This blog lacks no fondness for anime, and is certainly not ignorant of the work of Satoshi Kon, given a previous positive review of his much earlier work Perfect Blue, I assumed that when I picked up Paprika that it would be on equal level to that spectacular animated film. To call the film equal to Perfect Blue would be doing its standalone brilliance an injustice. Paprika, even more concerned with the dreamscape than Kon's previous film is something magically realized and innovatively executed. It is impossible not to become completely involved with the cinematic feast offered to viewers, particularly given the viscerally vibrant palate with which the film is colored. Simply put, a film like Paprika does not only help to promote the artistic relevance of Japanese animation, it outright demands its attention. Paprika is unlike anything drawn before, and will likely surpass anything following, barring of course Kon outdoing himself. To call Kon a director of animated films is to discredit him severely, he is something far more, and earns his place high upon the list of the most important Japanese directors ever. This film is not anime, it is not a psychological drama. Instead, it is quite simply perfectly crafted and easily enjoyable cinema. It is in a tier far above any of its contemporaries.
Like Kon's other works, Paprika squarely resides in the psychological genre. As such the narrative is incredibly convaluted and full of twists and surprises. Given this, I will only provide a cursory glance over the plot as not to ruin what proves to be an incredibly rewarding viewing experience. The film focus on a Japan struggling to deal with a problematic rise in psychological disorders, particularly depression. The answer to curing these issues resides, to some scientists, in recording dreams for interpretation. The process involves through, cerebral hookups, actual video recordings of dreams to be viewed after they occur. It appears as though the process will be incredibly successful, particularly given the help of an entity known as Paprika who helps dreamers work through their subconscious experiences almost telepathically. While it is known that this is done merely through external communication, the results are nonetheless the same. Problems arise when the technology is used in a terrorist manner and individuals dreams start overlapping with others, causing instantaneous meltdowns and in some cases accidental suicides. In response a group of scientists including the obese Doctor Tokita, whose genius overshadows his childlike state and unhealthy weight, as well as Doctor Achiba, a woman who is so entwined in the research involving this psychotherapy that to discontinue research in the face of societal concern is simply not an option. Simultaneously, one detective Konakawa finds himself engaged in this psychotherapy as a means to deal with a past of disappointment and disillusion. In time, the entire groups dreams begin to merge and their reality fractures as they attempt to deal with the intruder to the whole of Tokyo's dreamscape. The ending results are unexpected and climactic as the extravagance and surreal images grow exponentially, playing ultimately into a doomsday finale that reflects a tradition so well-known in Japanese cinema. However, the film ends sweetly on a fond closing of one willingly reflecting on their past, without regret or disillusion.
Paprika is at time concerned with gender and power, while at other times keenly astute on its references to psychoanalysis, however, it seems to most excellently approach problems of unrestrained technocracy, a theme that I would imagine is quite prevalent in the entirety of Kon's works, although I cannot say for certain having only seen one other work. However, it is clear that unrestrained technology lacking a filter is a concern within Paprika. Many references are made to dreams being similar to the internet in that it allows individuals to find dark corners of themselves that they did not think existed, particularly those parts that could drive them to become manically obsessed with certain things. Kon clearly intends to question the effect of internet of a global scale. However, internet usage and loss of a individual identity are certainly not the biggest concern in Paprika. Instead, it is the very real fear that a government institution could have access to peoples thoughts. In the film, this fear is enacted in a very grand manner, suggesting that not long after one is allowed unrestrained access to another persons inner most thoughts that dire events will ensue. In Paprika, it leads almost instantly to terrorist behavior that comes extremely close to apocalyptic destruction. Kon, is perhaps suggesting that once we allow our minds to be a thing of government, or an entity acting like a government, that the destruction of mankind will follow. It is interesting to keep this film in mind as we emerge into a new technological era in which a person can find incredibly large amounts of information on a person simply by googling their name. If this is not enough to scare a person, image a future in which we only need to think of another to have complete access to their mind. It may be far in the distance, but I doubt people in the 1950's really thought they would ever compose messages with only their thumbs.
Paprika is an extravagant film, that is all-encompassing and a blast to watch. While I own it on DVD, it is certainly on my short list of bluray upgrades and you should get a copy too.