on September 26, 2007
It's no secret amongst fans of intelligent, adult sci-fi that some of the best genre films these days aren't originating from Hollywood, but rather from the masters of Japanese anime. Films like "Akira " and "Ghost in the Shell" display a quality of writing and visual imagination that few "live action" productions (post "Blade Runner") can touch.
One of the most adventurous anime directors is Satoshi Kon. In previous work like his incredibly dense and ambitious TV miniseries "Paranoia Agent", and in several feature films, Kon has displayed a flair for coupling complex characterization with a neo-realistic visual style that tends to make me forget that I'm watching an "anime". Most of Kon's work up until this point has drawn on genres that one does not typically associate with anime: adult drama ("Tokyo Godfathers"), film noir ("Perfect Blue"), psychological thriller ("Paranoia Agent") and character study ("Millennium Actress").
Kon's latest film, "Paprika" is actually the first of his animes that I would categorize as "sci-fi"... and it's a doozy.
A team of scientists develops an interface device called the "DC mini" that facilitates the transference of dreams from one person to another. This "dream machine" is designed primarily for use by psychotherapists; it allows them to literally experience a patient's dreams and take a closer look "under the hood", if you will. In the wrong hands, however, this could potentially become a very dangerous tool.
As you have likely already guessed, "someone" has hacked into a "DC mini" and started to wreak havoc with people's minds. One by one, members of the research team are driven to suicidal behavior after the dreams of patients are fed into their subconscious without their knowledge (much akin to someone slipping acid into the punch). Things get more complicated when these waking dreams begin taking sentient form and start spreading like a virus, forming a pervasive matrix that threatens to supplant "reality" (whew!). A homicide detective joins forces with one of the researchers, whose alter-ego, Paprika, is literally a "dream girl", a sort of super-heroine of the subconscious.
"Mind blowing" doesn't even begin to describe this Disney-on-acid/murder mystery/psychological sci fi-horror story. It is Kon's most visually ambitious work to date, with stunning use of color and imagery (mark my words-this one has "future cult midnight movie" written all over it).
Kon raises some engaging philosophical points (aside from the hoary "what is reality?" debate). At one point, Paprika ponders: "Don't you think dreams and the internet are similar? They are both areas where the repressed conscious vents." I think Kon is positing that the dream state is the last "sacred place" left for humans; if technology encroaches we will lose our last true refuge. A must-see for anime and sci-fi fans.
Paprika is simply the most compelling work of anime and science fiction I have seen in a long time. It may not be easily understood. But it's so amazingly animated and imaginative it has become my personal favorite.
The story is based upon a new invention, the DC Mini, that allows people to enter and experience each other's dreams. The idea is for therapists to enter a patient's dreams to aid with analysis and treatment. But the invention falls into the wrong hands and causes an epidemic. Psychotherapist Atsuko Chiba uses her alter-identity, Paprika, to investigate the nightmare and track down the abusers of the DC Mini.
Most of the story takes place within people's dreams, which allows for some amazing "Alice in Wonderland" type dream imagery. It all ties in with the story. Anybody who has ever read a book on dreams or tried to figure out their own will get a kick out of this.
One thing that I really liked about the story is that it's both playful and grown up at the same time. They resist the need for unnecessary emphasis on sex that is often used in many anime films. Several of the main characters are women, but they wear real clothes. There is almost no nudity to speak of, the only exception being a dream sequence that ties in with the story.
Music is used minimally. There is some cool Japanese electro-pop that plays at a few select points in the background. Still, there could have been a lot more music in the movie. The moderate use of music seems to have been done to make you focus on the images, and the effect is a good one.
Sony Pictures Classics has done an amazing job with the DVD transfer. The images are beautiful and crisp. The US market for Japanese style anime is always growing. So I'm sure there are many who will want to check this out.
As far as special features go, there are still too few of them here. This is a trend that has continued for too long. You get the audio commentary option if you want to watch the movie again with the creators talking in your head. Then there's a short interview type segment that explores the thoughts and approaches of the various members of the creative team. Other than a few extras, that's pretty much it. I wish they could have added much more.
Fans of Sotoshi Kon will remember his popular works, Millennium Actress Millennium Actress and Paranoia Agent Paranoia Agent - Complete Collection. Still this movie is so amazing it will appeal to a wide audience and win Mr. Kon new fans.
If you like science fiction, anime and imaginative cinema, you will most likely love this movie.
on November 2, 2007
So the psychologists have invented a "DC-Mini" machine that lets the therapist enter another person's dreams. The only teensiest problem is that it also lets the dreams OUT of the dreamer's mind. And once outside, the dreams coalesce in vivid colors and shapes and then run around loose on the streets of Tokyo. Fortunately for civic order and sanity, Paprika, the flirty and delightful goddess of the Dreamtime, comes along too...
It's a good thing she does, because the Bad Guys have stolen three DC-Mini machines, which - bad planning, this - don't have access controls. So Dr. Chiba, the woman psychologist, and her co-worker, Dr. Tokita, who invented the contraption to begin with, have to chase down the thieves. But they have help from Detective Konokawa, provided he's not dreaming that he's Tarzan swinging through the vines carrying Dr. Chiba, and the two bartenders of a bar located somewhere in the Dreamtime, done with cameo voice acting performances by Satoshi Kon, the director, and Yasutaka Tsutsui, the author of the original novel. Meanwhile, outside - well, it's not really clear what "outside" means anymore - the dreams are bringing dolls, refrigerators, umbrellas, mailboxes, vending machines all to life in a vast and enthusiastically noisy procession through Tokyo. And, as the Bad Guys start gaining control, people commit suicide too, because sometimes dreams are nightmares.
Paprika herself simply runs away with the film. She and Dr. Chiba are alter-egos - which is *not* the same as saying that Paprika is merely Dr. Chiba looking a bit dreamier. Paprika really is a goddess - "kami" in Japanese - of the Dreamtime, and the ending alone is worth the price of the film.
But don't expect psychobabble from "Paprika." The film offers no fake explanations or pseudo-philosophy about The Nature of Reality. Yes, if you want to go there, "Paprika" is a serious analysis of art, reality, and dreaming, as one would expect from Kon. But, in the meantime, that procession is crashing in through the ceiling, so maybe it's time to move on out of here, say by swinging off on some vines?
"Paprika" is delicious. Very highly recommended.
on November 24, 2010
I first saw Paprika last summer when a good friend of mine strongly recommended the works of Satoshi Kon to me and after gazing at the anime titles he made, Paprika grabbed my eyes the quickest given its trippy imagery and description, so I bought it on Amazon and am extremely glad to have seen it because it's one of the most enriching and creative titles I've ever seen in the medium.
In the near future, a huge advance in psychotherapy is created in the form of a device called the DC Mini, which is capable of recording people's dreams. However, the DC Mini is stolen and Dr. Chiba's science team and detective Konakawa join forces to get it back before it falls into the wrong hands. In their pursuit, follows one of the craziest mind trips ever put on celluloid.
What's a movie without good characters? Thankfully, Satoshi Kon kept this in mind and fleshed out very believable and interesting characters when creating this animated feast for the eyes and brain. What I also like is that while there's protagonists and antagonists in Paprika, they don't really fit any stereotypes and aren't one-sided morally speaking. Atsuko Chiba (At-Chan, as Kosaku Tokita calls her) has the alter ego in the form of a red-headed and energetic lady named Paprika but unlike most alter egos, Paprika exists entirely in the dream universe. Chiba tends to be serious and butts heads with Tokita. Detective Konakawa is one of the most interesting to me since he has repressed terrors and lives them out through dreams that play out like movies. Tokita is a more unique case since he's a kid trapped in a genius adult's body and given that personality, he acts just like that since all he cares about doing is "doing what he wants" instead of doing what he HAS to do. Even the more minor characters are better than mere plot devices because just like the leads, they feel very believable.
PLOTTING AND APPEARANCE
Normally in my reviews, I separate the plotting and appearance, but in Paprika's case, I have to combine the two since they're dependent of each other and would be awkward reviewing the two individually. This is where most of the fun in Paprika lies in. Kon, being the excellent storyteller that he is, perfectly meshes the dream world with reality and unlike Christopher Nolan's vision of the dream world for Inception, Kon takes full advantage of the opportunities he has and creates a dream world where anything, and I mean ANYTHING, can happen (visually and plot-wise). The plotting is brilliant as to where it's complex but not overly so, in the sense that the plotting isn't a gimmicky puzzle movie where it's a convoluted mess that you're trying to put together (though it's best to pay attention), but rather blending both fantasy and reality within a character's dilemma and ultimately fits what they're going through as a consequence of the DC Mini's severe abuse. An example of this is when Konakawa is pursuing one of the main antagonists, he gets caught in his recurring nightmare and acts out according to the nightmare, and the consequences from his actions affect the antagonists in the real world. There's so much more to this, but I think you get the picture (and that I don't want to spoil the whole movie).
Then there's the appearance of the movie. This is integral to the film since it's the imagery that breathes so much life into the dreamworld in Paprika. Kon took full advantage of this opportunity in the visual department and made a dreamworld like no other. In this dreamworld, toys, household appliances, and other devices coming to life and say complete gibberish. There's a scene where Paprika jumps into Dr. Shima's dream, she sinks into Shima's body and causes him to inflate like a giant balloon and explodes, causing him to wake up. When people dive into peoples' dreams, they can take the form of any object they merge with. The best example of this would be with Paprika since she takes a myriad of forms ranging from fairies to griffins in the film. Things get really interesting towards the end when reality and the dreamworld merge since you see businessmen gleefully jumping off a building in formation and Tokita running around as a toy robot firing missiles at a giant Japanese porcelain doll and rambling about fat content in coconut milk. In my first viewing of Paprika, I was left lying in a fetal position wondering what just happened mostly because of the dazzling imagery used to flesh out peoples' dreams.
The animation and artwork is fantastic. The frame rate is rather smooth and the imagery is very colorful and detailed. Like Shigurui: Death Frenzy, Paprika is another anime that uses both 2D animation and 3D animation and much like said anime series, Paprika mixes the two in a very tasteful manner since the 3D imagery exists only to supplement the primary 2D animation instead of overpowering it. The characters have very distinctive looks and me being a male in his early 20's, especially enjoyed the way Dr. Chiba was drawn since she looks beautiful but at the same time, her looks actually match her personality since she looks mature (and acts as such). In the case of female characters, Kon has a very distinctive way of drawing them and I personally love how he draws them since they look like anime characters but don't really fit the cookie-cutter styles abused in the genre. Once again, Satoshi Kon and Madhouse Studio crank out a high-quality anime.
To supplement the well-done characters, surreal imagery, creative story, and excellent plotting, Kon threw in some themes to make an already brilliant anime even better. While subtle, there's themes about the sacredness of one's dreams and the intrusion of technology in said area elaborated by the Chairman (the main antagonist). I felt this was pretty insightful since according to the Chairman, a person's dreams in the movie's current setting are all that's left that's "personal" to someone, and the DC Mini will violate that sense of uniqueness since it'll record the subconscious and have it shared with the whole world. There's also a theme of someone dealing with hard guilt since Konakawa has a film-like recurring nightmare because of personal losses he had in the past relating to film. These themes add more life to an already vibrant animated picture.
If you love anime that's intelligent, creative, has great characters, and chocked full of mind-blowing imagery, then Paprika needs to be in your collection RIGHT NOW if it's not. If you have the technology, I suggest you get the blu-ray version since the sharper picture and sound really enhances this great movie.
RIP Satoshi Kon. Your body of animated work may be small, but it'll be remembered and lauded for eternity.
on March 1, 2011
I bought it for two reasons: it has an intriguing description and it is very cheap in Amazon. Having recently seen Inception, I was curious about this "entering other people's dreams" theme. This movie came out before Inception.
This movie is NOT like Inception. As a matter of fact, it is more plausible than Inception. The art work is very nice, the story is well written and the director takes you along the ride in a spectacular way. For me, it was a nice discovery, I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it.
on April 11, 2014
A clown emerges from a tiny clown car. After doing so, she says, “It’s the greatest showtime!” and with this, Paprika begins. Elephants, clowns, and other circus performers march out from behind curtains and we are introduced to Kogawa Tishimi, a detective seemingly hunting someone in the audience. Before long, he's trapped in the middle of the circus ring and the audience runs towards him, all now sharing his face. He falls through the floor and finds himself being seamlessly carried by an energetic young girl across various different scenes, each one reminiscent of a different film, until he ends up in a hallway, chasing after a killer. As he gives chase, the world around him literally collapses.
And then he wakes up.
As it turns out, he was involved in an experimental therapy session with a woman named Paprika. The device used is referred to as a DC Mini, which allows more than one person to share dreams for therapeutic purposes. The plot thickens when it turns out that a few of these devices have been stolen by dream terrorists, who can use the device to enter and insert dreams into other peoples minds, driving them mad by blurring the lines between the dream world and the real world. It gets worse when the very fabric of reality is called into question. Another film by the late Satoshi Kon (Millennium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers), Paprika displays his fascination with dreams and the way they can be interpreted onscreen. There are various plot elements here (and some imagery) that can be seen in other more recent films like Inception, though unlike Inception, in which the world of dreams can be controlled and manipulated due to its rules, for Satoshi Kon, the world of dreams has neither rules nor logic. This can be seen clearly during the opening credits, which introduce the title character. She happily makes her way through the city jumping in an out of advertisements and altering the world around her as she skips from place to place. As a dream girl, she can do anything she wishes.
The dream sequences throughout the film are a clear highlight as it allows Satoshi Kon’s imagination to run free, much like the horrific parade dream that marches through other people’s dreams, collecting them and growing, all with the accompaniment of the wonderful music of Susumu Hirasawa, a frequent collaborator of Kon. The visuals in this film blend are simply stunning, and above all, maintain a genuine feeling of surrealism, much like a real dream. The people trapped in the parade spew nonsense sentences that likely only make sense to them alone; the environment can be changed and altered to the point where someone can press themselves through a wall like it was made out of plastic wrap. While there's a strong amount of emphasis on the dreams, this is also balanced out with the characters in the real world; Paprika is the dream alter ego of Doctor Chiba Atsuko (both voiced by Megumi Hayashibara), a doctor working at the company that developed the DC Mini. Unlike her free spirited alter ego, Chiba is very reserved and serious. She works alongside Doctor Tokita (Tôru Furuya), an enormously fat and immature scientist that developed the device, and Doctor Shima (Katsunosuke Hori), their chief. The chief is the first victim of a dream attack and he falls prey to it mid sentence. In this scene, as well as throughout the film, Kon shows that he prefers to let the audience see something before they are given an explanation of any kind. The last and a particular interesting character is Kogawa (Akio Ôtsuka), the detective. At first glance he seems like any tough older detective, but as his dreams develop we learn much more about his past and in particular, his connection to film. Because of this film connection, there's a plethora of movie references littered throughout the story; some are obvious while others are much more subtle visual cues.
I am fascinated by this film, much as I am by all of Kon’s previous work. It's a mature and serious story with mind bending and unforgettable imagery. Bending the line between reality and dreams has been a theme in many of his stories, and it’s no wonder that he chooses to visualize this through animation. With animation, just as in dreams, there are no limitations.
on October 4, 2009
Paprika is the out going and perky alter ego of Atsuko Chiba, a young research psychologist who uses a revolutionary device dubbed the DC Mini to help patients by entering their dreams. Unfortunately, the DC Mini has fallen into the wrong hands, and it is up to the buxom Paprika to prevent the dreamworld from melding with reality.
The beautiful Paprika is seemingly a polar opposite of her reality based self. Atsuko dresses more conservatively and is more cautious, while Paprika's wardrobe is a little more hip and revealing, and she has no problem leaping before looking. It is Paprika whom we spend most of our time with as she enters people's mental landscapes in an attempt to discover who stole the DC Mini and how to stop them from destroying the line between reality and fantasy. This is a "save the world" story with some pretty unique twists.
I was quite pleased with the English dub. While it is not without fault, it is significantly better than the monotonic, melodramatic dubs that we are use to. Of course, purist still have the option of listening to the Japanese language track if they prefer, but they should give the English track a chance.
Paprika is truly a work of art. You could quite literally randomly press pause, and have an image that you would be proud to have on your wall. Reality is rigid and structured with slightly a subdued color palette.. The dreamworld is vibrant, loose and whimsical. It is a striking contrast that I have never seen in anime before.
Picture quality is simply sublime. This is a show piece Blu-ray disc. Colors are incredibly deep and vibrant, but they never bleed unlike my experience with the DVD. This disc is the definition of eye candy. Audio is impressive as well. The soundtrack is creative and memorable with one in particular nasty ear worm that will run in your head for days, but you won't complain.
The special features are pretty much what we have come to expect - commentary, behind the scenes, the making of, etc. - though they are rather in depth. Be warned, however, they the special features are in Japanese only. There is, however, the option for subtitles.
This Blu-ray transfer is what all anime should strive for. Lines are crisp (when need be), and colors pop off the screen. It is difficult to talk about the story without giving too much away, but rest assured that it is complex and mature, though I never felt lost. It is worth mentioning for those who are sensitive to nudity that there is a full nude body shot of Paprika, though only her breasts are revealed - no genitalia. This is a title that every anime fan needs in their collection, and is the perfect entry to the world of anime for those who are unfamiliar.
Video: 1080p, 1.85:1
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, Chinese Mandarin/Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1, Thai Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai
on March 1, 2015
I sure picked a doozy of a film for my second excursion into anime. PAPRIKA is an exhilarating, mind-bending look at dreams and the nature of reality that is also one of the weirdest, most visually inventive things I've ever seen. The basic premise for the film is that there is this recent invention, the DC-Mini, which is able to record dreams. However when three of them are stolen, and don't yet have programmed access controls, scientists who were working on the device and a cop have to recover them before the fabric of reality is broken and the dream world bleeds into the real world. Aside from the story, which is very confusing at times because of not knowing what takes place in the dream world and what doesn't, the aspect I most liked in this film was the visuals. It was animated using traditional cel animation (with some CG elements) and Satoshi Kon came up with some pretty awesome stuff to show us. The weirdest was probably a recurring procession with frogs playing instruments, giant dolls, and kitchen appliances. To say this film is confusing would actually be an understatement, although I did understand the setup and the general endgame. Another thing which might be nice to point out, and which I also noticed with AKIRA, is the cautious approach taken with science and technology. One theme common to both this and AKIRA is the danger when technology and science is in the wrong hands. Here, a device which can be used for psychotherapy is stolen, but because of the lack of proper access controls the person using it can enter the dreams of others and bring the dream world into reality. This seems to be a common theme in a lot of Japanese cinema, and it is explored here with enough visual creativity for a dozen films. Overall, despite the confusing nature of the story (which will probably benefit from multiple viewings) I thought this was an extremely original film that was beautifully animated and had a lot of artistry behind it. Highly recommended.
on April 14, 2011
This was Satoshi Kon's last film before he passed away(although technically he does have one more film that is coming out but is directed by someone else). And just like his previous movies, this do not disappoint. Matter of fact, this movie is one of the most inventive films in the recent year. It's about a device called DC Mini that can take you into dreams. But some people use this for the wrong reason and reality and dream collides. I'll stop here because if I tell you more, I'd be spoiling the movie for you. But definitely check this one out. It's one hell of a mind-trip.
And by the way, this movie's been compared to Inception and people calling Inception a Paprika rip-off. While both of these two movies are comparable, I wouldn't call Inception a rip-off. BUT, I personally prefer this movie over Inception because of the bizarreness they portray in this movie.
on May 3, 2014
I think one professional reviewer said it best: Paprika is not a so much about understanding what's going on but about the experience of seeing it. After all, it's all a dream, it's not supposed to make a lot of sense, but even so you do kinda "get it" after seeing it the second time. That being said, the film is one hell of a non-stop ride which will make you wonder just what was going on inside Satoshi Kon's head and how the hell did someone approve of this production. Only in Japan, I guess. I recommend it for there is truly no other film like this one and makes Inception look like it was written for kindergarteners.