Throwback Thursday – Paprika
Life is comprised of crossroads. Big and small, major intersections and off-road byways. There comes a time in every nerd’s life—young or old—when they inevitably reach one of the most powerful ones of these. Where they sit down, examine their life—their choices, the major and minor events in their life—and ask themselves a single question:
“What can I do to make myself more of a nerd?”
The first answer, of course, is Battlestar Galactica. The second (and my personal favorite), is anime. Anime will make you king of nerds. Anime is understood by none but those who adore it, and all who do not repel themselves from it adore it. You may want to start with some easier-to-digest, more elementary pieces, such as Digimon, or, the American anime, Avatar: The Last Airbender. Once you assimilate and appreciate those, however, it’s time to take the dive into the heavier stuff.
Allow me, then, to introduce you to one of my personal favorites: Paprika.
Released in 2008, the film is said to have been the inspiration for Inception. The film is centered around Dr. Chiba and her alternate personality Paprika. It deals with her involvement with the DC Mini, a device that enables users to enter and interact with peoples’ dreams. Paprika is helping a captain with his anxiety over a homicide case, but soon becomes surrounded by something bigger than herself. She then must stop dreams and reality from blending into an incomprehensible mesh.
The soundtrack was brought to life by electronic artist Susumu Hirasawa, an artist with quite a reputable discography but who was unknown to me before this work. They honestly could not have chosen a more perfect composer: “The Girl in Byakkoya” has been my text message ringtone for at least a year and a half, and “Parade” would be my ringtone, if I could stand the sheer bizarre complexity of it. Ranging from the flying and joyful, to the truly dark and disjointed, the soundtrack alone is a dark little treat that I want to horde to myself and admire only on the most precious, twisted of occasions.
A word to the wise: whenever possible, always watch anime in its original Japanese. Ninety nine times out of one hundred, the voices are much more bearable, and, honestly, what form of art is not truly more beautiful in its original, raw form? Also, those of you who are familiar with Japanese can get a much better grasp of what the dialogue is trying to say. (E.g. at one point, someone says something that translates to “I love her,” but is better understood as “I have always loved her.”) Minor differences can end up changing the entire meaning of a character.
The reason I qualify this film as “heavier” is because it is truly the closest you can get to being on drugs without actually being on drugs.
The DC Mini is being used to manipulate people into entering a dream-like state where they babble incoherently before attempting suicide. This is a snippet of one such victim’s tirade—shortly before he jumped out of a window:
“Even the five court ladies danced in sync to the frog’s flutes and drums. The whirlwind of the recycled paper was a sight to see. It was like computer graphics! The fact that I don’t support Technicolor parfaits and snobby petite bourgeoisie is common knowledge in Oceania! Now it is time to return home to the blue sky! The confetti will dance around the shrine gates. The mailbox and the refrigerator will lead the way!”
At this point, he is quite caught up in the passion of his speech, and soon follows it up with jumping out the window and dreaming about a parade of dancing furniture, toys, household appliances, and landmarks. This scene basically creates a microchasm of what Paprika is as a film. Bizzare, hard to grasp, rabidly passionate, full of the very best kind of confusion.
The entire film is, in and of itself, an abstract work of art that draws you in. It wraps itself around your legs and pulls you down into the depths of the macabre in ways that you were never quite comfortable exploring to begin with. Talking dolls turning into middle-aged men; giant, rapidly-growing babies sucking up evil avatars of desperate terrorists; flying fairies desperately attempting to save lost souls within their dreams. These are the things Paprika is made of. These are the things that will forever hold a place in my strangest of fascinations, and these are the things that will cause you to fall in love with this piece.