Paprika (Director: Satoshi Kon, Japan, 2006): I’m not really a genuine otaku nor do I aspire to be, but I do have a little bit of experience with Japanese anime, including the films of Hiyao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro) and the excellent sci-fi series Ergo Proxy. So I don’t claim to know or understand all of the conventions of Japanese animation. With that disclaimer out of the way, I can honestly say that Paprika (or “Papurika” which is the Japanese title) is quite a trip. Like many anime, the plot is tricky, but the visuals are absolutely eye-popping. The fact that the film is based on a well-known and popular novel by Japanese sci-fi master Yasutaka Tsutsui led to high expectations among Japanese audiences, who have received the film enthusiastically.
The press kit synopsis: “Dr. Atsuko Chiba is a genius scientist by day, and a kick-ass dream warrior named PAPRIKA by night. In this psychedelic sci-fi adventure, it will take the skills of both women to save the world. In the near future, a revolutionary new psychotherapy treatment called PT has been invented. Through a device called the â€œDC Miniâ€ it is able to act as a â€œdream detectiveâ€ to enter into peopleâ€™s dreams and explore their unconscious thoughts. Before the government can pass a bill authorizing the use of such advanced psychiatric technology, one of the prototypes is stolen, sending the research facility into an uproar. In the wrong hands, the potential misuse of the device could be devastating, allowing the user to completely annihilate a dreamerâ€™s personality while they are asleep. Renowned scientist, Dr. Atsuko Chiba, enters the dream world under her exotic alter-ego, code name â€œPAPRIKA,â€ in an attempt to discover who is behind the plot to undermine the new invention.”
Paprika is like Dr. Chiba’s subconscious self, or her id, flirty and pixieish, but she is able to do things the uptight Dr. Chiba can’t do. It’s funny that later in the film, Paprika refers to herself as “the missing spice.” With the help of police detective Konakawa and the device’s inventor, the food-loving Dr. Tokita, this Spice Girl will make the world safe again.
Though the plot is almost ridiculously complex, it’s a very fun ride, just to see what the animators can come up with next. Some of the film’s most memorable images wouldn’t be out of place in the off-kilter world of videogame Katamari Damacy. Along with the visuals, the jaunty electronic score adds to the cool factor, making Paprika a sort of Spirited Away for grownups.
The film opens in limited release in Toronto on June 15th.