Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Paprika; Animated fantasy/ Science-Fiction, Japan, 2006; D: Satoshi Kon, S: Megumi Hayashibara, Toru Emori, Katsunosuke Hori, Akio Otsuka, Toru Furuya, Hideyuki Tanaka, Satomi Korogi

Detective Konakawa has a strange dream about his dead colleague trapping him in a circus, yet then wakes up together with the girl Paprika. They both watch his dream on the computer thanks to DC Mini, a special invention that was made up to help advance psychotherapy. Paprika is actually the alter ego of Dr. Atsuko Chiba who illegally uses the device to help patients outside the research facility. When the devices are stolen, they implant bad dreams directly into some people, so Atsuko and the obese Dr. Tokita, the inventor, start a campaign to find it. It is discovered the chairman stole them in order to "keep the human sanctuary, the dream, sacred". They stop him and help Konakawa solve his trauma.

The first 5 minutes of "Paprika" are perfect - Detective Konakawa is trapped in a circus, then he is suddenly swinging on a vine like Tarzan with the girl Paprika, then he is attacked in a train, then finally walking through a corridor with a corpse, until he wakes up and the viewers realize it was all a dream so he and Paprika proceed to watch it on the computer thanks to the DC Mini device, up until the point when the beautiful opening credits start equipped with fabulous music, where Paprika walks almost like a 'good ghost' though the streets at night - but with the detailed elaboration of the concept, the story looses a lot of it's promising potentials by taking weird directions on the one side, and not allowing the pure power of dreams to get loose on the other. Director Satoshi Kon crams many weird images into the film, playing with the idea that the viewers can't tell when a scene is real and when it's just a dream, but most of them seem more like a Felliniesque surreal fantasy than something that resembles like a dream: one of the rare examples when the magic of the concept "anything goes" reappears is somewhere half way into the film when Dr. Atsuko plunges into a dream as her alter ego Paprika, flying on a cloud through the sky. It's an ambitious anime that works subconsciously at moments and definitely needs to be seen at least twice in order to really get everything there is to get, but a similar idea about dreams and reality merging together was already used a decade ago in Naoko Takeuchi's inventive manga "Sailor Moon" in Super S season, the best of the lot. Still, even a half successful realization of a perfect concept is still worthy of a very good grade, with which "Paprika" continued Kon's trend of interesting animes.


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