Paprika Review

This is review number one hundred. Yes, I’ve done it. I wrote in my very first blog that I might not even reach 100 because I was a bit of a mess back then but after five months, I’ve reached 10% of my goal. It’s not much but it’s a huge accomplishment for me. I want to say thank you LtColInsane for leaving comments in my blog. I also want to thank you Horatiu for visiting my site. Also for ILoveJapan1596”, if you’re reading this then thank you.

I’ll be reviewing Paprika. It’s a movie directed by Satoshi Kon and I already have this movie planned for my 100th review. I have watched and reviewed all of his movies now. I just need to see Paranoia Agent and I’ve completed his filmography. Paprika is a nice movie. Just watch it. Go!

Story

Paprika is about this group of researchers testing out a machine that can access your dreams and it can record it in a computer. It’s a revolutionary approach to psychotherapy where patients and doctors can literally analyze the dream leading to groundbreaking success. The dream machine isn’t finished yet though (ironic, isn’t?) and it’s still in the final testing phase. Someone decided to steal the machine though and it causes concern among the researchers. They are now tasked to retrieve the dream machine before any harm can be done to ordinary people. Little do they know though that dream is about to invade reality.

Taking the Pants Off

This is the last Satoshi Kon I’ll be reviewing. I still have one more anime of his I haven’t seen which is a series but so far, unless Dream Machine gets released, I’ve completed his filmography. Boy, I love his works and throughout my time watching them, I always feel a bit sad that this director, who has a deep love for cinema, is gone now. His movies never fail to impress me and their sheer majesty is absolutely timeless. When the time comes, I’ll sit with my kids and we’ll watch his movies again with me being a massive dick and spoiling the movie for them. Paprika was his last movie. After breaking away from his pattern in Tokyo Godfather, he has once again grasped the theme of dream vs. reality and made a movie out of it. You’d think that after three movies, the theme would be overused by now. Satoshi Kon has an unbelievable approach to movies though that you often don’t watch it, you experience it. Paprika stands along his great works. The four movies he directed are easily masterpieces that any anime fan (no, not Otaku) should see.

Paprika started out a bit confusing with an already established status quo and it didn’t introduce the characters. The anime suddenly moved at its own pace asking the audience to catch up. I watched this with a lot of questions after the first twenty minutes of the anime and it immediately intrigued me. As the movie progresses, the characters are slowly introduced and the status quo is slowly explained but never in a straightforward way. The anime often ask the audience to pick up the pieces and put them together by themselves. It will easily throw you off, especially if you aren’t familiar with the story telling that Mr. Kon has nicely mastered. This approach was also done in Perfect Blue and more strongly in Millennium Actress (his two previous works). I didn’t expect it to outright start messy though. The two movies started pretty normally and then jumped into discord. Paprika was outright disjointed at first and it quickly glued itself together afterwards. Along the way, the theme of dream vs. reality is served pretty strongly.

The anime would often jump from scene to scene with no cohesion. It’s easy to lose track if you don’t pay attention and you let the anime overwhelm you. Sometimes there are scenes that aren’t really important to the anime. The same thing was done to Millennium Actress where simple logic would often intrude into fully realizing the film. Often times, you just let the anime flow along and you pick up important tidbits and you slowly put them together. The storytelling of the anime is double edged because it’s easy to lose track of the direction of the anime. Since it moves with no real cohesion, the audience is tasked to piece it too much it may intrude in enjoying the movie. On the other hand, the unconventional storytelling is certainly wonderful because as the anime progress the events keep on building. I personally lose track of the plot countless times but I didn’t mind because I was busy enjoying the visual aspects of the anime.

The anime is all about dreams. The dream machine would often lead to random events like the characters suddenly swaying through wines or people turning dolls. The anime captured the concepts of dreams as successions of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep pretty nicely. In fact, there are a lot of symbolisms in the anime that was quietly folded into the movie. They’re often unrecognizable but there are reasons why this character looks like a doll or why they are swinging into the vines like Tarzan. At some point, I often just chalk it up to random events of the anime but there are some pretty impressive subtle messages in the movie. There are also scenes in the movie where the characters talk about the dream and it alerted the viewers of the subtle symbolisms of the movie. Symbolism is a great piece in Satoshi Kon movies going all the way back to Perfect Blue (notice how Mami was connected to the stalker).

The theme of the anime is dream versus reality. I think the theme is established pretty literally as the anime progresses. I personally believed that the story of the anime was a bit predictable but the events leading to the predictable outcome is somewhat unexpected. It’s also a great M.O. of Satoshi Kon. Just when you think you figured out the story and you have an idea of the ending, the story reveals one final twist that throws you off your pre conceived idea of the movie. The twist of the movie came out of nowhere and it certainly was a pleasant for me.

The characters in the anime were all pretty normal, to be honest, but they were presented in a way that you often need to depend on the characters to understand the story so they come off as more than just normal. I do admit though that Paprika is pretty nice. I spent the whole movie figuring out who exactly are Paprika and her relation to the other characters. Of course, Chiba is pretty interesting as well because her relationship with Paprika was one of the great mysteries of the anime. As the anime keeps unraveling, the characters are slowly uncovered as well. The way the characters move around the setting of the dream vs. reality is among the many wonders of the film. I personally enjoyed the subplot about the other character, the detective. There was a lot to tell about him and it’s among the many interesting parts of the anime.

Because of the big wrench thrown at the later parts of the movie, the ending became so grand and majestic. The theme of dream vs. reality poured out and covered the movie and Satoshi Kon’s directorial touch, which is a bit whimsical and mature, suddenly became heavy handed. The anime ended in such a grand way that the confusing first few minutes of the anime was easily redeemed and the payoff was excessive. I always have a smile, and some tears, after I finish a Satoshi Kon movie and Paprika did the same for me.

Sight and Sound

The first thing you’ll notice in this anime is that it’s CG. It’s the first time Satoshi Kon used CG and it was marvelous. It added a lot of depth to the scenes and it made some of them a lot more appealing to look at. Of course, the digitally painted scenes are still here and they blend well with the CG parts of the background. The second thing you’ll notice is the appearance of “junk” as I would call it. It’s the same in Studio Ghibli background where there are a lot of things piled up in the background as oppose to a straight laced room with clean floors and such. I love messy background in animated movies because they are unique. I personally tried doing messy background with pile of junk and it was hard because they are still neatly arranged but in a messy way.

Like all Satoshi Kon films, this movie can be done with real people as it has a sense of realism to it despite some of the scenes being over the top. It reportedly inspired the movie “Inception” so you have an idea just how nicely conceived a Satoshi Kon film is. There seems to be a live action movie in the works according to Wiki. The facial expressions are the best part of the animation because there is so much detail in the facial muscles and the characters aren’t the conventional anime characters. They look more human than most anime characters.

The visuals are possibly the part of the movie because they are all stunning. From a parade of appliances and other funky things to freaky dolls with morphing faces, every scene in the anime will intrigue you. Normal scenes have important dialogue in them but the dream aspects of the anime are downright crazy. There are no limitations and no rules so the randomness of the scenes is among the best parts of the anime. There are also some disturbing scenes as it represents dreams and dreams are experiences translated by the subconscious. There is one scene where roots of a tree enveloped Chiba’s neck and wrapped around her like tentacle even going into her mouth. I do admire the fact that even if the scenes keep jumping with no apparent reason, the mood of the scenes is all intact.

The soundtrack is a very important part of the anime because it completes the experience. I still picture Paprika entering a dream and suddenly falling from the sky and the music was vibrant as if symbolizing freedom. It was such a strong scene that I was completely awed. The music of the movie is very much alive moving with the pace of the movie. It has a nice light yet playful music when something nice is happening. The music then moves fast and intense when the scene builds up into something surprising or scary.

The anime doesn’t have an OP. It does have an ED song during the credits and it was also inserted into the movie. It’s a really nice vibrant song composed Susumu Hirawa who also collaborated in all of Kon’s movies. The song is “The Girl in Byakkoya” by Susumu Hirasawa. It’s an electropop song which was supposedly sung by the very first female Vocaloid. Susumu Hirasawa said that “If users can edit her perfectly, she can be a professional (singer). She can sing in soprano or whatever if they edit her overwhelmingly” on his blog. This is the very first movie to feature a Vocaloid. I personally love the song because it’s unique and it’s playful. As I write this review, I have it on loop. 🙂

Overall Score

8/10 “Don’t just watch it, experience it. This movie hits a lot of good notes making it a timeless classic.”

Satoshi Kon has once again made a damn good film. He might’ve left this world early, but his works will tell future generations of his passion for cinema and it will teach others to appreciate the art of it. If you love the whimsical aspect of any Studio Ghibli film then you’ll enjoy Paprika. Heck, you’ll enjoy his entire filmography.

10 thoughts on “Paprika Review

  1. Hehe. Dou itashimashite (hope i wrote it right), I saw it was your 100th so i read some of it before seeing the animation (so i cheated a sneak preview, sue me). ….and ill be back here after i’ve watched it :)…

  2. I’ve loved following your blog, and will certainly continue to! Keep up the good work! 🙂 We’re all rooting for you as you aim towards 1000!
    ~ILJ

  3. Congrats on the milestone, you seem to like Paprika more than I expected. I think I need to find myself a copy, it’s been years since I watched it.

  4. I’m not a huge fan of Paprika. I saw it several months ago, and while the experience isn’t fresh in my mind, I remember mostly for being a rather unsettling movie. While being unsettling a bad thing in itself (Apocalypse Now is a great movie even if it’s rather unsettling), I’m not sure I liked it in the context of this movie. The combined aspects of the story, animation and music just kind of weirded me out met out. I’m sure much of the weirdness was intentional since the movie tries to blur dreams and reality, but the whole thing just didn’t feel “right”. I realize this is an extremely vague criticism, and I’m probably not articulating my point of view very well. Let me try to point out a concrete example. When the parade scene starts, a catchy yet somehow gratingly dissonant tune starts to play. Several businessmen jump off a roof and a bunch of inanimate proceed to march down the street in a distorted fashion. Stuff like this constantly happens throughout the movie and I just don’t get it. I hate to think that I’m oversensitive to weird and abstract ideas in movies, but Paprika was just too over the top for my taste.

    • I think at the release of Paprika, Satoshi Kon, the director, is already so established that he wanted to still awe audiences new and old. I do believe he did get a bit overboard with his abstract style in this movie, but he was also challenging himself. Do better. Satoshi Kon always tries to outdo himself in his movies, and Paprika being his last kinda feels just right.
      Also, the scene you mention might be unsettling, and I do understand, but Satoshi Kon is also a proud director. He is known for his transitions and frame counts. In terms of story, yeah,it’s weird but in terms of technical animation, it was divine. the absolute showing of an extremely experienced man outdoing himself one last time.
      I love Satoshi Kon as a director, and it’s a shame he left us too early.

Thoughts~

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