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 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 sounds like most of the madness spouted by minds corrupted by the DC Mini, there is method in this particular piece of insanity. This is our first glimpse at Kon’s message, that this balance is necessary. Disguising it in the ravings of a madman, Satoshi Kon points out that both the shadows and the light need each other, and that by purging one, 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 remembered.