Child pages
  • Michael Stagnitta - The World of Paprika (Final)
Skip to end of metadata
Go to start of metadata

Michael Stagnitta


Fine Arts Film: Anime

The World of Paprika

          The Hero’s Journey is a pattern that can be found in most narratives. The pattern is defined by a number of steps that the story may or may not take. The steps are very general though and thus the pattern can be found in almost any story. Joseph Campbell wrote in his book titled The Hero with a Thousand Faces that "The whole sense of the ubiquitous myth of the hero's passage is that it shall serve as a general pattern for men and women, wherever they may stand along the scale. Therefore it is formulated in the broadest terms” (Campbell 92). The film Paprika fits the description of the Hero’s Journey. However, unlike many other narratives, there are actually multiple Hero’s Journeys happening at once for each character. Beyond that, even the world in Paprika has a simple journey that it follows. However it takes many heroes on journeys themselves to cause this journey to even begin.

          It is important to understand what the different steps of the Hero’s Journey are before we can start explaining how each heroes’ journey affects the world. As there are many steps, we will only define the ones that apply to Paprika. The call to adventure is “the point in a person's life when they are first given notice that everything is going to change, whether they know it or not” (Warren, Calbow, and Long). Supernatural aid is usually some sort of helper that appears before the protagonist to give them help. Crossing the first threshold is when “the person actually crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of his or her world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where the rules and limits are not known” (Warren, Calbow, and Long).  The road of trials is simply just challenges that the hero confronts on his path to achieve his goal. The meeting of a goddess is when the hero experiences “unconditional love and /or self unification” (Warren, Calbow, and Long). Atonement with the father is when the hero “must confront and be initiated by whatever holds the ultimate power in his or her life. [...] This is the center point of the journey” (Warren, Calbow, and Long). Apotheosis is a state of peace and rest before the hero returns. The ultimate boon is the goal of the quest. Crossing of the return threshold is the return to normal life for the hero.

          The journey of the world is very simple and is better viewed through the three main state the Hero's Journey has: Departure, Initiation, and the Return.


          At the beginning of Paprika the world is in a state of equilibrium and all is right with the world. The DC Mini is invented which will allow psychologists help patients more effectively, calling the world to adventure by creating new possibilities of treatment. However when the DC mini is stolen, the world crosses through the first threshold and begins its plummet into chaos. The world gets a handful of heroes to act as its supernatural aid: Paprika, Chiba, Tokita, Chief Shima, and Captain Konakawa. Each hero impacts the world in their own way.


The World: The world’s initiation is the culmination of all the heroes’ initiation stages as the world can’t actually change the state it’s in and must rely on the heroes to do so. As Chairman Inui uses the DC Mini to control and assert his beliefs, the world keeps spiraling into deeper chaos. In the end the world eventually begins to merge with the world of dreams and the Chairman starts to destroy everything. The world’s ultimate boon is the destruction of the Chairman and being able to return to normalcy. It is beneficial to look at each heroes initiation phase as steps to resolving the chaos that plagues the world.

Chiba & Paprika: Chiba and Paprika act as a driving force for all the heroes in their journeys to return to a state of normalcy. Chiba helps the world in numerous ways. She saves the chief from the dream implanted in his mind; this allows the chief to help the other heroes with their own journeys throughout the movie. She also finds Himuro’s corpse which brings the heroes a step closer to figuring out the true culprit behind the madness engulfing the world. Chiba’s meeting of the goddess is with Tokita, specifically in the scene where they have a conversation after pulling Tokita out of the elevator. They learn to accept one another and tolerate their differences. This shows Satoshi Kon's, the director, “belief in the redemptive power of love" (Scott). This allows her to reach atonement with the father and the ultimate boon, which is happens by fusing together with Tokita and Paprika to destroy the chairman. Paprika follows mostly the same path as Chiba as she is a part of Chiba for most of the movie. However as she separates from Chiba, she helps Chiba confront her own demons and eventually helps return the world to normalcy.

Captain Konakawa: Captain Konakawa is unique as one of the heroes in that his journey mostly focuses around himself and the resolution of his journey allows him to aid the other heroes. Konakawa saves Chiba from Osanai when he has her trapped in the dream world. This allows Chiba to escape and return to the real world to solve the problems arising there. Konakawa cross the return threshold and brings the bartenders to help deal with the out of control Tokita.

Tokita: While Tokita is the inventor of the DC Mini, he fails to see the importance of security and this oversight leads to how the DC Mini can even be used in the first place. His road of trials is that he must find those responsible for the misuse and to try and stop the DC Mini from being able to be misused. The biggest trial he faces is to face maturity as he is usually in a state of childlike ignorance of the true state of the world, doing only what he sees as logical. If anything is different from the way he thinks it should be he refuses to acknowledge it or has a hard time accepting it. For example: when Himuro is the supposed DC Mini thief, Tokita has a hard time figuring out why Himuro had the motive to do so, thinking that since he was a friend he wouldn’t do such a thing, when in reality Himuro was probably jealous of Tokita’s genius as is Osanai. He is unique from the other heroes in that he fulfills multiple steps of the hero’s journey in a single event: the meeting of the goddess, atonement with father, apotheosis, and ultimate boon all happen during the process of merging with Chiba and Paprika.

Chief Shima: The chief doesn’t impact the world in any great way. However he is still a key player. Without him acting as a guide for the other heroes when they are in the dream world, Osanai and the Chairman could have conquered and the world would have stayed in downward spiral of chaos ending in its destruction. The chief acts as a safety net for when Chiba goes into Himuro’s dream to try and save Tokita, monitoring her and helping her wake up. He also appears in Konakawa’s dream telling him to lead Osanai into one of his own (Konakawa’s) dreams since that is where Konakawa has power over everyone else. This actually helps Konakawa reach the end of his journey and ultimate boon. Konakawa then later helps with the out of control Tokita which leads to the beginning of the world’s return to normalcy.


          The merger between Tokita, Paprika, and Chiba bring about the final change to bring the world over the return threshold and begin its return to normalcy. The world is in a state of apotheosis after the Chairman has been sucked up by the merged being of Chiba, Tokita, and Paprika. The world still needs to be rescued from its current status and will only return completely back to normal after the aftermath is cleaned up. However as the DC Mini exists, the world can never really go back to normalcy as the possibilities opened up by the DC Mini can cause considerable impact on the state of the world even if they have a security system.

          In passing, the world’s journey is fairly simple. However due to the complexity of the interactions between heroes that cause this journey, it is far from simple. This intertwining of journeys creates an interesting narrative that keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat.


Works Cited

Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2004. PDF.

Scott, A. O. "Satoshi Kon, Anime Filmmaker, Dies at 46." The New York Times. 26 Aug. 2010. Web. 13 Nov. 2010. <>.

Warren, Liz, Lorraine Calbow, and Mary Long. "Hero's Journey." Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction | Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction. 2000. Web. 06 Oct. 2010. <>.

  • No labels

1 Comment

  1. Your direction is very clear and you stay focused on your topic. The hero's journey is actually pretty difficult to do as there is a tendency to slot stuff into the formula. to successfully discuss the hero's journey, you need to talk about what these stages are in relation to the film itself. What do these steps mean in relationship to the narrative structure and thematic development?