A new device for psychotherapy, the “DC Mini”, allows psychiatrists to enter their patients’ dreams and analyze them from within. However, before the technology can be completed, one of the prototypes is stolen by terrorists and used to manipulate people by making them experience “daydreams” in which they hurt themselves and others. Along with the team that developed the “DC Mini”, the cold and calculating scientist Dr. Atsuko Chiba follows the track of the terrorists into the dream-world in the form of her alter ego, the eccentric free-loader Paprika.
summary by Taleweaver
Highs: Astonishing imagery and animation; Hayashibara Megumi at her best; fiendishly clever plot…
Lows: …except for the finale; main side-plot has too little impact
A new Kon Satoshi movie is always worthy of closer attention, especially one that picks up themes from both Paranoia Agent (the human subconscious) and Perfect Blue (distinguishing between dream and reality). With the experienced Madhouse team to make the director’s vision reality and a nice, big movie budget to put it all together, what can possibly go wrong with this production?
Put bluntly: not much. Paprika is a wild and enjoyable ride through the mad and delusional world of dreams, spiced with a bit of (sometimes black) humor, believable characters and just the right amount of self-irony to make the experience special. The art and animation are, as expected, beautifully worked out, and what makes this production really stand out is the powerful imagery created by the clash of the plain and squeaky-clean real world and the wild and lively dream-world. Elements of traditional Japanese folklore last seen in Spirited Away join pop culture favorites like plastic toy mecha in a colorful dance that is enthralling like little else I’ve seen over the last year.
It really helps the whole production that Hayashibara Megumi is finally back to her former shape with a memorable performance as both the intellectual, rational Dr. Chiba and her dream-world alter ego, the charming and very feminine Paprika, reminding those new to anime why she has the reputation of being the single most versatile voice actor ever. Her talent alone often makes the difference between sappiness and serious emotion, especially in the last sequences. Add to that a script that, as expected by a Kon Satoshi movie, finds fiendishly clever ways to play with the expectations of the audience and you have almost everything for a winner.
Almost. While the plot keeps both a high pace for the entire duration of the movie and a high amount of brain-teasers for the audience, the finale doesn’t quite live up to that standard. While not as total a failure as that of Paranoia Agent, it still comes too abrupt and remains too artificial to be truly satisfying. A little of that ending can be blamed on the main side-plot of the movie – near the end, it is integrated rather seamlessly into the big picture, but for taking almost half of the screen-time, it has too little to do with the actual resolution. I’ve seen Kon Satoshi do better than this.
Paprika is a good recommendation if you like movies that confuse you in an entertaining way. It’s not the big thriller that Perfect Blue was. It’s not as critical of society as Paranoia Agent was. It’s much better suited to a broad audience (one that is capable of a little thinking, though) than both, and if you like movies that tickle your brain and make you chuckle occasionally, you’ll be right at home with this one.
Paprika can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.