Every now and then an anime comes along that makes me sit up and think “This is it. This is why I love anime.”
Paprika is one of those anime. Directed by Satoshi Kon, who also worked on Tokyo Godfathers and the award-winning anime Millenium Actress, this story focuses on a team of scientists who created the device, the DC Mini, which allows a person to enter another’s dreams. This device was being used for psychiatric therapy, but when it is stolen the team fear the damage that could be done.
Leading the team to recover the device is Dr Atsuko Chiba, a cool and calm scientist who has to turn to her bouncy dream alter ego, Paprika, to save the day.
Paprika fully immerses herself in the dream world, navigating the landscape with a series of colourful personas such as fairy, gryphon, and mermaid. The two women work so differently it is at times hard to remember they are the same person, especially when they interact with each other and argue about how to proceed. While Paprika seems to be the heart to Chiba’s rational head, by the climax of the anime things have changed with a gentle emotional resolution that neatly balances out the ongoing craziness that has made up the majority of the film.
The sheer joy of Paprika is its vibrancy. With rich visuals and a lively soundtrack, through symbolism and sound this anime deftly portrays the nature of dreams and how they reflect our subconscious. It cleverly weaves in objects from the character’s lives which later emerge in the dream world, impressively blurring the lines between our perception of reality and dreams. Paprika presents us with the unbidden joy, the confusion and the dark terror that our minds produce when our thoughts are manifested.
Paprika would be ideal to show someone who is fairly new to anime, as its scope of story, visuals and musical background really encapsulates what anime at its very best is capable of. Be warned though – this is an anime that requires your full and complete attention, and even then you might need to watch it again to catch things you missed or to fully make sense of the unfolding events.