Book Review: ‘Paprika’ by Yasutaka Tsutsui

paprika yasutaka tsutsui

A Few Signs of Age

In some ways, Yasutaka Tsutsui’s surreal Paprika is fresh and outstanding (though written two and a half decades ago), but in other ways, it does show its age. Its ability to blur the edge between reality and dream is powerful, and can lead the reader to question just what makes what we consider reality to be so valued in comparison to the more ethereal experiences within the realm of sleep.

However, as with a number of psychological-science fiction, or just psychological stories in general from the 1990s until the early 2000s, it shows an obsession with schizophrenia via a presentation that is not entirely scientifically accurate. However, it at least does not demonize it. And so long as one remembers that it is science-fiction, then all is well.

Fun Enough, Surreal Enough

The story is entertaining. Unlike a lot of Japanese literature (at least that which makes it to Western lands), which often sacrifices fun for the sake of solemn elegance and beauty (think Yasunari Kawabata, Yukio Mishima, even Haruki Murakami at times). There is a lack of restraint here that felt refreshing, but not to the extent of Kobo Abe’s Kafkaesque narratives. And as much as I love the gentle tales of Murakami, or the contemplations of beauty and Kawabata, or Mishima’s dead serious prose, it is nice to let go once in a while. Much like diving into a dream yourself. Paprika has a somewhat jolting pace, accelerating in fits and starts until it goes into full REM states.

It is a tale of the mystery of dreams, years before the blaring soundtrack and budding intellects of teens met together in a screening of Inception. It is jilting and surreal, offbeat but pleasing. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and likely won’t leave readers thinking that they have solved the mystery of whether or not they are still in the dream, man…but it is good. Just a solid read that can tickle the imagination for a few hours.

And the cover art is right up my alley. Always a plus.

Rating: 4 out of 5