Logline: When a machine that allows therapists to enter their patient’s dreams is stolen, all hell breaks loose. Only a young female therapist can stop it: Paprika.
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Background info: You might have heard about this Japanese Anime film. Some say it was the inspiration for Inception, some say Hollywood stole it wholesale.
My thoughts: Is this just a victim of parallel development? Well, considering Paprika came out a full four years before Inception did, that argument doesn’t hold. Is this a case of Hollywood appropriating a sub-culture movement into something for the mainstream? Well, I don’t think anyone held much hope that Inception would do much business at the box office, considering the difficult subject matter. So, that argument doesn’t really hold much water. After all this was Warner’s was of rewarding Christopher Nolan for the huge box office of The Dark Knight. And this is the guy who made Memento, one of the most original films of the 21st century.
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But when we look at Inception, we see things like the hallway scene. Extremely reminiscent of the hallway scenes in Paprika. Then you look at the entire concept. The idea of invading dreams. Inception guides you though the plot like a parent crossing the street with a young child, whereas Paprika gives you freedom of thought. It assumes that you are an intelligent adult, preferably one with an education in Anime. Plus, the purpose is different, however. In Paprika’s case, it is originally for therapy, although the scientists are worried that it will fall into the wrong hands. In Inception’s case, the technology, again in the hands of scientists, albeit this time rouge scientists, have indeed fallen in to the wrong hands. In which case, Inception reads like a Hollywood sequel to the Japanese original.
The verdict: While highly similar, I would argue that Inception hasn’t stolen from Paprika, but rather was heavily inspired by Paprika. It comes to the cutting edge of the line that separates inspiration and theft, but there is still enough original content in each to make them different. I would also add that Paprika owes some debt to it’s “look and feel” to the short film Beyond, which was featured as part of The Animatrix. That said, The Matrix films owe a large debt to countless anime, including Ghost in the Shell, so it really is a game of who was inspired by who. The truth is, we are all inspired by someone.