October 2, 2007 -- “Paprika” is a story about a massive invasion of people's dreams by a madman using a device that allows people to enter the dreams of others. This results in a nightmare world where dreams and reality become hopelessly tangled. The Japanese animated film, written and directed by Satoshi Kon (“Tokyo Godfathers”) is based on the novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui. The film's theme is common to many science fiction stories. It is about the misuse of technology, a subject very close to the Japanese soul (think Hiroshima and Nagasaki).
The dream device, called a DC Mini, is being developed by a large corporation as a psychiatric therapy tool. Psychiatrist Atsuko Chiba has been secretly using the DC Mini to enter the dreams of patients, including a police detective, Toshimi Konakawa. When she appears in her patient's dreams, she appears as Paprika, a kind of dream girl alter-ego. Her friends, Dr. Kosaku Tokita, the inventor of the DC Mini, and her Hobbit-like boss at the company, Dr. Torataro Shima, both know about Atsuko's alter-ego, Paprika, and her use of the machine to treat patients. The chairman of the company the three work for, however, is concerned about the theft of a DC Mini and the frightening effects of people's dreams being hijacked. He threatens to shut the whole project down. It is up to the three researchers to track down the stolen machine and put an end to the ever-increasing threat.
This is a very challenging movie because it shows dreams and reality mixed together. It becomes increasingly difficult to tell the two apart until the two worlds merge completely near the end of the movie. What makes it more challenging is that some dreams seem to happen while the subjects are awake. The main characters are interesting, funny, charming and decent. None of them take themselves too seriously, which makes the film more palatable. The animation is bright and colorful. There are numerous scenes with marching toys, dolls and other objects that are both cheerful and vaguely threatening at the same time. The animation shows brilliant imagination by the filmmakers. The film's theme reminded me a lot of Satoshi Kon's earlier excellent film “Millennium Actress” (Sennen joyû).
This is one of the more challenging and imaginative anime films I've seen. It definitely calls for more than one viewing. I saw this on the big screen at the Wyo Theatre in Laramie last Sunday. It was a damned shame so few people turned out to see such a great film. Even the local anime fans stayed away in droves. This was very disappointing for me since I had gone to great lengths to publicize this rare, one-time-only big screen showing to the local anime community. Well, that's that. It may be years before another anime film graces the big screen here, thanks to such a pitifully small audience. This film rates a B.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.