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DVD Review: Paprika

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Paprika is based on a novel by Yasutaka Tsutui, a famous Japanese author. The novel was originally optioned for live action film but when the author realized that live action couldn’t do the dream sequences justice, and they are an integral part of the story, it was proposed for animation. Lucky for us that animation was chosen and that director Satoshi Kon, famous for such films as Millennium Actress and Perfect Blue, was interested in turning Paprika from an original novel into a breathtaking film.

A device has been invented for therapists to enter and explore a patient's dreams. Called a DC Mini, the therapist and the patient each put them on before going to sleep; the two share the dream and once the patient wakes the therapist is able to help unravel the meanings, having seen them first hand. But the technology is new and very experimental.

The genius behind this device is Kosaku Tokita, an overweight man who is still a child at heart. One day he simply thought that it would be wonderful to be able to share a friend’s dream and he set out to make it possible. Dr. Atsuko Chiba was one of the first he brought in on the DC Mini; she has been working with Tokita from the start and the two have become very close.

paprika oneBut Chiba and Tokita aren’t the only ones who work with the dream device. Paprika works with the DC Mini outside of the lab and from under the control of the Chairman, who runs the research foundation, which is how she comes into contact with police detective Konakawa, who is trying to help him unravel the meaning of a particularly haunting dream.

When a CD Mini is stolen and several researchers pulled into a shared dream, the chairman pulls the plug on the research. The chairman also wants to know why nothing has been done to capture the renegade Paprika, though the research team assures him that she is nothing more than a rumor or myth. But when the researchers can’t be pulled from the crazy dream, Paprika is the only one who can go in and save them.

paprika twoBut Paprika, while being the woman of many men’s dreams, isn’t all she seems. Paprika is the wild, exuberant manifestation of Dr. Chiba in the dream world. The two women are not exactly one in the same while still being the same; they are in a way two sides to one coin while being completely separate coins. Toward the end there is this fantastic scene where Paprika is pinned to a table like a butterfly, and like a butterfly erupting from a cocoon, her skin is shed and underneath is Dr. Chiba.

With the help of Konakawa, Paprika and Dr. Chiba must get behind the mystery of who started the shared dream that is slowly encroaching in reality. Nothing is easy or simple as the boundaries between reality and dreams blur, bend and eventually break. Paprika is nothing short of stunning, the visuals are amazing and unique. It’s just first class animation with a mind bending story thrown in for good measure.

paprika threeThe DVD comes with a ton of extras; some wonderful interviews with the author as well as the director, the voice actors, and even a short which follows Paprika from its conception to completion. Make sure you watch these because they add to the overall experience of this spectacular film.

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About Katie T. Buglet