to digest not only because of the superabundance of everything that is happening on the screen but also because of its convoluted themes. Kon is frequently focusing on society critics in his work and 'Paprika' is no exception. The movie discusses complex psychological themes of identity, of desire or needs to escape from reality either into a dream or internet and how TV can change man's perception of life and reality. It is well-known about the director that he trusts in dream logic and is fascinated by human's subconscious and imagination. Morphing figures, strange transformations and blending dreams with reality are making it very difficult for the viewer to decide what is happening in the story, what is reality and what is only a dream. Kon's addaptation of the Japanese novel and his represantation of dreamscapes is disturbing. As Manohla Dargis wrote for The New York Times: 'There’s something sinister about the dreamscapes in “Paprika,”...' (2006). The fragmented and non-linear story line is also helping to create that unsettling and uneasy feeling.

Psychiatric insitute is developing an experimental psychotherapeutic device called DC Mini for a new form of psychotherapy. The device is able to enter and record the patient's dream which helps the therapists to beter analyse the patient's problem and prescribe more accurate treatment. Dr.Atsuki Chiba is already testing out the device and treating her patients in their dreams through her more chearfull alter ego named Paprika. One of her patients is detective Toshimi Konakawa, who keeps having the same nightmare over and over again. However, the device gets stolen whilst still in its development stages. Both Dr Chiba and detective Konakawa are looking for the device and are hunting it down through a different paths. Dr Chiba is trying to find the DC Mini by infiltrating other people dreams and detective Konakawa is visiting a website that leads him to a curious place where he is able to reenter his dreams. As the DC Mini gets missused by unautorized vilain the line between dreams and reality starts to blur and is disappearing which causes chaos and eventually everyone's dreams transform into a one collective nightmare full of bizzare pictures, drumming frogs, huge dolls with creepy laughs and figures that melt into each other like a chopsticks into a bowl of noodle soup.

'Don’t you think the Internet and dreams are very similar?'


One of the many complex themes that 'Paprika' is dealing with, is the man's desire to escape the imperfection of reality and what the result might be if the human kind would go too far with their imagination and technology. The director said in the interview for The New York Times shortly after the movie was released: 'In Japan, not just children but adults in their 20s and 30s will choose anime and manga as a means of escape from their real lives,...' (Kon, 2007). As the viewers find out later on throughout the movie that theif, who stole the DC Mini was one of the main scientists Seijiro Inui, often refered to as a Chairman. He is unable to walk in real life, therefore he seeks for an escape into the dreams, where he wants to become a guardian of all dreams and build a perfect place. Nevertheless, instead of creating a perfect place he gets swept up by the power granted by the device and all technology gets out of the hands, all dreams merged together with reality which results into a social nightmare and collective madness.

'Paprika' is also comparing dreams to the internet. As one of the main character's alter ego, Paprika says: 'Don't you think the Internet and dreams are very similar?'. In dreams, the dreaming people have the power to create new worlds, stories that came to life only from their subconscious mind. On the internet, people experience anonymity if they wish to and they are also able to create new virtual reality or identity for themselves. 'I think that the Internet possesses similarities to dreams...In both cases, there are two universes which remove us from reality.' (Kon, 2007)

Figure 2, DC Mini [Film Still]

Figure 3, School girls with cell phones instead of their heads [Film Still]

Kon is often compared to american director David Lynch in the world of Japanese animation for their common interest in a dreaming and subconscious mind and creating disturbing feelings from something which is normaly being perceived as beautiful or harmless within the society. 'When you see a Disney cartoon, you’re in a dream world of sweet animals and pretty flowers. The dream world in ‘Paprika’ is quite the opposite — frightening and horrible,...' (Kon, 2007) The director tends to explore in his work themes of identity, illusion, memory and dreams, then blurs the edges amongst them and underpins them with boldly intelectual and provocative points about society and human morality. This can be seen even in his early work such as his directorial debute 'Perfect Blue' (1998) for which Kon gained international attention. The director studied visual communication design and started his career as a comic artist and later background and layout artist. Kon has been always a fan of Yasutaka Tsutsui and wanted to addapt his novel 'Paprika' which have been postponed for almost 10 years because of the lack of financial means up until the time when the two artists met and Tsutsui asked the director by himself to addapt his book. 'Paprika' was a first movie, where Kon used 3D animation and also his last featured film.

The chosen medium of hand drawn animation mixed with 3D animation helped to express the concept, ideas and themes much better and clearer than life action movie would be able to do. The movie was created in Madhouse studio as well as the rest of the movies that Kon directed. The production crew consisting of only 50 people produced 'Paprika' with the budget as small as 4 milion american dollars over the course of two years and received very positive feedback from both audience and critic. As user's reviews say on IMDB online database: 'Kon simply made this movie like a dream; it is colorful, incredible, random, and offers scarce explanations.' (user unknown, 2007) Because of the wide range of discussed themes and its striking social critics, the movie atracts also general public not only anime fans.



Dargis, M. (2007) In a Crowded Anime Dreamscape, a Mysterious Pixie 
At: (Accessed on 16th Feb 2018)
Fear, D. (2006) Paprika 
At: (Accessed on 16th Feb 2018)
Jenkins, H. (2017) Framing Dreams and the Technological Uncanny (Part Two) 
Kehr, D. (2007) Anime Dreams, Transformed Into Nightmares 
At: (Accessed on 16th Feb 2018)
Lefler, R. (2016) Film Review: Paprika 
At: (Accessed on 16th Feb 2018)
Naylor, A. (2008) Paprika: the stuff of dreams for filmgoers 
At: (Accessed on 16th Feb 2018)
Pais, J. (2006) PAPRIKA: Interview with Satoshi Kon 
At: (Accessed on 16th Feb 2018)
Singer, G. (2007) 'Paprika': Satori with Satoshi 
At: (Accessed on 16th Feb 2018)
Uhlich, K. (2006) Paprika 
At: (Accessed on 16th Feb 2018)

Illustration List:

Figure 1, [Poster] Paprika 
Figure 2, [Film Still] DC Mini 
Figure 3, [Film Still] School Girls with Cell Phones Instead of Their Heads