Paprika is a Japanese anime film directed by the legendary Satoshi Kon and is based on Yasutaka Tsutsui’s novel of the same name. Satoshi Kon is best known for his works Perfect Blue, Millenium Actress, and Paranoia Agent. Paprika is a psychological thriller about three scientists Atsuko Chiba, Doctor Toratoro Shma( Department Chief), and Kosaku Tokita(inventor) at the researcher Center of Psychiatric Research who have developed devices called the “minis” that can transport an individual into another person’s dreams. One of the minis gets stolen by an individual who begins to kill people who work at the Center of Psychiatric Research. This prompts both an investigation by the police and an investigation by Chiba and her allies into the killings. At the heart of Paprika is an examination of the fine line between reality, dreams, and escapism.
The movie begins with Doctor Atsuko Chiba using the mini illegally to treat Detective Toshimi Konakawa, who is having recurring nightmares from a murder he has not solved under her persona ‘Paprika.’ Paprika throughout her therapy sessions with Detective Toshimi Konakawa tries to get him to relax and embrace the surreal nature of his dream. However, Detective Toshimi Konakawa is a workaholic who dislikes the cinema, movies, and escapism believing that they are pointless distractions. In Detective Toshimi, we see the effects of an individual who has no outlet for the stress in his life.
Then we have Doctor Atsuko Chiba who under her persona ” Paprika” treats patients that have psychological issues. Dr. Atsuko Chiba spends so much time on the mini as “Paprika” that she is completely disconnected from reality. This is illustrated in a touching scene between her and Kosaku where she is trying to rescue him. The dream transformed him into a giant robot which proceeded to devour both her and her persona “paprika.” When she comes to the belly of the robot she is confronted by a familiar scene, Kosaku Tokita trapped in an elevator. It is at this moment as she lets go of Paprika she is able to pull Kosaku Tokita out of the elevator saving him. At the end, of the movie is she retires her persona ” Paprika” to pursue a relationship with Kosaku Tokia, the man she loves.
In Atsuko Chiba, we have the excess of escapism and in Detective Toshimi Konakawa we see the deficit of escapism. Here, we stand between Scylla and Charybdis as to what to take away from this movie. Clear Satoshi Kon, created a movie that delves deep into the realms of dreams and escapism. Though its message is not anti-escapism or anti-dream in fact it is the opposite. For as negative, as the dream is portrayed in Papkira, there are some genuine benefits to it as well. For instance, it ultimately heals Detective Toshimi and allows him to confront his past and overcome his trauma. At the same, time it blinds Atsuko Chiba from her own feelings and the reality of her life around her. It is in the contrast of these two characters that we can see the message is one of balance. Too much time in reality and in the dream will lead to the same place. An endless abyss that our souls never return from.