June 9, 2008
While Paprika is very typical of Satoshi Kon’s work and thus a tad predictable at times, it’s still a fun, entertaining movie that does boast a few innovations.
STORY – The merging of reality and fantasy seems to be one of the most popular themes in anime, allowing it to span over many genres and to be addressed in many different ways. The theme seems to be especially favored by director Satoshi Kon though, and many of his past works reflect this seeming obsession, including Millennium Actress and Paranoia Agent. Rather than fantasy through movies or hallucinations though, Paprika grapples with the concept of dreams and how they might be utilized to better understand the human subconscious for psychological therapy. Still nothing particularly groundbreaking, and even without being familiar with Kon’s other works, some aspects of the story were predictable — such as the identity of the “true” antagonist and the idea that injuries obtained in fantasy translate into injuries in reality.
Still, while not completely original, Kon sets up the stage for his story very, very well (as expected, I suppose), and if there is to be an example for a film with this kind of theme, then certainly Paprika could be it. The realistic and modern city setting contrasts greatly with the psychedelic dream world that’s presented, which really helps drive home the theme of needing to separate and distinguish the two. The viewpoints presented by characters are believable and logic, allowing the audience to easily identify with them. Everything is perfectly paced, with events accumulating in an increasingly dramatic way towards the climax and final confrontation. Admittedly, for me, that final confrontation fell a bit short of expectations, but it was a fun ride all the same.
Paprika also has a lovely number of subtle side-stories woven into its central plot, mostly concerning character relationships and personal development. I especially enjoyed these as they seemed to emphasize the idea of “reality” and relationships within reality, as opposed to those in the fantasy world. This may tie more into the character section, but story-wise, it’s always nice to have some lesser plots that actually do still contribute to the main idea.
CHARACTERS – For the most part, Paprika’s characters were very well done. Or to be more specific, Paprika’s protagonists were all very well done, while its antagonists left much to be desired. Dr. Chiba and her alternate dream personality, Paprika, are excellent foils of each other and it’s very interesting to see them both develop as characters, especially when the situations force them to work together. Although they are already essentially two sides of the same coin, both personalities have a depth to them that makes them even more complex while still retaining the ties to each other. That’s incredibly impressive. Think of it this way, if one normal character can be considered “3-dimensional” when it obtains the right level of depth and Chiba/Paprika are actually the same person while each achieving that 3d level, then does that mean they can be considered a 6-dimensional character in the end?
Tokita and Konakawa are also both fun characters with a good amount of personality to them. Though both may seem a little stereotypical at first glance, the situations and subsequent personality quirks are quickly explored. Both go through an introspective journey throughout the course of the movie and have intriguing relationships with Dr. Chiba (and/or Paprika), providing for uniquely entertaining interactions.
The further we move from the main cast, however, the less depth of character there seems to be. While this is probably normal, the low number of total characters in the movie makes it a little annoying when the antagonists fall so flat. Dr. Shima is a fun little guy, but is generally a very predictable support character. Worse off though, are the Chairman and Dr. Osanai, who should not have been as easy to figure out as they were. From the moment they were each introduced, both had vibes screaming that they would eventually be revealed to the working against our protagonists. Osanai’s jealousy and infatuation was difficult to sympathize with, and while the Chairman’s ideas were reasonable to some extent, his crazed personality lost him credibility, making his entire plot seem cheap and cliche.
ARTSTYLE & ANIMATION – Paprika is a beautiful movie. There’s no disputing it. The colors are lively and vibrant, and the animation is slick and smooth. The real world is rendered perfectly with ridiculously detailed backgrounds and even more ridiculously detailed animated elements. The fantasy world is breathtaking, with even more insane details and unique elements. And when reality and fantasy come together? It’s crazy just how fantastic everything looks. All the little ways they came up with to integrate to two realms was incredibly impressive — Paprika’s ability to travel through pictures on walls and televisions made for some very awesome sequences. The only real drawback to all of this is the information overload. With so many bright colors and so much movement, your eyes will probably be burning a bit when it’s all over with.
MUSIC – Paprika’s score is also excellent. The theme playing at the beginning of the movie as Paprika is dancing through traffic is very trance-inducing and hypnotic, thus fitting very well with the movie’s themes. The parade music for the dream sequences is also very catchy and appropriately reminiscent of real parades and circuses. There aren’t very many other recognizable background themes, but those that are there are effective for the scenes they’re used for, such as the haunting melodies used as the characters enter an abandoned/unknown area.
VOICE ACTING – Though I’ve seen the movie several times on DVD, it’s always been subbed, so I can’t comment on the dub. In our original Japanese, Megumi Hayashibara is our title character and she does an awesome job giving both Dr. Chiba and Paprika distinguishable voices that are fitting to their separate personalities. The rest of the cast does not particularly stand out (probably because Hayashibara does such an amazing job), but they all play their roles well enough (to the extent that I wonder if they were merely typecasted).
OVERALL – All in all, despite not being anything really new and despite the presence of a few annoying predictabilities, Paprika is a very well done movie that I think both newcomers and long-time fans of Kon’s work can enjoy, especially if you’re a fan of the whole fantasy/reality theme like me. :3