…valediction to Satoshi Kon (1)

Paprika / Papurika (2006) Dir. Satoshi Kon

This is Satoshi Kon’s last completed project and my first movie by this brilliant director. My adventure with Kon begins!

“It is man’s responsibility to control science and technology.”

Paprika takes us to a world where we may enter our own dreams and experience them like actors in a movie. Rich with amazing imaginary, the movie introduces us to a group of (mad) scientists, who invented the DC Mini, a device that enables anyone using it to enter another person’s dream. Mainly, it is used in therapy; however, as we may suspect, an unidentified person steals it and uses it with all the bad intentions of dragging Doctor Torataro Shima’s team (the DC Mini’s inventors) down. What comes out of it is a brilliantly concocted story: dreams and reality start merging, and at some point we can no longer be sure what we see.

It’s got unique and memorable characters: a team of scientists, including Doctor Chiba Atsuko and an extremely fat Doctor Kosaku Tokita. They’re backed up by Toshimi Konakawa, a detective haunted by his own past, and a lively, a bit mysterious girl Paprika, who always seems to be there to save the day. Can they do it? Can they track down the culprit, and restore peace and order? Obviously, I’m not gonna spoil that so see it for yourselves. Once you do, pay attention to the way the characters are introduced and presented. It reveals slight hints about who they really are, hints we don’t notice at first. And once we look closely, we’ll see some characters resemble each other quite strikingly though not overtly. Reflections, illusions, or a mere coincidence?

As you might notice, the plot resembles Inception. As much as I love Nolan’s movie, it turns out like a glorified sci-fi summer flick in comparison with Paprika. Paprika manages to confuse us, and make us doubt whether what or who we see is true or not. Satoshi Kon exactly knows how to present a world where dreams and reality become indistinguishable. Besides, Paprika offers much more. It adds movie reality and movie references (wanna know, for example, what a pan focus is? Paprika will explain.). Reality, dreams, and movies interchange, people are not always who they appear. And dolls, uncanny creatures, well, we better watch out for the dolls.

Apart from Inception, Paprika has similarities to another anime — Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. Without going into much detail, there are sequences in GitS2, where we get confused about what is real and not. Besides, both movies have a parade. Accompanied by memorable music themes (Susumu Hirasawa’s “Shizuku ippai no kioku” and Kenji Kawai’s “The Ballade of Puppets: Flowers Grieve and Fall“), the parades are epic, magical, colorful, and a bit disturbing (cute dolls with dead looks on their faces always disturb me). And, of course, the animes have strong female characters: Paprika and Major Kusanagi (I know, this applies better to the first GitS, but still).

One thing’s for sure — once you watch Paprika, it’s not gonna leave you. The movie, the images, the colors, the characters, the music — it all stays with you. It’s mesmerizing, gripping, with a few twists and surprises that’s gonna keep you on the edge of your seat. Plus, it’s got a very symbolic scene at the very end: at a movie theater there are posters of Kon’s previous movies – a bow to his previous masterpieces, or perhaps a kind of goodbye.

Long days, pleasant nights,

Veronica Bazydlo

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