Human Indulgence in Escape
An implicit analysis of Paprika: by Roman Akberdin
In Satoshi Kon's 2006 animated film Paprika, a multitude of characters undergo surreal dream experiences thanks to a breakthrough device called the "DC-Mini" that allows users to lucidly share dreams. Unfortunately the device is stolen before any convenient security or controls could be implemented into the device. What follows are a series of events where most of the main characters follow a seemingly hedonistic approach to life. Stanford's Encyclopedia goes to explain a certain type of hedonism, "Motivational Hedonism" as, "the claim that only pleasure or pain motivates us" (Moore). Human nature lends itself to this implicit view of the film because of the desire to gratify ourselves, motivated by pleasure or otherwise. This is ever present in Paprika as most of the main characters attempt to escape the reality around them by indulging in the pleasures that are either brought on by the DC-Mini or their past. These actions often lead to negative consequences that builds the conflicts present in Paprika.
The first character we meet in the film is a detective named Konakawa. He is the first we see to use the DC-Mini , however indulgence and escape into pleasure is the least of what comes of it at first. We find him in several frightening and dangerous situations accompanied by one of the main protagonists of the film. The audience discovers that the detective's dreams mirror movies or movie schema's that are well known. The detective insists he doesn't like movies and yet as the film progresses, we find that the detective once indulged himself in movies, to the point where he acts out being a director himself. The detective's revelry in film would be the thing to force him into the painful life he lives. As he loses his good film-making friend, he abandons his life's pleasure, only to find himself consistently returning to it thanks to the DC-Mini (thus reliving his past again, with the presumably last words he heard from his friend).
It is shortly after we meet the detective that we are introduced to the creator of the DC-Mini, Tokita. From the get go the audience can see he eats as he pleases, his stature being so large that he end up being stuck in an elevator. His self gratification with food and his work is brought up a lot by his on-screen eating and with his childish disregard for the consequences. His co-worker and love interest mentions how he devours everything and even scorns him for his "freakish masturbation" when he continues to tediously tinker with the DC-Mini even after everyone has realized the danger of the device. Of course the ultimate outcome of Tokita's motivation manifests as the main conflict in the story, and becomes more than just something personal for himself. The boundary between reality and dreams becomes incredibly distorted in a way familiar with Kon's other films. When analyzing Kon's earlier story work in Magnetic Rose, author Susan Napier says, "both viewer and protagonist are lured deeper and deeper into an uncertain world where the difference between [illusion] and reality becomes increasingly impossible to distinguish" (Napier 26). This eerily mirrors the situation we find in Paprika thanks to the methods that Tokita uses to escape what reality he is in and pursue the pleasure in his work.
Tokita's creation, the DC-Mini may have had the most psychological on his co-workers. Specifically, Osanai was presented as someone with earnest interest in the development and success of the DC-Mini. Over time though, the audience was shown how jealous of Tokita he was, especially in the way Chiba (a female co-worker) acts towards him with subdued affection. His "target" of indulgence or motivation was slowly revealed to be Chiba herself. His desperation for having her grew so much that it eventually climaxed in the butterfly room scene. At this point we see Osanai completely torn from reality, escaping to the illusion of sanctuary with his love interest pinned down for him on a table as if a butterfly herself. Sacrificing his work, co-workers, and reality itself, Osanai ends up paying the ultimate price for his untamed pursuit of happiness.
Despite the deep effect the DC-Mini had on Osanai, it was none other than Chairman Inui of the group that was afflicted the most by its power. A position like chairman of an organization comes with a lot of power, specifically control; control over employees, the device, and in this case, dreams and reality. Inui displays his passion for control throughout the movie as he is revealed to be the main antagonist. As the ability of the DC-Mini to create a vast new unrestricted world is revealed, the chairman takes an active but hidden role to control it. His corruption of co-workers such as Himuro and Osanai all server the purpose of enhancing his position in the ever expanding dream world, which threatens to spill over into reality. The sequence showing Inui sitting upon a massive throne in a run-away dream almost signifies his apex of control in the surreal world that marches endlessly. This desire for control leads the Chairman on a path of destruction, devastating the minds of many people in the real world and becoming Inui's undoing in the end.
Kon also shows that as dreams can mirror the subconscious desires of human beings, so can the internet. Through Paprika, Kon expresses his interest in the internet as a mirror of humanity's best and worst by expressing that, "I think in countries ... where internet is prevalent, people can anonymously seek or release things they can't speak of offline, as if there's a part of the subconscious that's uncontrollable and comes out on the internet" (Kon). However encompassing the internet may be, it was not strong enough to stop the power of a runaway dream. As portrayed in the film, after using the internet to contact paprika and enter a state of sub consciousness, detective Konakawa was quickly swept up in the seemingly unstoppable parade of surreal objects.
In the final scenes of Paprika, dreams and reality seem to bear no head to boundaries. The parade that was once thought to only exist in the corrupted minds of people that have used the DC-Mini, is now storming through what is assumed to be the "real" world. It is possible that here is the final outcome of the selfish hedonism of all the people involved with the DC-Mini. The dream world is no longer bound by the subconscious minds of its creators and is literally wrecking havoc on the city. Although the last confrontation between the chairman and paprika does not lend itself very easily to the dominant argument so far, it can be argued that it was simply the inevitable demise of the chairman due to his uncontrollable yearning for what should have been only a dream in the first place.
Pleasure and happiness or strong motivators for indulgence, but when these things come unrestricted then individuals can get lost in the liberation that they provide. As Psychologist and Author, Seltzer explains, "These longer-term costs exist on a continuum from mild to severe, but only rarely can they be escaped" (Seltzer 1-2). Thus Paprika demonstrates that when one gets lost in his or her desires then the consequences can be lost to them until the worst happens.
Kon, Interview. Intervew by Jason Gray. Web. 2 Nov 2010. <http://www.midnighteye.com/interviews/satoshi_kon2.shtml>.
Moore, Andrew. "Hedonism." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University, 20 Apr 2004. Web. 5 Oct 2010. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hedonism/>.
Napier, Susan. Cinema Anime. 1st ed. New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan, 2006. 23-42. Print.
Seltzer, Leon. "From Self-Indulgence to Self-Nurturing." Psychology Today (2008): 1-2. Web. 12 Nov 2010. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolution-the-self/200806/self- indulgence-self-nurturing>.