Thursday, 25 January 2018

Review: Paprika (2006) by Satoshi Kon (Japan)

Figure 1 - Paprika (2006)

Paprika (2006) was directed by anime director Satoshi Kon. Kon is widely known for accepting and embracing the experimental and weird. Kon is frequently compared to the director David Lynch due to his interest and obsession with the dreaming mind, and this is particularly apparent withing Paprika. Paprika was based on Yasutaka Tsutui's novel Paprika (1993) and the plot follows a research psychologist that uses a device called the DC Mini that can be used by therapists to treat their patients within their dreams. The plot is set within the near future, and follows Doctor Atsuko Chiba as she begins to use the DC Mini to illegally treat people outside of the facility under her alter ego 'Paprika'.  One of the patients she treats illegally is Detective Toshimi Konakawa as he is tormented by a particular reoccurring dream. Doctor Kosaku Tokita, Doctor Atsuko Chiba's closest ally begins to realise the theft of the DC Mini was an inside job after observing Doctor Torataro Shima's dream, in which Tokita recognized his assistant, Kei Himuro. Further in the plot, we follow these characters as the attempt to figure out why dreams are merging into each other, and who is responsible for the dream parade marching through reality. Before his death in 2010, Paprika was Kon's fourth and final full length feature film.

Figure 2 - Paprika (2006)

The film is very Inception-like with its dream within a dream within a dream premise. ''Reality-bending trickery has been part of cinema since the early days of Georges Melies and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, but I'd argue it's rarely been more visually dazzling that it is in Kon's films.'' (Naylor, 2008). The films central core premise revolves around our dreams, and how we has humans wish we could control them, watch them back and alter them, sometimes making us make rash decisions to do so. The film also touches on the idea of 'Where do the movies end and our dreams begin?'. Suggested by Manohla Dargis for The New York Times ''In this heavily conceptual, gracefully edited interlude, Konakawa swings through a jungle on a vine like Tarzan, loincloth and all, only to end up tussling with a man in a genre thriller, inspiring one of the film's most poignant philosophical riddles'' (Dargis, 2007). 

Satoshi Kon was described as ''one of the boldest and most distinctive film-makers to specialise in animation'' (Osmond, 2010). He produced four different feature length animated films along with a television mini-series, all of which had elements of playfulness and sophistication. Kon's idea was to change the traditional 'over-used' Japanese animation that featured over sexualised girls and replace it with unique, inter cutting and disorientating visual experiences. Kon's first feature film 'Perfect Blue' (1997) followed the premise of the disintegration of the mind after an actress participates in a rape scene. The film was explicit and did not hold back as Kon felt that the expression and portrayal of the mental state needed the imagery. His second film 'Millennium Actress' (2001) was a romance, very much a contrast to his last feature length film. The plot follows the character Setsuko Hara, who searches for her wartime love and throughout she end up jumping between memories and movies as if they existed within the same reality. His third feature length also proved to be another change of attitude and direction. 'Tokyo Godfathers' (2003) was comedic in nature and followed a group of homeless people who attempt to return a baby to her original home. ''Despite its humour, Tokyo Godfathers was upfront in showing its characters' harsh situation. This social commentary was also overt in Kon's paranoia Agent (2004), a 13-part late-night miniseries, in which Tokyo is terrorised by a homicidal little boy with a baseball bat. Coming after a wave of much-publicised youth crimes in Japan, this was a near-the-knuckle subject for television animation'' (Osmond, 2010). Before his death in 2010, Kon began working on his fifth feature film 'The Dream Machine' which is intended for an audience of all ages.

Figure 3 - Paprika (2006)

Paprika is a 2D animated film, allowing bigger scope in terms of visual trickery within the dreams. Live-Action come with its limitations, and several scenes within Paprika would have taken a highly skilled team, a huge budget and a huge amount of time to edit and complete. ''Conjuring up an animated character and a fantasy world allows you endless scope for originality and novelty. For a video to be engaging, emotions need to be stimulated. And although viewers might relate better to human characters, they can also be captivated by the fantastical.'' (Reel Marketer, 2014). It allows for a much more believable dreamworld to be created, whilst also keeping the playfulness of the genre.

The film gained a huge amount of attention when it was released and got flooded with good reviews. Paprika gained an 83% rating on the website Rotten Tomatoes and Manohla Dargis at The New York Times described it as ''a gorgeous riot of future-shock ideas and brightly animated imagery, the doors of perception never close'' (Dargis, 2007) and The Midnight Eye said ''the juxtaposition of meticulously detailed realism with flourishes of the surreal has become a hallmark of Kon's work. Mundane everyday events sit tantalisingly close to terrifying descents into the mind and exhilarating leaps into the unknown. Deftly shifting between the two is perhaps Kon's greatest strength as a filmmaker.'' (Jackson, 2008).


Dargis, M. (2007). Paprika - Movies - Review. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2018].
Google+, R. (2018). The Pros and Cons of Animated Video Versus Live Action Video - Reel Marketer. [online] Reel Marketer. Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2018]. (2008). Midnight Eye review: Paprika (Papurika, 2006, Satoshi KON). [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2018].
Naylor, A. (2008). Paprika: the stuff of dreams for filmgoers. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2018].
Osmond, A. (2010). Satoshi Kon obituary. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2018].

Anon, (2018). [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2018].
Chaostrophic. (2018). 15 Must-Watch Forgotten Anime Films - Chaostrophic. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2018].
Cinema, A. (2018). Colorado Anime Film Festival: PAPRIKA (35mm) | Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. [online] Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2018].

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