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Kate Benitez

Visual Arts: Anime

   In ancient times, Greek and Roman doctors operated under the idea of Humorism. They thought that each person had four fluids in their body, which would control both personality and health.  The four fluids, black bile, yellow bile, water, and blood, existed in balance with each other. If those four fluids became disproportionate to each other for whatever reason, the body or mind would fall ill.  This Greco-Roman concept is not unlike what Satoshi Kon presents to us in this film Paprika.  Kon presents us with the idea that balance between multiple forces is the natural state of things, and that when this balance is upset, those involved will suffer until the scale is righted again.  Drawing evidence from its creator’s mind and from classical mythology, Paprika brings a compelling argument for this concept of equilibrium, bringing to light some unique insight.

            One of the first components of this argument comes from a surprising source, the twisted psychologist Himuro, who is arguably the first to fall victim to the sinister plot in the movie. Cackling, he Appreciation

When the twisted psychologist Himuro tells our protagonists “The sun during midday will light up the dark night. Night dreams of day. Light dreams of darkness. But the ignorant sun will chase away the darkness and burn the shadows... eventually burning itself!” Although this (Kon), it sounds like most of the madness spouted by minds corrupted by the DC Mini.  However, there is method in this particular piece of insanity. This is our first glimpse at Kon’s message, that this balance which tells us that a form of balance in the world is necessary. Disguising it philosophy in the ravings of a madmanlunatic, Satoshi Kon points out that both the shadows and the light need each other, and that by purging one, both to continue to exist and to give each other meaning. When one is purged or destroyed, according to Paprika, both are doomed. Looking at the scene on an implicit level, the Chief’s insanity is the direct consequence of his tampering with the boundary between dreams and reality. Based on how close to the edge of madness the Chief actually gets, Kon’s message can be also inferred as a warning to those who would tamper with the balance of the universe.

            Further into the film, we are shown just how dire the consequences of meddling with the equilibrium can be.  When the lines between dream and reality are blurred, events of a cataclysmic scale begin to occur. The Chairman’s dark nightmare crosses over from his mind into the real world, and begins to destroy both.  He has become overpowered in comparison to the rest of the system, and tips the scale, jeopardizing everything, including himself.  Satoshi Kon has begun to emphasize just how badly things can go wrong, but does not leave us without hope.  He provides us with a simple solution for defeating the man of nightmares.  To counteract the evil, a being of good is needed, who in this case is Paprika herself, a woman of dreams.  This game of universal roshambo can correct even the worst imbalance, bringing stability back into the world.

            As the chaos of worlds colliding subsides, Kon’s message is repeated once more, reminding us that balance is the key to unity and peace.  The damage done by the dream world fades into a memory, but the concept remains.  Tampering with the boundary between waking and dreaming has led to several deaths, and has landed even more people in the hospital. When the film closes, we are left only with the memory of Kon’s words and a final message. The balance of the universe is a necessary thing, and Paprika shows us this in a way that can truly be rememberedThe concept of balance existing in the world shown in the film has been mirrored all over the world and all throughout time, and appears as a universal constant in the media, religion, and science.  

            For example, ancient Greek and Roman doctors operated under the idea of Humorism. They thought that each person had four fluids in their body, which would control both personality and health.  The four fluids, black bile, yellow bile, water, and blood, existed in balance with each other. “When they are in the right condition we have health; when they are corrupted we have illness.” (Richet)   As someone fell ill, the principle was that the excessive humor had to be identified and then neutralized or counteracted in the body.   When someone had too much blood, they were cut to let some of it out; when someone was choleric, the “warm and dry” humor, they were given foods that were considered “cold and moist” to provide balance.  Humorism provided a notion of how the universe worked, and provided the idea that balance was ideal, and that death lay in disharmony, a message to be repeated eras later by Kon.  Eventually, as mankind progressed and developed, Humorism was proven to be pseudo-science, and the theory fell out of use, to be replaced by more successful medical practices.  Scientists, however, still clung to the idea of a system in balance, and it showed up in many other fields and disciplines.

            A notable example of this is Le Chatlier’s Principle, a chemical theory stating that systems in balance will naturally shift to keep themselves in equilibrium, even as they are affected by outside sources.  This applies to both the states of matter and balanced chemical equations.  If there is a set amount of liquid at a certain temperature, then that liquid will convert to gas as the temperature rises, to maintain the equilibrium. If the concentrations of a solution are altered, then a reaction will occur, forcing the solution back to a balanced state.  Even if catalysts are introduced, the midpoint will still be reached, albeit it will take longer.  Regardless, the occurrence of this phenomenon only serves to provide further evidence of Kon’s message, that balance and equilibrium are a natural occurrence, and are the normal state for the world to exist in.  The fundamental laws of science illustrate the occurrence of this idea, and it is mirrored in the human subconscious because of it.

            Humans are fascinated by the duality in things, and use it to assign meaning to everything.  In religion, there are divisions between right and wrong, creating Heaven and Hell, to illustrate both ideal and problematic behaviors. The pop culture ideals of magic provide two options, Black Magic and White Magic, representing the dark and evil, and the pure and just.  The governments of the world create two states of being, law and anarchy, each existing as the other’s antithesis. Yin and Yang, hot and cold, dark and light, all exist because we perceive a coexisting contrast.  Each of the ideas is so intertwined with its opposite that they become nearly impossible to define without the use of its counterbalance.  The concept of balance defines the human existence, and is depicted, sometimes subconsciously, everywhere, including by today’s creative minds and artists. 

            Satoshi Kon does an expert job of portraying the duality in the film Paprika, both on a very obvious level, and on a more hidden one.  In the plot, he shows the duality between waking and dreaming, and between Paprika and the Chairman.  If a deeper look is taken, more balances become apparent, between Chiba and Paprika, sanity and madness, Konakawa, Tokita, and Osanai, and between past and future. Just as there are multiple levels and scales of equilibriums in the world, there are multiple levels of representation of it. Throughout the film, Kon continues to do an expert job of representing what already exists, and balances blatant messages with subtle hints perfectly.  After the film ends, we are left with stark look at the mechanics of the world, and remnants of a strong picture of what happens when those mechanics are toyed with.  Kon speaks with voice echoed by the world itself, telling his audience to be aware of the balance, because it is everywhere.

Grey, Jason. "Midnight Eye Interview: Satoshi Kon." Midnight Eye - The Latest and Best in Japanese Cinema - Interviews, Features, Film Reviews, Book Reviews, Calendar of Events and DVD Releases, Links and More... 20 Nov. 2006. Web. 5 Oct. 2010. <>.


Steiff, Josef, and Tristan D. Tamplin. Anime and Philosophy: Wide Eyed Wonder. Chicago, IL: Open Court, 2010. Print.


"Le Chatelier's Principle." Purdue University College of Science Welcome. Web. 7 Nov. 2010. <>.