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12 Days, 12 Moments: Day 5–Paprika Does the Slide

Today’s Anime Blogging Collective-sponsored moment talks about yet another anime film, as opposed to TV show, and it’s one that actually got quite a lot of attention outside the provenance of otakudom–Satoshi Kon’s Paprika. Film critics generally dig anything done by Kon or Miyazaki, and honestly, it’s not hard to see why: they are some of the most original and artistically distinct talents working in anime today. And Kon’s film features one of the most arresting and effortlessly glorious opening scenes ever.



Day 5: Paprika Does the Slide

Unlike his venerable elder Hayao Miyazaki, who disclaims being truly part of the anime “industry,” Satoshi Kon has one foot planted firmly in two worlds: the “traditional” (read: otaku-oriented) anime world and the “artsy,” critic-approved world of international art cinema. Miyazaki and Ghibli hire non-industry seiyuu you’ve probably never heard of. Kon hired Megumi Hayashibara to play the title role of Paprika, which is as much as all his work a literate, clever exploration of the boundary between reality and fantasy. Hayashibara has not, to my memory, had a leading role in an anime in quite a long time, despite being one of the great voice actresses of the 1990s. What a way to rejuvenate her career! It might be like the way John Travolta was revived by Tarantino in Pulp Fiction

But enough about that; this is about the first several minutes of the film, which begins with a detective who is haunted by nightmares–only to be saved by a chirpy Paprika, who can only be described as the distillation of a Perfect Anime Girl: bright, happy, pretty, and just a little seductive. (It also features Hayashibara using a higher pitched register with her voice than she’s done in a while, and is instantly recognizable to those of us who cut our teeth on anime starring her, as I did.) Kon’s surrealism shows its hand early on as the detective runs down the hallway, and by the time we reach the opening credits, we already know that what our eyes are telling us is not fluid or absolute. What makes Kon Kon is the seamless transitions between dream and reality–look at the way Paprika skips merrily through the screens, logos, and traffic of modern Japan, sliding from one place to the next like a child on a playground. She is like an embodiment of anime and manga itself, embedded everywhere in the fabric of society, and later, when those same visual tropes and symbols get twisted into a monstrous parade, out to restore the balance of things. (Is it any accident that the main male character other than the detective looks so much like a stereotypical otaku and that the main villain is obsessed with dolls and figures?) All scored to a terrific electronica soundtrack which becomes the movie’s theme song; Kon is in the business of “remixing” anime as much as Shinichi Watanabe did for jazz and hip hop in his series.  

Paprika is a movie I had the privilege of seeing on the big screen, and that is where it really ought to be seen first. Kon’s imagination is truly cinematic, and sometimes reviewers like me who concentrate mostly on TV shows forget the astonishing cinematic potential anime actually contains. (Look at the amount of detail in the doll parade, for instance.) He’s taking you on a real trip, to places no live action director probably could have pulled off well, and while these aren’t moments that will necessarily move you emotionally–how easy it is to forget that film and TV doesn’t just exist to make us cry or laugh!–it’s a thrill nonetheless.The first few minutes of this film is nothing less than a rush of breathless exhilaration. And that’s more than good enough for me.

This is an Anime Blogging Collective post. Other participants include 



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