I’ve had it with anime. I’ve had it with sitting through modestly well-animated movies that make no sense, that feature juvenile stories and characters and that I’m supposed to judge on a different level than I would judge any other film from any nation. It isn’t like live action Japanese films are regularly baffling in the extreme, so I’m not going to buy the excuse that there’s a cultural gap that I’m falling in to. I can watch the work of Kurosawa, Ozu or Kobayashi and follow the narrative and the emotional arcs of the characters. Fuck, I can watch a Miike film and make more sense of it than I can the average anime, and that guy is willfully fucking obtuse.
Paprika is yet another incoherent anime that’s more interested in its warmed over visuals than in indulging in any kind of storytelling or character work. When the movie starts we’re just tossed in with all these characters in all these situations that feel like they’ve been happening long before you walked into the theater – at first I thought this movie was badly assembled from some 200 part anime TV show. It wasn’t; everybody coming in to this movie starts out on the same poor footing. Except for those who read the novel it’s based on, I guess.
The movie has some scientists working on a dream machine – it allows you to see other people’s dreams and to enter them. One of the scientists has a dream superhero alter ego named Paprika – I am not kidding you when I say that I have no idea why this is, at all, but she begins the movie like this. I also don’t know what the purpose of having a dream superhero alter ego is, beyond whatever visual aspects it allows the filmmakers to play with. Anyway, the dream machine gets stolen, which could mean really bad things for humanity, like dream things coming into reality… I think. Again, this movie doesn’t make any sense, so I’m just reconstructing some kind of coherence from the movie’s barrage of images. There’s also a cop who is using the dream machine to solve a case or get over a trauma or something – it’s all so fucking vague, and then it all ties into the main story at the end in ways that don’t make any sense.
The movie is so dumb that the villain who stole the machine is the guy who owns the corporation that made it. There simply must have been an easier way for him to get his hands on this device, like walk (or roll, he’s a cripple and looks like Professor X) into the lab and say, ‘Hello, I own this company and sign your checks. That machine is, technically, my property. I’d like it, please.’ But then we’d never get a parade of dream things and a half-assed comparison of movies to dreams and then a final battle between a 500 foot tall naked man and a 500 foot tall naked woman over the city of Tokyo (I’m assuming here. Some otaku in the audience will send an email explaining why knowing what city it really is is the key to decoding the fucking movie).
There are some neat moments in Paprika, but none of them connect to one another or to the main story. I know that some of this is because director Satoshi Kon is using dream logic, but at some point he should have considered using actual logic when putting this thing together. The use of dreams, and having them cross over into the real world, gives Kon and his animators license to shoot for the ultimate style over substance movie – which is saying a lot, since the whole anime genre is more concerned with style than anything deeper. Except for the ones with tentacle rape – they’re interested in going uterus-deep.
I really think it’s time that we shake off the haze of anime; too many people are afraid of standing up and saying, ‘This makes no fucking sense, and what does make sense is just crappy,’ because they don’t want to be accused of not getting it. Well, I get it. It’s just that there’s nothing much here to get.