Thursday, September 10, 2009


Paprikaby Yasutaka Tsutsui
(Original title: パプリカ)
Science Fiction, 1993 (English translation, 2009)
Alma Books, trade pb, 341 p.
Translated from the Japanese by Andrew Driver
When prototype models of a device for entering into patients’ dreams go missing at the Institute for Psychiatric Research, it transpires that someone is using them to manipulate people’s dreams and send them insane. Threatened both personally and professionally, brilliant psychotherapist Atsuko Chiba has to journey into the world of fantasy to fight her mysterious opponents.

As she delves ever deeper into the imagination, the borderline between dreams and reality becomes increasingly blurred, and nightmares begin to leak into the everyday realm. The scene is set for a final showdown between the dream detective and her enemies, with the subconscious as their battleground, and the future of the waking world at stake.
The blurb in the back for another of Tsutsui’s books calls that one “a masterpiece of surrealist literature” and Paprika could just as easily be labelled the same. What a bizarre, and utterly surreal story this was! Unlike Haruki Murakami’s surrealism though, which somehow comes across as plausible regardless of how improbable it is in actuality, this story was pure science fiction fancy from start to finish.

I’m very new to the world of manga and anime, but I felt that Paprika had a definite manga/anime feel to it, with its exaggerated actions and vivid scenes. As I was reading, I could easily picture how some of the panels might look had it been drawn as a comic. I guess like how some books feel as if they’ve been written with a movie in mind, this one felt like it was written with a cartoon sensibility. It has been made into an anime movie (you can read about the film and watch the trailer at the film’s website), and watching the trailer, it’s very much like I imagined it.

Image © Sony Pictures Classics

Even though the main character is a woman, and much of the story is told from her perspective, this book was clearly written by a man. It’s a very macho story, with lots of action, and sex, and just the manner in which it was told screamed male author to me. There’s certainly nothing girly or sweet here. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just my observation, and it fits in with my feeling that it resembles a manga, at least like the ones that primarily target a male audience.

After the non-fiction and more serious fiction that I was reading earlier in the month, this was definitely a nice change of pace, and a fun story to get lost in for a few days.

Andrew Driver, the translator, on Paprika:
The greatest strength of Paprika lies in its creation and destruction of illusions, something quite characteristic of Japanese art in general and Tsutsui in particular. Paprika causes us to question the nature of illusion and reality, and the relationship between them. In the end, no one is really sure what actually happened – or whether anything happened at all.
Interview with Yasutaka Tsutsui
Interview with the translator, Andrew Driver
Read an excerpt at the Alma Books website

Buy this book at: | |

Thank you to Clémence and Alma Books for the opportunity to read this book.

My Rating: 3/5
(#46 for 2009, Japanese Literature Challenge 3, Reading Japan Project, ARC Reading Challenge)

If you have reviewed this title, let me know and I'll link to it here.


  1. Well, this definitely sounds different! I'm always up for some science fiction fancy :P

  2. After seeing you mention it here before reading I bought it from eBay (because I just couldn't find it any where else!). I'm looking forward to its arrival, event hough you only gave it a 3 out of 5 stars. I'm not so familiar with manga/anime, but I'm intrigued by the concept as well as the male perspective. I wouldn't have known about it had you not shared the title and your review.

  3. I don't know a lot about Manga, but I do like surrealism. I'll have to keep an eye out for this one.

  4. Ooooh, you got me really intrigued here. Now I'm gonna have to look for this book... and it's been made into an anime film too! Wow!

  5. I watched the movie trailer and my first thought was how surreal it all looked. This sounds like an interesting book. Thanks for the great review, Nat!

  6. Interesting.
    Just found your blog through BBAW!

  7. @Literary Feline: I agree. I've watched Ghost in the Shell: Innocence and that was a bit surreal. But this one looks off the charts. It's just amazing. I'll have to look for both the book and film.

  8. Nymeth - LOL. Well, it certainly was different, but fun too.

    Bellezza - As far as I know it's only been published in the UK so far, but it's available from The Book Depository with their free shipping. I wavered between a 3 or a 3.5, and I enjoyed it, don't get me wrong, I think it was just a bit too macho for my taste/mood at the time. It was certainly worth reading.

    J.T. Oldfield - This one has surrealism in spades!

    Mark David - OK, I know I haven't been reading your blog for all that long but I have a feeling you will like this one. :) And the film really does look quite psychedelic doesn't it? My husband isn't really into anime but maybe I'll have to try to watch it sometime.

    Wendy - Very surreal! The book was certainly surreal too, but what struck me about the trailer was just how colourful everything was!

    Britt - Thanks for stopping by!

  9. I am screaming yes, since I have been incredibly into surrealism as of late and if I ever get the chance I will most certainly fall in love with this title.

  10. Harry - If you're into surrealism this will definitely be right up your alley. I hope you get a chance to read it!

  11. I bet I won't, but wishing I could fills my future with a nice expectation. :)

  12. Harry - Well, I'll be having some more giveaways over the next few months so you'll have some more chances to win a copy. :)


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