Paprika, Japanese anime feature, Blu-ray (2006)

by | Dec 6, 2007 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Paprika, Japanese anime feature, Blu-ray (2006)

Directed: Satoshi Kon
Based on novel by Susumu Hirasawa
Studio: Sony Pictures Classic 20866
Video: 1.85:1 enhanced for 16:9, color, 1080p HD
Audio: Japanese or English Dolby TrueHD 5.1; French, Cantonese, Mandarin, Thai, Portuguese, Spanish 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Thai, Portuguese (Extras: English, Korean)
Extras: Commentary track by filmmaker, Making-of Documentary with Kon and Tsutsui, Conversation among Kon, Tsutsui and the two actors who voiced Paprika and the computer genius, “The Dream CG World,” “The Art of Fantasy,” Storyboard Comparisons
Length: 90 minutes
Rating: ****

While this wild and woolly anime feature shares a similar quirky fantasy world familiar to fans of Miyazaki’s Spirited Away and his other animes, don’t expect Miyasaki’s cuddly creatures.  Kon – whose previous anime successes were Perfect Blue and Tokyo Godfathers – doesn’t have the usual small child as the main character in Paprika, but instead the sexy dream-world avatar of a stern but beautiful female therapist.

A massively obese but genius young scientist has developed a revolutionary machine which allows researchers to not only record but actually enter and take part in a subject’s dreams.  The device is stolen by a “dream terrorist” who begins to cause complete chaos in which dreams become enmeshed with the real world.  A brave police detective works with the therapist and her dream-world self to try to track down and stop the terrorist. The avatar Paprika has all the positive qualities that the therapist seems to lack, including risking dangers to get to the bottom of the conspiracy.

The images in this anime are some of the most unusual, magical, and even disturbing one might see.  The collision of dreams and reality is pictured in highly dense and detailed fantastic images. The wildest is a gigantic “parade of everything” thru Tokyo – including Japanese characters in costume, soldiers, various animals of all sizes, figures from various religious ceremonies, the Statue of Liberty, and such inanimate objects as refrigerators, TV sets, cabinets, etc. During the conversation in the extras with the director and writer, the writer explains that he has long been interested in psychoanalysis and based some of the dream images on his own dreams. His story originally appeared in a Japanese women’s magazine. He speaks about how one’s subconscious affects your dreams. Though no mention was made in the discussions about Jung, this story about dreams seems to be a field day for Jungians.

The extras feature on the cgi is of great interest in showing how skillfully the computer graphics – which were required for one-third to one-half of the film – were incorporated into the hand-drawn cell animation.  Many of the dream effects were impossible to do with normal animation and the cgi had to be carefully designed to look similar to the rest of the film.  It was surprising to see in the documentary that at the beginning there had been some discussion about doing the story as a live action film.  Paprika is a perfect vehicle for animation and the final results make it one of the most inventive animated films ever.  Picture quality is perfect and the super-high resolution of Blu-ray brings out the fantastic detail the animators labored to include in the film.  For example one of them discusses the confetti raining down during the parade. One color confetti falls behind the figures in the parade while another color falls in front of them, to give more depth. And typically such a scene would have a couple thousand confetti pieces, but Paprika has something like seven thousand. I was disappointed only in the soundtrack, which is not uncompressed PCM 5.1 but Dolby TrueHD, which neither my Pioneer player nor Sunfire AV preamp were able to decode.

 – John Sunier

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