Directed by the late Satoshi Kon, Paprika is a Japanese animated feature length film in which the border between reality and dream loses definition. It is animated in the classical 2D style and makes use of vivid imagination and, unlike most other anime or animations, doesn’t aim to stay within the bounds of reality but warps and transforms in front of the viewers’ eyes, making the unthinkable possible.
Figure 1. Paprika (2006)
A device that allows for a person to enter someone else’s dream has been stolen, and the inventor team is on their feet to retrieve it again, with a seemingly stereotypical lady in grey office clothes, a brilliant genius inside an obese body and a little old man who loves his dog dearly. Over the length of the film, the characters develop away from those stereotypes and reveal their secrets, for example Chiba, the lady, has a dream alter ego called Paprika, who is visible on shiny surfaces and takes over in dreams.
The world is very grey and dominated by a city scape with little green for most of it, but the dream worlds are held on many colours, a circus for example, and a parade, but also a bar which is accessible over the internet (a dream you can walk into over the internet? Yes!) all have very red themes which stand out from the “real” reality. As is Paprika with her brown/red hair and red t-shirt, to maximise the contrast in personality to Chiba.
Figure 2. Chiba (2006)
The animations are stunning, as while dreaming it is entirely possible that the whole world just starts wobbling and throws you off its edge, or if you are stuck in a situation it’s fine to jump into the nearest painting and borrow the racing horse. Paprika is a film that delivers on the potential that animation promises, instead of sticking to the “rules” which is very refreshing, and makes the viewer wonder how the other films by Satoshi Kon are, reviews online are promising. The whole world is stretchy – bendy and is being pushed to its boundaries (and probably beyond) all while the protagonists are trying to save their dreaming – devices. The story has a very Japanese touch to it and viewers with experience and understanding of the Japanese culture will find it easier to follow than those who haven’t, as certain elements are common knowledge in the east but do not make any sense to the west. For example, Paprika is in need of flying skills in a dream, so at her first convenience she “turns” into a fairy with little wings which can carry her to her desired location. Turning in this case means that there was a shelf of dolls and she turned into one of them – pushing reality in a dream. These things will obviously be seen as impossible by a broad audience, but considering it’s a dream anything can happen.
Paprika has been an inspiration for the film Inception, which also deals with different levels of dreams and how real reality really is. To both films applies that getting injured in a dream results in injury in the real world, and in both the question is asked “how do we know that this is reality and not just another dream?” Also, both feature an elevator which stops at certain dreams, but in Paprika fluidity between dreams and less science is the driving factor, while Inception has clear cut of points between the dreams to be able to distinguish them easier.
Figure 3. Warped Dream (2006)
The most annoying detail about Paprika was the voice cast for me, the females were cast in unnervingly high squeaky frequencies which I find tolerable in Japanese but not in English and also the incorrect use of titles (it’s just Chairman, not Mr Chairman) but the soundtrack was really good.
Unfortunately, Paprika’s director Kon died in 2010 of pancreatic cancer so won’t be bringing out any more films, which is especially sad as there are very few good feature length anime, as most stories adapted from manga either end up as a series or get turned into a bad film, like X/1999 (or both).
Altogether, Paprika is a great film that needs watching more than once and possibly some delving into Japanese culture to understand the story fully. Also in regard to the American voice cast, subtitles might not be a bad idea, depending on taste. It is a stunningly visual piece with great animations and good character development, with enough back story for all of the main characters to make sense without losing its fantastic approach to storytelling. I very much enjoyed watching it and probably will again, along with Satoshi Kon’s other works. 10/10
Figure 1: Kon, Satoshi. (2006) Paprika [movie poster] available from: http://static.zerochan.net/Paprika.%28Character%29.full.410935.jpg (accessed: 5/2/16)
Figure 2: Kon, Satoshi. (2006) Chiba [movie still] available from: http://static.zerochan.net/Paprika.%28Character%29.full.410935.jpg (accessed: 5/2/16)
Figure 3: Kon, Satoshi. (2006) Warped Dream [movie still] available from: http://moviesmedia.ign.com/movies/image/article/791/791727/paprika-20070524044625267.jpg (accessed: 5/2/16)