Paprika is an amazingly complex and entertaining anime. It takes us into a different world and shows us incredible events mainly from the perspective of Doctor Atsuko Chiba and Detective Toshimi Konakawa. Chiba leads a research team in the development of a device to be used for psychotherapy called the DC Mini. She starts using it to treat Konakawa, but somebody steals the DC Mini and throws the world into chaos as dreams and reality begin to merge. Paprika is a representation of contemporary Japanese society as it deals with issues of becoming an increasingly technological society.
Paprika shows the dangers and benefits of technology. The idea that technology can have good and bad components is common to many other anime in science fiction, apocalyptic, and mecha genres. J. P. Telotte terms the idea of celebrating technology while being wary of its destructive and dehumanizing potential “double vision” (Napier 86). Paprika shows various examples of how technology, represented by the DC Mini, can be used to benefit humankind. Chiba uses the DC Mini medically to treat Konakawa’s recurring nightmares and ultimately resolve his psychological conflict. The DC Mini is also a device of empowerment. It opens up the dream world in a way where people can learn to actively resolve their internal, psychological problems. Konakawa ultimately resolves his issue of dealing with his friend’s death by confronting his problems in the dream world. Chiba uses her alternate personality named Paprika in the dream world to help others through psychotherapy. The DC Mini is shown as a technology that can have a great potential to help others.
Paprika also presents apocalyptic visions of Japan through its interaction with the DC Mini. The chairman steals the DC Mini in an attempt to merge everyone’s dreams resulting in blurred lines between reality and dreams. This shows the potential for technology to be used selfishly to carry out an individual’s personal desires leading to chaos in the world. Furthermore, this could be interpreted as a criticism on technology’s capability to disengage people from reality and rely on “comfort-through-escape” (Figal). Figal applies this idea specifically to media as represented in Paranoia Agent, but a similar idea may be applied to the concept of the DC Mini in Paprika. In the dream world, even when people are dragged into the chaotic parade of dreams created by the chairman, people are shown to be in a crazed happy state.
Technology also has an ambiguous influence on identity. This is shown through Chiba’s personality contrasted with Paprika, her alternate form. Chiba is shown to be a very serious, somewhat introverted woman committed to her work while Paprika is very extroverted and carefree. This might represent the struggle of identity on an individual level for people living in a high tech world. This presents both positive and negative aspects of technology. The DC Mini allows Chiba to explore and display different aspects of herself in different worlds (the real world and the technological/dream one accessed through the DC Mini), but her two sides conflict with each other. This is manifested in actually arguments between the two characters. So while technology may provide a way for individuals to express various aspects of themselves they may not otherwise be able to, it also may present conflicts between different aspects of the self that someone may not be able to reconcile with.
Paprika presents the idea of “double vision” of technology. The DC Mini can at once be used for healing and empowerment, but also be used to take over the world and destroy order. It can provide a method for individuals to express conflicting sides of themselves.