Waifu Wednesday: Chiba Atsuko / Paprika (Paprika)

Waifu Wednesday

Satoshi Kon remains one of the greatest, most remarkable directors out there, for his visionary genius alone. So for today’s Waifu Wednesday I wanted to give him his due credit here at Rice Digital, since it’s been a long time coming for my own input.

With Paprika being one of the most intriguing anime movies to dive into, here’s our brief breakdown of the best dream girl (both literally and figuratively) out there.

Who is Chiba Atsuko / Paprika?

Chiba Atsuko from Paprika

Paprika, or rather Doctor Chiba Atsuko works at the Institute for Psychiatric Research. She’s a member of the DC (“dream detective”) development team, and the DC Mini, their key treatment that is still under construction, gets nicked.

Chiba sets out to rein in the damage that the therapy tool will undoubtedly cause now that it is in the wrong hands. Since it is a device that allows jumping into people’s dreams, Chiba is the best person to track it down, since she already has experience in invading the dreams of her own patients. She is a renowned scientist, after all. Now to introduce Paprika.

Why we love her


Paprika herself tends to be the initial draw when being captivated by Satoshi Kon’s fourth and final feature length film. Her core design perfectly captures the manic pixie girl image, after all. She opens up the movie in a truly outstanding sequence filled with clever transitions and fluid cuts that really emphasises the dreamy and exciting adventure we are about to embark alongside her on, and it makes her character introduction all the more mystifying.

Let’s not fail to mention Paprika’s bubbly and energetic nature also being on full display here, which in turn provides us with the perfect introduction to her character as the avatar version of the real-life Doctor Chiba Atsuko. Chiba in reality is the complete opposite of her avatar’s chipper, flirtatious, youthful and feminine nature.

As quite the ice queen in actuality, Paprika’s personality is needed for two reasons: one is to better hide her true identity, and the second is to better guide and help those within the dream world. This opens herself up to far more dangers than the initial issue of the dream land colliding with the real world, though.

Why you will love her


Since Paprika and Chiba are the only women in the film, much of the respect she deserves for her efforts and bravery throughout the movie’s runtime is ultimately not granted to her. This is due to the sheer amount of toxic masculinity and male entitlement pretty much every single male character in the movie throws at her. If it’s not toeing the line of what constitutes a strictly professional relationship, it’s straight-up assault – thanks for the nightmare fuel, Osanai.

Chiba (and therefore Paprika) are doing what they can — initially illegally, might we add — to make good use of the DC Mini clinically. We already know just how intelligent she is just from her qualifications alone, but add on the fact she dives headfirst into saving our world from an intense threat and you can add bravery to the mix also. She deserves the utmost respect.

But let’s get to the meat on the bone here in terms of what Paprika as a movie represents as a whole: one in which can be perfectly summed up with its central characters. The movie makes a statement on how too much escapism can be more detrimental to us than good, but it goes further than that. Even the most subtle of its characters are struggling with some degree of conflict about themselves, and Paprika / Chiba could not make this any more obvious, as both ladies represent two sides of the same coin.

Paprika is Chiba, but she’s someone who Chiba states she dislikes at the very beginning of the film. She chooses to express herself as Paprika because it is who she feels she “should” behave like. This entire point of contention on Chiba’s part about embracing even a smidge of emotion is the character development she ends up going through and arriving at – as notably demonstrated when she finally admits to this to herself, and by vocally announcing her love for Tokita.

On a closing note, I surely cannot be the only one to link how her Japanese voice actress, Megumi Hayashibara, tends to represent this kind of women both within and outside of films. Take for example her role as Rei Ayanami in the Evangelion franchise, or Hina from TeddyLoid’s ME!ME!ME! music video. It’s pretty damn neat if you ask me! Although she is probably better recognised for portraying Faye from Cowboy Bebop.

Do yourself a favour and watch the film now via Amazon!

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Lilia Hellal
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