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 



Author: gendomike

Michael lives in the Los Angeles area, and has been into anime since he saw Neon Genesis Evangelion in 1999. Some of his favorite shows include Full Metal Alchemist, Honey and Clover, and Welcome to the NHK!. Since 2003 he has gone to at least one anime convention every year. A public radio junkie, which naturally led to podcasting, he now holds a seminary degree and is looking to become Dr. Rev. Otaku Bible Man any day now. Michael can be reached at mike.huang@animediet.net. You can also find his Twitter account at @gendomike.

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

  1. I actually didn’t notice Megumi Hayashibara’s voice until about halfway through the film. lol

    I personally didn’t find Paprika bad, but I guess I was just expecting a mindfuck somewhere. It was definitely bizarre, and more like the last (2?) episodes of Paranoia Agent writ large.

    The tough thing is Paranoia Agent has a lot of themes that pertain strictly to Japanese society like cultural identity issues. So, I didn’t feel as impacted by his commentary as much as in Agent. Though, this might change when I watch it again in the future.

    I too saw it on the big screen with my college’s anime club, and it was enjoyable to watch it in that way. Satoshi Kon is a great director and I await his next work. I hope it’s another TV series.

  2. @Koji Oe: it’s hard for me to compare it to Paranoia Agent since I haven’t seen it…I really should. I also loved Millennium Actress.

  3. This movie was probably the one above all the others in which Kon and his creative team flex their creative wings and go all-out in having fun. I’d say Millennium Actress is my favourite of his but Paprika wins hands-down in terms of the wildness factor. That opening scene is his most exhilerating too – and I thought Paranoia Agent’s was in-your-face! It’s certainly best appreciated on the big screen though, which I was fortunate enough to experience not once but twice before getting my own copy on DVD. Good times.

Comments are closed.