Anime Review: Paprika


Genre: Psychological/Mystery

Studio/Creator: Madhouse/Yatsutaka Tsutsui (wrote novel) and directed by Satoshi Kon

Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

MPAA Rating: R (for sexuality, nudity, and disturbing imagery)

My Rating: 10/10

Running Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Summary: (from Netflix summary) Reality and the dream world are on a collision course after a DC-Mini–an experimental device that can record dreams–is stolen from a psychiatric research facility.  When the thief begins intertwining the patients’ dreams, it’s clear that the DC-Mini has fallen into dangerous hands. Can Dr. Atsuko Chiba and her alter ego, a sprightly avatar named Paprika stop the madness?

Review: I’m a big fan of Satoshi Kon’s movies, and until I saw the movie I’d say his best work was Millennium Actress. Now, it’s Paprika.  

Describing this masterpiece is far from easy.  It’s way too surreal to put into words. However, that is what makes Satoshi Kon’s films so awe-inspiring.

The animation is very beautiful, especially at the point where the dream world begins to blend into the real one. Going into this, I asked around so I could get an idea of what to expect.  But the moment I saw the clown climb out of  the way-too-small car, I knew I was unprepared. And that was just the opening shot! I hadn’t even seen the most repeated moment: the parade. It was liking that annual Macy’s parade–while on hallucinogenics.  It was upon that moment that I just said to myself, “sit back and enjoy it.” The thing is, you’re not looking at just one dream–it’s a collective subconsciousness, something that psychologist Karl Jung proposed. It’s the idea that we all share a collective dreamworld.

The characterization is interesting, particularly concerning Dr. Atsuki Chiba and her avatar, Paprika.  I thought it was very interesting how different the two of them were. Atsuki herself is cold and detached. She keeps to herself because she doesn’t want people to know about Paprika. Paprika is more open and curious, almost like a gleeful child.  Because of this, her clients feel more at ease and allow her into their dreams to help them.

So what’s my final analysis? I thought this was awesome. The visuals were impressive. I loved how the movie was paced and how the dream got bigger and bigger until it seemed all of Tokyo was consumed by it.  This is truly one of the best movies I have ever seen–period. If you want to see where Christopher Nolan got the idea for Inception, watch this.

Sub/Dub: This depends on what you’re looking for. The dub was actually written not as a translation per se, but to capture the spirit of the story. This is why in the dub, Paprika and Chiba are voiced by two different people, whereas in the sub, both are voiced by Megumi Hayashibara. I felt both versions were great. I have to say this is Hayashibara’s best role.

Music/Score: The music is somewhat electronic and at times as chaotic as the film itself. I thought it was a great complement.

Violence: 5/10–Some gunshots and one death scene.

Language: 1/10

Nudity: 2/10–There’s a couple scenes with Chiba and Paprika naked.  The villain is also naked during the climax.

Religion: 1/10–During the parade, “God and Buddha will change religions” is chanted.

Related Media: This is based on the novel by Yatsuki Tsutsui.

Trivia: Both Satoshi Kon and Yatsui Tsutsui make cameos as the voice of a waiter and a bartender in the Radio Club scenes.

  1. #1 by medievalotaku on July 15, 2012 - 3:20 pm

    My favorite work of Satoshi Kon’s is Perfect Blue, which also had an odd blending of reality and fantasy. Does Paprika also contain several sequences where it is virtually impossible to tell what’s really happening from what the main character’s merely dreaming?

    • #2 by rocklobsterjwt on July 15, 2012 - 7:11 pm

      Not really. It’s much easier to tell because anytime something surreal is happening, that’s a dream.

  2. #3 by Glenn Abrams on July 16, 2012 - 7:43 pm

    Great review and I totally agree with all of your ratings! Satoshi Kon is a true genius! Sad that we won’t be seeing any of his masterpieces in the future, however at least we got a chance to appreciate the work he did create. 🙂

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