Sony // 2006 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // November 27th, 2007
This is your brain on anime.
The Japanimated film Paprika quietly emerged in cinemas with a clever mix of sci-fi storytelling and mind-bending graphics. However as is the case with many of these films, they are shoehorned into the anime niche, where people tend to discount any cinematic message they possess. So now that it's out on video on the ole' Blu-ray format, is it the shizzle?
Seishi Minakami adapted a screenplay from Yasutaka Tsutsui's novel, and Satoshi Kon (Tokyo Godfathers) directed. The film focuses on an invention, a device that's designed to negotiate the worlds of dreams and reality. Things start to get a little bit shaky though when someone steals one of the devices, so now a young girl is responsible for getting the device back, before it falls into the wrong hands and the real world and world of dreams merge into a chaotic hybrid.
I'm not normally one for anime films, in large part because I was just past the age when Thundercats and Voltron occupied afternoon television, so I've dismissed films and shows that have that semi-erratic motion of characters. So yeah, I've been minimally exposed to films like My Neighbor Totoro and Paprika. While this was a tough film to watch at times personally, the story driving it was relatively interesting.
There were several different storylines that become more and more intertwined, possibly as Kon's message that reality and fantasy get more and more blurred. The most tangible one for me was the one where a police detective has a recurring dream about someone falling dead in a hallway and the murderer appears to be running away, and he can never get any closer to the perpetrator. This story becomes more and more prevalent as a group of scientists, including a young woman named "Paprika," try to find this device (called the DC Mini, so naturally I was thinking of the iPod) that can potentially be dangerous and eventually is, when the scientists' boss, a man known as "The Chairman" attempts to use the device.
My preconceived notions about anime aside, I was impressed by the storytelling, and how the fantasy vs. reality tone was effective, even as you watch surrealist graphics and a large parade of characters walking down the Japanese streets, some of them magical, some of them with a definite dark underside. And as the policeman finds out the truth behind his dream, he is also used to some degree to help Paprika in her quest to obtain the Mini.
The AVC MPEG-2 encoded 1.85:1 widescreen film looks good, all things considered. There's not a lot of depth to the image because of the animation, but the colors are represented well, without a lot of bleeding or noise. There's a TrueHD track in Japanese and English, though the Japanese track is fine with English subtitles. Besides, with the music in the film it's somewhat immersive, while dialogue stays in the center channel for most of the piece and sounds clean as a whistle.
Supplements wise, the extras here are the same as those found on the standard def disc, starting with a commentary with Kon, composer Susumu Hirasawa and an associate producer named "Morishima." The trio discusses the production and the challenges they faced, and recall how some scenes came together. The disc benefits from the track, to be sure. >From there, a half hour look at the making of the film is next, with interviews from the cast and crew as they share their thoughts on it. Tsutsui discusses the origins of the book and what he wanted to accomplish while Kon discusses how he wanted to adapt the story and what about it appealed to him. You also get to look at Kon's storyboard and animation process as well, with a few previsualizations to boot, and the piece is equally detailed on the process and the production (like the voiceover sessions), so that's nice. "A Conversation about the Dream" includes the voice actors, Tsutsui and Kon in a roundtable discussion on their thoughts about the dreams, and the actors discuss what they wanted to accomplish in a particular scene, along with the recording process. "The Art of Fantasy" is slightly shorter at about 15 minutes (the first two pieces are a half hour each), and the illustration process is given some feature time, while "The Dream CG World" looks at the computer effects used in the film, and I was surprised to see they were used as abundantly as they were, but it goes to effective visual effects supervision I guess. Storyboard comparisons to final product follows for three scenes, and trailers complete the disc.
The main thing that Paprika suffers from is the stigma of the genre. So there are a few oddball characters speaking in strangeish accents, much like a kung fu film. That and not being used to anime will turn a lot of people off, but it's just like vegetables when you were a kid, it pays to try new things now and again.
OK, so after watching my very first anime film from start to finish, what did I think? Well, it certainly wasn't horrible and didn't give me a seizure, and the story was markedly better than either of the Matrix sequels, so if you're a plebe to the genre, give Paprika a try. But if you're a fan of similar films, I'm sure you're skipping past my words and grabbing a copy of this either way.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Cantonese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Mandarin)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Thai)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Filmmaker Commentary
* Making-Of Documentary
* A Conversation about the "Dream"
* "The Dream CG World" Featurette
* "The Art of Fantasy" Featurette
* Storyboard Comparisons
* Official Site