[Hollywood to Anime] Like Inception? Watch These Anime!

Cinephiles, fans of Leonardo DiCaprio, lucid dreamers and most casual moviegoers will be familiar with the 2010 sci-fi film Inception, directed by Christopher Nolan. The movie’s famous premise involving the infiltration of people’s dreams was fairly popular and as the movie progresses, the conception of dream manipulation becomes more and more complicated. Overall, the film becomes more and more engrossing as the characters find themselves in dangerous scenarios that could have them forgetting they’re within layers upon layers of dreams.

Liked Inception? Watch Paprika!

  • Episodes: 1 (movie)
  • Aired: November 2006

A tech lab has been developing an exciting device known as the DC Mini, capable of delving into people’s dreams. Chiba Atsuko and Tokita Kosaku have been hard at work trying to develop this technology in order to help cure people of their psychological afflictions. Truth be told, having access to the dark recesses of people’s minds comes with heavy responsibility and in the wrong hands, the DC Mini could prove to be an intensely powerful form of psychological terrorism. When the DC Mini is stolen and the people around them begin to behave strangely, Atsuko and Kosaku realise the gravity of their situation and enlist the help of Officer Konakawa, who is one of their patients. Together, they search both the real world and the dreamscape looking for the mental terrorist.

Major Similarities between Inception and Paprika

1. Dream-Hopping

Most people don’t realise that Inception is a concept that Christopher Nolan had been sitting on for a while; however, even fewer people know that Paprika is the close inspiration based on several similarities, particularly the characters’ ability to entire and explore people’s dreams. Both films have characters with opposite reasons for accessing other people’s dreams – some wish to help people, while others intend to use the subconscious to drive people insane.

2. Dangers of Having Psychological Access

Characters in both films soon come to the conclusion that access to people’s dreams come with major consequences – Paprika’s Kosaku and Atsuko very easily understand the dangers of having the DC Mini fall into the wrong hands when it is stolen, while Cobb and company in Inception have concerns in not having the awareness to distinguish dreams from reality form one of the bigger concerns of the film and with each increasing layer, the dangers are compounded.

3. Some Major Filmic and Visual Similarities

Inception and Paprika are strikingly similar in their plot and their thematic elements; however, there are some incredible similarities in terms of the filmic and visual aspects of the films. In Inception, when Cobb explains the theory behind dreams and dream construction, Ariadne attempts to touch the air in front of her, causing that part to shatter like glass – this is very similar to when Paprika realises that the dream she is currently exploring is falling apart – she touches it and it shatters… like glass. Both scenes lead the characters into new and unexplored territory within the dreams.

Both films are saturated in heaps of surrealist imagery and concepts that are evident in many of the major scenes, particularly the aforementioned “breaking glass” scenes. Glass, more specifically, mirrors, are a major element in both films – in Inception, there is a scene where mirrors display the true personalities of the characters reflected by them, whereas Paprika has these mirrors showing the characters’ true feelings, a subconscious personality.

The warping hallways scene in Paprika which features a highly agitated Officer Konakawa is also used in Inception, in the scene where the character Arthur is involved in a car accident while in mid-dream. The spinning motion of the van in which Arthur is dreaming causes Arthur to be caught in a spinning hotel hallway – similar to the situation experienced by Konakawa in Paprika.

Liked Inception? Watch Sword Art Online!

  • Episodes: 24
  • Aired: July 2012 – December 2012

In the year 2022, virtual reality technology has seen great progression with the invention of NervGear technology and an online role-playing game called Sword Art Online is launched. The NervGear allows players of the game to control their in-game avatars with nothing other than their own minds. Kirigaya Kazuto, also known as “Kirito,” is one of ten thousand lucky individuals who get the first shipment of SAO, and they explore the scenic world of Aincrad. However, joy turns to horror when they find out that they cannot log out as the game’s creator has trapped them in the world until they clear all 100 levels. To escape, Kirito must work together with other players; however, stakes are high as death in Aincrad means death in real life.

Major Similarities between Inception and Sword Art Online

1. Technology and the Mind

Both Sword Art Online and Inception share the motif of technology granting people access to unprecedented worlds through manipulation of the mind; and the mind’s manipulation of the world. The difference lies in the fact that Sword Art Online is concerned with access of virtual reality, while Inception deals with the access of people’s dreams.

2. Technological Misuse Leading to Grave Danger

In Inception, a great concern of Saito, the Japanese scientist who hires Cobb to hop into people’s dreams is the fact that his technology could be used to bring people to a state of psychological ruin. Sword Art Online’s NervGear presents danger in the fact that the microwaves used by the tech end up becoming the very reason why people who die in-game end up dying in reality. Later seasons of Sword Art Online reconcile this danger by creating less dangerous full-dive technology.

Final Thoughts

As far as similarities go, Paprika is possibly the closest one can get in their attempt to find something similar to the Hollywood movie, Inception, and while there isn’t straightforward admission of the anime film’s impact and influence on the blockbuster, the film simply speaks for itself. The films’ various similarities are far too numerous and far too identical for it to be played off as mere coincidence. Paprika was itself based on Tsutsui Yasutaka’s 1993 novel of the same name and it is warranted more attention from people who don’t necessarily watch anime because of the major impact it seems to have had on a major Hollywood film with its own major impact. Sword Art Online is an extremely popular rendition of the well-done “trapped in a video game” trope which is common across most media and while Inception doesn’t deal with games, the similarities are quite evident in the way in which technology created to allow certain immersive experiences can become dangerous. Are there other similarities you’d like to mention? Drop a comment below and let us know every spicy detail!

Paprika-dvd-225x350 [Hollywood to Anime] Like Inception? Watch These Anime!


Author: Hoshi-kun

I’m South African, harbouring an obsession for anything remotely related to Japan, mostly anime, of course. I draw sometimes. Some people call me Naledi, it’s my real name, or something like that. People think I’m stoic because I don’t smile often (I do sometimes). I like languages. Hoshi-kun and Naledi are the same side of the same coin.

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