- Directed by Satoshi Kon
- Japan on November 25, 2006 (Japan) / September 2, 2006 (Venice) / May 24, 2007 (North America)
- Based on the 1993 novel of the same name by Yasutaka Tsutsui
- Dr. Atsuko Chiba, Paprika-Cindy Robinson
- Hajime Himuro, Kuga-Brian Beacock
- Dr. Morio Osanai-Doug Erholtz
- Dr. Seijiro Inui-Michael Forest
- Magician-Shinya Fukumatsu
- Announcer-Kumiko Izumi
- Researcher-Anri Katsu
- Waitress-Akiko Kawase
- Dr. Torataro Shima-David Lodge
- Dr. Kosaku Tokita-Yuri Lowenthal
- Pierrot-Kôzô Mito
- Institute member-Eiji Miyashita
- Det. Toshimi Konakawa-Paul St. Peter
- Konakawa’s Old Friend-Ezra Weisz
A machine that allows therapists to enter their patients’ dreams is stolen and only a young dream detective can end the ensuing chaos.
Paprika is one trippy movie. To say anything else would be incorrect. Calling it trippy might even be an understatement. This manages to be quite surreal during the course of the narrative which is not easy in my experience for a film. Many movies try that in one form or another but instead come off as confusing or just straight dumb.
Events of the story are set off by the theft of a machine prototype called the DC Mini which allows a therapist to view dreams and provide better therapy. The waking world and the dream world blur together more and more until in the film it becomes hard to tell them apart. The strange imagery used communicates the difference between the dreamworld and the waking world with events of the two repeatedly mixing together. Director Satoshi Kon feels that fiction and reality are not necessarily opposites and employs that philosophy here.
Our title character of Paprika is actually another aspect of Dr. Atsuko Chiba. From my perspective it’s a little difficult to tell at points in the narrative to tell just how independent Paprika is of the doctor. By the end of the story though it is clear Paprika is an entity unto themselves. How did the state come about? Not sure. And the implications of having a fully functional independent dream persona that is a quality therapist on their own are never really addressed.
One thing this film does is confuse things like gluttony with being a personality. For example with Tokita, the inventor of the DC Mini, they confuse gluttony with a personality. Excessive eating is not a personality but rather a trait. It is not common but it does happen often enough in this story.
The characters are differentiated enough though despite that issue that they are not interchangeable. And that is important here as it feels the cast of characters is a little larger than necessary for the story plus the narrative itself becomes confusing (by necessity). You need to be able to tell the characters apart easily with all the weird stuff the story has.
There is heavier sexual inuendo in the imagery in Paprika. It is largely in the dream world and includes Paprika which brings into question the professionalism of Dr. Atsuko Chiba. Seriously. Your alternate self is going down on someone in a dream? It seems harmless enough until you realize who it actually is but never really gets touched on.
The animation is a combination of hand-drawn work and CGI. They create some trippy and unusual visuals. The animators went all in on their imaginations and part of me is kind of wondering what they were taking in order to come up with some of the stuff. That parade of inanimate nightmares is one of the weirder things I’ve ever seen.
Paprika was not as dialogue heavy nor exposition heavy as I was expecting. More often than not it showed its plot points rather than spoke through them. This is in contrast to what I am more used to in Japanese animation. Too often they talk and talk and talk rather than perform.
This is certainly not a Disney movie. And this is most certainly not for kids. At least not very young. It’s a densely packed film with a lot going on that will leave small children confused. Never mind the mature content of it. And the pace of the story is a little uneven. It moves fast but there are points where it feels like it is sprinting and others that it is just jogging. The speed picks up, a lot of things happen, and then a quiet down a little bit.
Paprika is a visual feast that may take more than one viewing to completely get the story. It is not for everybody though so I will give you some caution if you seek it out.