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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Tsutsui Yasutaka

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To purchase Paprika

Title: Paprika
Author: Tsutsui Yasutaka
Genre: Novel
Written: 1993 (Eng. 2009)
Length: 342 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Paprika - US
Paprika - UK
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DVD: Paprika - US
Paprika - UK
  • Japanese title: パプリカ
  • Translated by Andrew Driver
  • Paprika was made into an (anime) film in 2006, directed by Satoshi Kon

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Our Assessment:

C : half-baked, never really gets its footing

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Independent . 18/5/2009 Peter Carty
The Times . 18/4/2009 Kate Saunders

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The complete review's Review:

       Paprika centers around the work being done at a Tokyo Institute for Psychiatric Research. One of the researchers there lost out on the Nobel Prize in Physiology or (as one character also pedantically notes) Medicine when his work was usurped by a foreign scientist -- and, yes, he bears an enormous grudge -- while two are up for it this year, including the not-yet thirty-year-old Atsuko Chiba. Despite apparently doing such cutting edge research and the possibility of getting great acclaim for the institute by possibly winning this great prize, some want to oust Atsuko -- and, indeed, petty jealousies are rife here, and office politics are played out very, very seriously (and quite underhandedly, too).
       Atsuko's specialty is working with so-called PT devices, which allow users to observe: "the subconscious of a schizophrenic as an image on a screen". One of her colleagues has developed a new generation of such devices -- the DC (Daedalus Collector) Mini, which doesn't need cables and:

transmits the content of different people's dreams to each other's brains
       As it turns out, it's just as easy to use these mind-influencing devices for nefarious purposes as it is for therapeutic ones. Most of the DT Minis quickly go missing, as does their developer. And, as Atsuko discovers, someone is putting them to bad use, threatening first just the members of the institute and then consciousnesses far beyond it.
       Atsuko has a second identity -- she is the eponymous Paprika, a younger (and slightly different-looking) version of her self with a reputation for being: "the very best dream detective". By entering the dreams of others she helps cure them of their neuroses or other mental ills. Paprika more or less retired, and her identity and what she did are something that many are concerned might possibly be harmful to the reputation of the institute, but early on in the novel Atsuko is drawn back into this secondary role, taking on first one and then a second powerful client.
       Paprika is rather a plodding mess of a novel. Rooting around in the dreams and minds of others, especially the mentally ill, allows for some imaginative forays, but it's all rather vague and loose and seems to be motivated by little more than Tsutsui's whims. The battle of the minds and dreams, as Atsuko and here nemeses clash, has some potential, but also feels rather too controlled and convenient. The psychosexual dimensions -- Atsuko is much-lusted over, while here nemeses are part of a homosexually-oriented conspiracy -- adds something to the story, but is also far too simplistic.
       Oddly, and rather disappointingly, Paprika turns out to be most interesting and revealing for its depiction of Japanese workplace mores and attitudes towards hierarchies and concern about reputation and face. To suffer from some mental illness, even just a serious bout of depression, is something that can't be acknowledged in many professions, derailing promising careers -- but on the other hand this novel is filled with whack-jobs who are just completely out of their minds. The depiction of mental illness is also simplistic throughout -- but the Tsutsui's mind-altering premise moves far beyond any familiar or real psychiatric condition.
       Lumbering prose (and a pretty labored translation) and a very plodding story make for seriously limited enjoyment here -- despite what's supposedly at stake. Even the Nobel Prize exoticism -- yes, Atsuko takes the prize -- doesn't help much.

- M.A.Orthofer, 4 May 2013

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Paprika: Reviews: Paprika - the movie: Tsutsui Yasutaka: Other books by Tsutsui Yasutaka under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Popular Japanese author Tsutsui Yasutaka (筒井 康隆) was born in 1934.

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