A good friend brought this delirious anime to my attention, and from the psychedelic cover art I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, which is a feeling that lasted for the whole film until its mind bending climax. Made in 2006 and helmed by renowned anime director Satoshi Kon (Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers), Paprika is a hallucinogenic, surreal work of genius that needs repeated viewings to truly get your head around it. Based on a 1993 story by Yasutaka Tsutsui, it takes place in the near future and follows a detective and a ‘dream therapist’ as they try to recover a stolen device that allows entry into peoples’ dreams. By literally the second minute, you have no idea what is real and what is a dream, as the story takes delirious turn after delirious turn.
That’s not to say the film is a mess- it really isn’t. It is just that it flies so much in the face of conventional, linear storytelling that you really have to pay attention to stay on top of everything that is going on. The sequences in which the dreams of various people march and march and march in a disturbing and rather macabre procession of ingenious creatures and creations are unforgettable. Those with a fear of dolls will have something to scream about with this film as several of these dream sequences involve masses of talking dolls with terrifying faces.
The character of Paprika herself is a wonderful creation, life affirming and ethereal yet childlike. The use of CG mixed in with the traditional cel shaded animation adds a powerful extra dimension to proceedings, which tend to fly off at mad tangents whenever the fancy takes them. Such is the nature of dreams- unpredictable, unusual and utterly surreal. The art direction in this film is really quite astounding, and the soundtrack and voice actors perfectly suit the visuals, which is where some anime movies fall down dead. This one excels in pretty much every area, but as mentioned before, the story can sometimes be a tad difficult to follow. Stick with it though, and you re in for an anime experience you won’t forget. This is another important feather in Kon’s cap, and needs to be seen to be believed.
As the detective and therapist become ever more involved in the mysterious occurrences in the dreamscape, the real world starts to unravel around them, and the truth of the whole thing is delivered with a satisfying twist both in terms of plot and visual impact. The DVD is presented in lush 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen with gorgeous colours and a perfect sound mix. On the extras front it is limited to a Filmmaker commentary, but I can let that slide as quite simply the film is incredible to watch and savour.
I give it 8/10