Monday, December 15, 2008

This Is Your Brain On Anime (Paprika review for TLAblog)

There is a story of the Chinese sage Zhuangzi that goes:
"Once Zhuangzi dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was Zhuangzi. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Zhuangzi. But he didn't know if he was Zhuangzi who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi. Between Zhuangzi and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things."

Though on its face this may seem an almost childish idea to most, if you have ever experienced a lucid dream, or if you really pay any attention at all to your inner life, you may come to realize that there is truth to it. What is more, there is a real terror that can accompany realizing that the ground we stand on, at least figuratively speaking, is not solid. All experience is simply experience, whether it involves balancing your checkbook or talking to the monk levitating above a colossal, marching procession of cymbal-crashing frog men.

Many movies have dealt with this idea. (The Science of Sleep and Vanilla Sky are the first two that come to mind that do it any justice, but there are many more.) However, few have done it with such a brilliant flare for the surreal as Satoshi Kon's Paprika. Like his previous film, Perfect Blue (review here), the animation is top notch, and the script solid, though even the best animes tend to be a little stilted in translation. He also utilizes many of the same techniques in both movies, including breaking that fourth wall nearly every scene. In the case of Paprika, these techniques are being applied for a different purpose, and I would say they are done somewhat more gracefully.

(Read full article on TLA Attacks The Movies.)

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