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Chaotic and challenging, Paprika dares the viewer to keep up.


The second anime on the list of anime you need to view is 2006’s Paprika. Once again, this film is not recommended for kids as there are some adult scenes.

Paprika takes place in the near future. In development during this time is the DC Mini, a device that allows people to enter dreams. Development is taking place at the Institute for Psychiatric Research. Heading the team is Dr. Atsuko Chiba, an outwardly cold and analytical psychiatrist and researcher. Other members of the team include the genius, and obese, man-child Dr. Kosaku Tokita, exceedingly cheerful chief of staff and Chiba ally Dr. Totataro Shima, and Dr. Morio Osanai.

Chiba has been using the DC Mini to conduct what are essentially psycho-therapy sessions with individuals outside of the research facilities. However, her use of the machine to treat these individuals is illegal as the DC mini is still unfinished. As such, Chiba works under cover as her alter ego, Paprika. One such client is Detective Toshimi Konakawa. He seeks out help due to a disturbing, reoccurring dream that remains unfinished. At the conclusion, Paprika gives Konakawa a card with a website on it and 24/7 written on it.

Later, we find out that one of the DC mini prototypes was stolen. Since they are prototypes, they lack user restrictions, which means that anyone could use them to access anyone’s dreams, much like how if your computer isn’t password protected and anyone can access your massive stash of porn. Unlike your secret porn stash, messing in the minds of people can have grave consequences. As seen when in the middle of a meeting with the director of IPR, Dr. Seijiro Inui, Shima throws himself out of a window after someone uses the stolen DC Mini to get into his head.

Shima’s dream, what he was experiencing when he jumped out the window, is analyzed by Tokita. He notices that one of their collegues appears in the dream, confirming an inside job. Inui bans all development and use of the DC mini after the incident. Refusing Inui’s mandate, Chiba returns to the dream world as Paprika with Konakawa also helping the team. As the real and dream worlds begin to collide, they uncover that Osanai is the one that stole the DC Mini. He is also madly infatuated with Chiba, and after capturing Paprika, literally unzips Paprika to uncover Chiba underneath. Due to the unfinished nature of the DC Mini, things start to unravel and only Chiba can stop this.

First and foremost, Paprika is beautifully animated. The colors are bright and vivid. There is a definite pop to the world, both in the real and dream worlds. The dream world creatures are cheery yet demented. Giant block robots, grinning cats, Shinto gates, household appliances, hopping drumming frogs, and dolls parade through dreams and through the streets. The animation is incredibly fluid throughout the movie. There are no breaks or skimping on the flying around. For example, there are several scenes where a character jumps through a mirror or picture into another landscape. Or there are some scenes where characters fly through the air. In each of these cases, the camera follows the action without a hiccup.

Unfortunately, the score doesn’t quite hold up to the animation. There are the normal screeching strings to convey suspense and the deranged parades have an upbeat pop to them. But on the whole it seems rather generic. However, there is one stand out to the score. It is the first film to use the program Vocaloid to digitally add the vocal backings in some tracks. Vocaloid is a computer program that synthetically creates vocal tracks by using a bank of sung words by a performing artist. The composer can change the pitch, vibrato, length of note hold, individual notes, tempo, etc. It is being used more and more in commercial music and film score. Outside of that one little factoid, the score is coherent and serviceable to the plot, but not overly impressive

One of the more interesting plot lines in the movie is the duality of Chiba’s personality. In the real world, Chiba comes across as aloof, maybe even cold and introverted. She hides her emotions. Chiba isn’t ugly by any means, but dresses in a way that doesn’t highlight her features. Her hair is jet black and always pulled back in a bun, and she wears glasses. Her skin is fair and generally has a neutral affect. Typically she is dressed in a dull colored suit. Contrast this with her alter ego, Paprika. Paprika is cheery and extroverted. She embraces emotions. Paprika is good looking, with red hair and freckles on her cheeks. She wears brighter colored clothing that highlights her features. She has a slightly higher pitched voice that seems excited, compared to the lower pitched and more monotone Chiba. Everyone that comes across Paprika wants to be around her and can’t wait to see her again. It’s not as though Chiba has a split personality a la Sybil. It is more of a commentary on how we, as people, have different parts to ourselves that we allow people to see. For instance, some rock stars are known to be very flamboyant and charismatic on stage, yet outside of the stage they are reserved. The only question is whether Chiba can reconcile her Paprika side with herself.

Over all Paprika is very enjoyable. The first thing my wife said was that it reminded her of Inception. That is no coincidence as Paprika was one of the influences Nolan looked to for Inception. The animation is beautiful, colorful, lively, and “pops” on the screen. The characters are thoroughly engaging. Yes, the plot can get a little chaotic, as jumping between dream worlds and reality can be. The only real weakness is the music. As mentioned earlier, it is serviceable, but not memorable. On the whole, Paprika’s strengths far outweigh the very minor flaws. Paprika is highly recommended, especially for people who enjoy films that challenge the viewer to keep pace with the movie.


Directed By: Satoshi Kon

Produced By: Jungo Maruta, Masao Takiyama

Written By: Satoshi Kon, Seishi Minakami

Staring: Dr. Atsuko Chiba- Megumi Hayashibara (Jp), Cindy Robinson (En)

Dr. Kosaku Tokita- Toru Furuya (Jp), Yuri Lowenthal (En)

Dr. Totataro Shima- Katsunosuke Hori (Jp), David Lodge (En)

Dr. Morio Osanai- Koichi Yamadera (Jp), Doug Erholtz (En)

Detective Konakawa- Akio Otsuka (Jp), Paul St. Peter (En)

Distributor: Sony Entertainment Pictures Japan

Release Date: September 2, 2006

Run Time: 90 minutes

Rating: R


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