science-fiction, Suspense

Review: Paprika by Yasutaka Tsutsui

For behind such advances in science, you will always find adventures and experiments that go against the sentiment of the masses- Yasutaka Tsuitsui, Paprika.

I am officially proud of myself, haha. I’ve finished 6 books this week, which is one book advance on my Goodreads Challenge. I am on a ROLL. <Small pat in the back>

Anyway, let’s talk about Yasutaka Tsuitsui trippy sci-fi novel: Paprika. You might also observed that I am going to overlap my comparisons of the book with Satoshi Kon’s adaption of the novel. I purposedly watched the film after reading the book because I was curious of the the way Satoshi Kon handled the material it was based on.

The Book:


Title/Author: Paprika by Yasutaka Tsuitsui

Edition/Format: Vintage Contemporaries Series/ Paperback, 352 Pages

Year Published: 2003

Synopsis: Paprika is a dream detective and the alter-ego of the beautiful and brilliant psychiatrist Atsuko Chiba. It is set in a distant future where doctors are able to observe and maneuver around the dreams of patients through a dream analysis device called the DC Mini. It is used in treating various mental disorder. Complications begin to emerge when the DC Minis are stolen by an unknown force and is used to manipulate dreams of the people around her. This dreams begin to turn into nightmare pushing the people in contact with the device to go insane. Atsuko Chiba must find a way to solve the mystery behind the motivations of her enemy and engage in mental body with evil forces as dreams and worst, nightmares begin to seep through the real world.

What I think about it: 

Oh my, where do I begin to describe the ridiculousness of this novel?

Okay, let’s begin with the good. Generally the concept and scientific themes of the novel are really interesting. I’ve done a particularly weird and fulfilling couple of weeks in psychiatry rotation during my medical school and internship days. I’ve seen and interviewed numerous patients with mental disorders ranging from the anxiety, depression to schizophrenia. And it’s always interesting how differently they think from us during their bouts of attacks. Psychotherapy, for the most part, is frequently involve in the treatment of these patients. Psychiatrist of today sometimes employ The Freudian theory of dream analysis. It is a concept of how dreams are analyzed to pinpoint certain behavioral triggers on the mental state of the patient. It is the basis of the main concept throughout the book. The thought of observing a patients dream through a monitor and being able to enter the dream itself is mind-blowing. If in the distant future, dream analysis of this technological caliber comes to fruition, it would definitely revolutionize the medical treatment of mental disorders. It’s a really interesting concept to use in this book. So interesting that it spawned an animated film adaptation by one of Japan’s legendary animators: Satoshi Kon. The film would eventually influence some scenes in Christopher Nolan’s 2010 film: Inception.

Some iconic scenes in Kon’s Paprika compared with Nolan’s Inception

Going back to Tsuitsui’s book, the dream scenes in this book are written in a surrealist fashion, where one scene or character is easily change or interpreted differently by the dreamer, which if observed individually does not makes sense but if analyzed in a way in which you would piece together a puzzle forming a concrete picture, would eventually make sense. This part of the story peaked my interest because truly, when did our dreams ever make sense to us? Even in Kon’s film, the dreams are depicted as a jumble of complex and even sometimes creepy and disturbing imagery.

I mean, look at those dolls! It’s creepy as F*CK

However interesting the main concept of this story maybe, the characterization of this book takes a HUGE nose dive for me. Well, Atsuko Chiba is good protagonist, she is depicted as a clever, intelligent and extremely beautiful woman. She becomes an enigmatic character throughout the book because of her alter-ego Paprika. While reading, I said to myself:”Okay cool, I guess you would fall in love with someone if you have already seen and experience someone else dreams. That’s like an equivalence to mental intimacy, much more sensual that the interaction of the physical body itself.” But then one by one, the male characters surrounding her, even the bisexual villain falls in love with her. AFTER ONE meet. WTF??? If this recurrent occurrence isn’t baffling to me, the side characters, especially the males are either portrayed as either a man-child, a love-struck fool or a misogynistic prick. This annoyed the fuck out of me.

There was one scene in the book <I really don’t care if this is a spoiler, I just consider this as a warning, LOL>, wherein the Atsuko was about to be raped by one of the main villian, she struggled for a bit like a normal human being would, but then thought: “shit, if I’m going to be raped, might as well do the sex properly”. Eventually the villain wasn’t able to get it up and didn’t even go through the evil deed he was about to do because he was too exasperated by the audacity of Atsuko’s suggestion. He didn’t actually have a boner because of that.  After reading that scene, I slowly put down the book so that I could not throw it away. IT WAS FUCKING ABSURD, LOL. There was not one genuine human response in that scene. I kind of just found it blandly amusing, hilarious for a bit, rather than infuriating because I did not know what to make of it. BUT, I read on and powered through the absurdity of it all. Funny enough, I read the 352 pages in just three days, that’s how BADLY I just wanted the book to end. It’s like listening to a drawling lecture of a monotonous professor on subject you were once really interested about but decided that it was boring as f*ck.

Another problem with the book is the way it was translated. It was old-fashioned and had so much ridiculous unnecessary adlibs that makes the reading tedious and sometimes off putting.

Of course, the movie was so much better than the book. The misogynistic idiocy precociousness of the characters where left to a nil. I do recommend that you read the book first if you are not discouraged by my review and then watch the film.

I’m curious though, because Yasutaka Tsuitsui also wrote “The Girl who Leapt through Time”, which is one of my favorite anime film adaptation of all time. I do want to read his original version of the well loved story.

How about you, what is your favorite weird, dream-themed novel/story? Comment below and share your stories! 😀

I laughed so much at this part. @_@



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