Dreams aren’t always happy. Satoshi Kon’s Paprika proves that.

My first viewing of Paprika was with my university’s anime club and no-one knew what to expect from it. No-one knew anything about it except that it was directed by Satoshi Kon, so it must be a good watch. I was just excited because it was a movie I had wanted to see for quite some time.

This mysterious, science-fiction, psychological thriller is based around the invention of a psychotherapy treatment called PT – a treatment that uses a new device called the “DC Mini” to act as some sort of detective that explores people’s dreams and unconscious thoughts. However, one of the prototypes is stolen before the government can authorize the use of the treatment. When in the wrong hands, the device could potentially be used to manipulate and destroy a dreamer’s complete personality. The main character, Dr Atsuko Chiba, enters the dream world using her alter-ego PAPRIKA in an attempt to discover who is behind all of the chaos that the stealing of the prototype has ensued.

Directed by Satoshi Kon, the 2006 film was animated beautifully and, partnered with a great, child-like soundtrack that in my opinion is great, especially for the film’s main theme of dreams, it’s certainly one to enjoy to watch. But the meaning behind each scene is easily the reason as to why Paprika has become one of my favourite anime films to date. You can tell that Kon worked had to make sure that every scene had some kind of message towards the audience (although whether or not the message is clear straight away is another question altogether) and this runs throughout the entirety of the film, particularly using Atsuko realizing her feelings for Dr Torataro through her subconscious, suggesting that reality is somewhat sacred.

It hasn’t just been me that this movie has impressed, though. It can be suggested that Christopher Nolan, the great American director behind movies such as Batman BeginsInterstellar and Dunkirk, was influenced by Paprika on the making of his 2010 movie, Inception. Both movies share the same concept: technology is created that can hack into people’s dreams. Nolan has acknowledged Paprika as ‘an influence’ but even then, I do agree with Emma Norton over at Far From The Silver Screen where she says:

Though Inception was a good Hollywood film, it kind of blends in with all of the quite similar thrillers that Leonardo DiCaprio […] has done.

Inception is just another ‘good Hollywood film’ whilst Paprika is a unique film full of colour, fun and creativity. It’s quite genius in the way that Kon can make the film quite difficult to understand on purpose, causing the viewer to feel confused as they continue to watch it. This, to me, wasn’t the same sort of confusion I had when watching Inception but rather the same confusion I had whilst watching certain French New Wave films such as Jean-Luc Goddard’s 1960 film, Breathless. 

To me, Paprika is quite revolutionary in terms of storyline, but I suppose I can’t praise Kon completely for that as he took inspiration for his film from the original book written by Yasutaka Tsutsui, published in 1993. Either way, both Kon and Tsutsui, in my opinion, can be branded as geniuses for this remarkable story that they’ve gifted to the worldwide audience. If you haven’t seen it, I do wholeheartedly recommend it.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This review was first published on A Girl & Her Anime under the title ‘Spicy Dreams: Paprika Review’.

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