Paprika - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • MSRP: 19.99
  • Running time: 97
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Paprika

Paprika

By Dani Moure     January 04, 2008
Release Date: September 24, 2007


Paprika
© Sony Pictures Home Entertainment


What They Say
Based on the original futuristic story, Paprika was written by the great master of Japanese literature, Yasutaka Tsutsui, in 1993 and is the psychedelic story of a female detective who investigates criminal cases by entering the dreams of her subjects. With music composed by Susuma Hirasawa, who also wrote the soundtrack for KON's award-winning film, Millennium Actress, and equally lauded television series, Paranoia Agent.

In the near future, a revolutionary new psychotherapy treatment called PT has been invented. Through a device called the "DC Mini" it is able to act as a "dream detective" to enter into people's dreams and explore their unconscious thoughts. Before the government can pass a bill authorizing the use of such advanced psychiatric technology, one of the prototypes is stolen. In the wrong hands, the potential misuse of the device could be devastating, allowing the user to completely annihilate a dreamer's personality while they are asleep. Renowned scientist, Dr. Atsuko Chiba, enters the dream world under her exotic alter-ego, Paprika, in an attempt to discover who is behind the plot to undermine the new invention.

The Review!
The latest film from Satoshi Kon proves to be a dividing one, as he draws on his past ideas for a novel adaptation.

Audio:
For my main viewing, I listened to the film in its Japanese 5.1 track. The mix is really good, bringing out the best in the movie’s soundtrack, with some great directionality as you’d expect from a recent feature film. The performances in the Japanese track are very good, with Megumi Hayashibara turning in a particularly noteworthy performance as Chiba and Paprika.

I briefly sampled the English 5.1 track, and found it had the same qualities as the Japanese track. I didn’t notice any dropouts or distortions on either.

Video:
Presented in anamorphic widescreen, Paprika looks very good for the most part, coming across crisp and sharp, with the various bright and vibrant colours reproduced really well. The only problematic areas are a couple of moments in some of the dream sequences that are very busy with lots of movement, as some blocking crept in. I didn’t notice any other major problems with the transfer; for the most part it’s really good.

The English subtitles are white, in a clearly readable font, and I didn’t notice any glaring errors. My only issue was the lack of translated credits.

Packaging:
The front cover is a bit busy looking, with Paprika’s face being the main focus, with various bits of imagery from the dream sequences in the movie making up her skin. The film’s title is at the top of the cover, with a tagline for Satoshi Kon at the bottom. The back cover also has lots of imagery, as well as listing the special features, and has a description of the film and its credits. The technical information is all clearly listed.

Menu:
The menu starts with a brief intro animation that incorporates the show’s Japanese logo and a few scenes from the movie, before becoming a moving piece with some images from the dream sequences shaking. The theme music plays on the main menu, with the sub-menus all being static with imagery from the film as the backgrounds.

Extras:
The only extra here is the feature commentary from Satoshi Kon, as well as an associate producer and the music producer. As always this is a great feature to have as it’s excellent to get an insight into the way he makes his movies.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I’m a huge fan of Satoshi Kon and his works, and have reviewed all his movies, and the TV series Paranoia Agent, for this site. All have received pretty glowing reviews, and I have nothing but respect for the man who has created some of the most mind-boggling, visually intense and downright unusual anime movies in recent times. Paprika is his latest effort, based on a novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui, and it draws on the style of direction that has made all of his past films unique. In particular, the blurring of reality with another world – in this case dream worlds, and a constant shift between the two worlds during a narrative that’s not told in an entirely straightforward way.

But after I finished the film, I couldn’t help but come away feeling slightly disappointed. Every other one of Kon’s films has blown me away, and left me thinking about it for some time afterwards. Paranoia Agent had the same effect as I watched that series. But while Paprika has stayed in my thoughts a little, as I try to interpret it in my own way, the simple fact is it didn’t blow me away like the rest, and at times it relies a bit too heavily on the ideas that have made those other films so enjoyable and different. It might seem harsh to constantly be comparing against such great previous movies, but with Kon building up such a unique group of films, as a huge fan of his works, it’s impossible to not make a comparison, even if it’s that which makes it feel a bit disappointing.

The story is one of the key points of the film that didn’t really fit together in an entirely satisfying way. The commanding Dr Chiba has been using a machine called the DC Mini to treat her psychiatric patients. Said machine allows people to enter someone else’s dreams, and even have influence over them, and has been labelled as a breakthrough in psychiatric treatment. It can even record its results for further analysis later. But the last three machines made, in the hands of the obese and childish creator Dr Tokita are stolen, and this creates a huge problem for everyone involved in the project. Because the prototypes have no safety procedures, the criminals who stole it are able to enter anyone else’s dreams, and disturbingly, it appears they’re able to do so even when the victim is awake.

An old scientist on the project, Dr Shima, helps in the search for the culprits, and it seems to involve another scientist, Himura, that recently passed away who also used to partner Tokita. He keeps appearing in people’s dreams and seems to hold the key to what has transpired. With Captain Konakawa, a police detective, on the case, as well as a younger detective called Osanai, it seems that the case might not take too long to solve. But with different people’s mental weaknesses being targeted, a dodgy chairman to contend with, and Chiba’s dream-state alter-ego Paprika involved, it ends up not being a straightforward investigation at all.

Unfortunately the conclusion isn’t particularly strong, and though the involvement of the chairman isn’t entirely unexpected, Osanai’s role was a little grating as he lectured and abused Paprika/Chiba despite apparently having feelings for her. What works really well throughout the film though is Paprika’s involvement. While Dr Chiba is generally commanding and in complete control, her alter-ego is far more adventurous, uses her sexuality a little bit and also manages to wax lyrical at the right times to the right people to get them thinking. She’s especially useful to Konakawa, who is given some demons of his own to overcome in what comes off as a bit of a disjointed subplot, given how it ends up not really relating to the main story at all.

Though it does manage to tie everything together at the end, nothing is too clearly stated which does allow plenty of room for talking points and personal interpretation, but it would’ve been nice if the narrative was a bit more transparent, as the film sometimes has a habit of getting bogged down in switching between the real world and the dream sequences. Certainly, that paints a picture of how the “terrorists” are breaking down the barriers of dreams and how the victims are losing the sense of what is real and what isn’t, it just gets a bit frustrating on occasion when you’re eager for the film to just move the story along a bit more.

Of course, the biggest selling point of the film is its visuals, which are undoubtedly spectacular. The various dream sequences contain homages to many other films, and each sequence is brilliantly brought to life with vivid, bright colours that are contrasted by the duller tones of the real worlds. The character designs are slightly simple and uncomplicated, much like Kon’s other films, and some characters look quite familiar if you’ve seen his earlier works, but they are brought to life superbly and the way the film looks is definitely something you’d be hard-pressed to find fault with.

In Summary:
I think the key problem I have with Paprika is that it just doesn’t feel as special as Kon’s previous works. Fair judgment or not, it simply feels a bit more standard probably because it draws on those previous works’ ideas quite heavily. But it’s by no means a bad film; quite the contrary. Paprika is a very enjoyable movie that you can sit down and watch, and soak up the imagery and have a lot of fun with. On the surface it doesn’t have a great deal of depth, but it does stay open to personal interpretation to a degree. With so few good anime movies coming out these days, at least ones that are unrelated to TV series, Paprika is an easy recommendation. It’s a lot of fun, but fans of Satoshi Kon may find it lacking a bit of the spark that has made his past movies so brilliant.

Features
Japanese Language (5.1),English Language (5.1),German Language (5.1),English Subtitles,Filmmaker Commentary

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Philips DVP 5100 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, Pioneer HTP-GS1 5.1 Surround Sound System.

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