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Paprika (Kon Satoshi 2006)



Genre: Psychedelic Sci-Fi Anime
Director: Kon Satoshi (2006)

review in one breath

Dreams and Reality collide with devastating consequence in this highly colorful and imaginative anime by director Satoshi Kon. After years of effort, a research team has nearly perfected a device which taps into a subject's dreams. The goal of the project is to use the device to help subjects overcome psychological obstacles and enhance the growth of consciousness. But it the wrong hands and quickly proves a malevolent weapon which not only melts the minds of its victims but soon overlaps objective reality with the subjective manipulation of Nightmare.


Wow! Here is a very cool and engaging anime.

This is a recent production, first released in 2006 in Japan and in the U.S. in November, 2007. The director is Satoshi Kon who's other major animations -- Millennium Actress (2001) and Tokyo Godfathers (2003) have also been released into the U.S. mainstream. As early as 1991 Kon had contributed to a number of animations as both writer and artist, but his true national debut and name recognition came from his direction of the highly popular, mature-themed 1998 anime Perfect Blue. (For a crappy, campy live-action adaptation of Kon's anime, look no further!).

But Paprika rises above Kon's earlier works in terms of both complexity and appeal to contemporary, technologically-minded audiences. Instead of the rather straight forward suspense-thriller of Perfect Blue or the retro-aimed projects of both Tokyo Godfathers and Millennium Actress, Kon here dives headlong into a very intuitable sci-fi vision which imaginative fans can believe takes place in either the present or near future. This shift into techno-modernity and futurism, I believe, is critically important for Kon as a director and widely beneficial for fans of contemporary Japanese anime.

Satoshi Kon belongs squarely within the new generation of Japanese anime masters who are in the process of bringing the art well above and beyond the prior generation's significant foundation. We are all by now very familiar and endeared to the internationally acclaimed animations of such stellar figures as Hayao Miyazaki and the Ghibli Studios. Kon and a select few of his contemporaries have been passed the torch and are pushing the prior envelope of Japanese anime into the new, technologically demanding and visually sophisticated generation.

These heirs, with Kon among them, maintain the core humanitarian message of their key predecessors while incorporating wholly new yet realistic visions of contemporary or futuristic worlds, whether by incorporating the latest CG technology versus old-school cell animation techniques as in the immaculate Appleseed by Aramaki Shinji or the replacement of retro settings and sentiments with advanced sci-fi scenarios as found in the anime we are reviewing here, Paprika.

Paprika deals as much with technological advances as it does the stuff of dreams and nightmares, and so we are given a very interesting blend of sci-fi and traditional icons. Newly developed brain scans allow live feeds into the a person's dreams, in which a recurring theme is a vast parade of odd monsters, children's toys and things only the subconscious dream state could conjure. This parade is analogous to the traditional Hyaki Yakou no Youkai or Parade of 100 Monsters, a widely known and beloved piece of Japanese folk lore in which the hob-goblins of traditional superstitions become visible to humans as they parade in vast numbers down the moonlit street. Within the dreams of Paprika, the parade similarly symbolizes the emergence of something normally hidden deep within one's psyche suddenly bursting into the open world of society and objectivity. The imagery is eclectic and the action remains constant throughout, with themes ranging to the charmingly nostalgic to the apocalyptically gruesome.

The anime is based on the 1993 novel Paprika by sci-fi author Yasutaka Tsutsui. There have been at least 12 prior films based on Yasutaka's work. To my knowledge, this is the first anime adaptation.


Through applying advanced technological research to the field of psychotherapy, an experimental team of researchers have constructed the "DC Mini", a portable headset device which monitors a person's dream state so thoroughly, that the imaginary worlds of the subconscious can be displayed in real-time via computer displays. This digital interface into dreams allows the researchers to enter into the subject's dreams, with the aim of helping patients in psychotherapy overcome deep-seated obstacles in new, unhindered ways. Leading the team is female researcher Chiba whose dream-state persona in known as Paprika. Once inside a patient's dreams, researcher Chiba's alter-ego Paprika is adept at communicating within the psychedelically fluid environment of the subconscious. This involves the ability to transcend and bend physical laws of nature such as gravity and time-space, as well as skill in adapting to scenarios which can suddenly shift from the pleasant to the nightmarish.

Research using the DC Mini proves fruitful until researchers observe other outside influences at work within others' dreams. they suspect that a rogue researcher might be using the DC Mini to manipulate others, often to malevolent and destructive ends. Through their prior testing phase, they are already privy to the side effects of prolonged use of the DC Mini, namely the sudden inability of the subject to discern between waking reality and dream. But the deliberate and prolonged interference by the rogue dream-surfer uncovers a new, more devastating side-effect; namely, that dreams of one person easily combine and overlap with dreams of another, ultimately creating an irreversible cascade of increasingly powerful subconscious movement quickly overwhelming the dreamer.

One by one her co-researchers succumb to the mind-melting influence of a malignant, cumulative nightmare as Paprika desperately tries to locate the source of the chaos. The crisis soon reaches apocalyptic proportion when the cumulative nightmare breaches waking consciousness, filling the waking world with the chaos and fluidity of dream.


This is a really decent and engaging storyline, with creatively rendered imagery and convincing characters. (SaruDama Tip: ALWAYS avoid the English dubbing. Tune into the Japanese dialogue and read the English subtitles instead. You'll get much more out of the film, both emotionally and cognitively. This holds true for this and any other Japanese film.)

This really is on par with the more classic anime examples I mentioned above, though with a techno-modern twist. The same degree of thoughtful reflection and humanitarian contemplation exists here as in those classics, and there is more than a modicum of traditional (Japanese) intuition and sensibility at play. But the animation techniques and the modern/futuristic setting bring this to a new, welcomed level.,/p>

This film has already had a limited theatrical release in the U.S. and is now available in all mainstream markets in a Region 1 DVD release. It is well worth seeing and might easily be worth purchasing if you have a collection of favorite Japanese anime. I saw this with a friend who had seen only one or two prior Japanese anime and she found this very impressive both emotionally and intellectually. I have seen PLENTY of japanese anime and I felt the same way. I suspect you might as well.

Version reviewed: Region 1 DVD (with subtitles)

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
Impressive new anime based on the work of author Yasutaka Tsutsui. This is an excellent example of the new generation Japanese anime we hope to get more of. This is definitely NOT for young kids. Death, blood and mayhem permeate the storyline. Did I mention suicides? Some crayon nipples and what seemed to be a reference to tentacle hentai. Deep brain scans, dancing refrigerators, flute-playing frogs, butterflies with breasts, 80-foot creepy dolls, reality-bending alter egos, and the destruction of mankind. THREE GREEN SKULLS!


Great review, i also love paprika :) i love how you make your reviews and explained the movie so good
you don't seem to spoiled the end of the film :). And i also think that the movies should be watched in
the original language with sub i f you don't understand.

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