Genre: Science Fiction/Mystery
Format: 1 Movie
Allegiance: Madhouse Studios/Sony Pictures
Director: Satoshi Kon
Vintage: 2007
Intelligence Agency Report by: Tremolo
It is the near future, and a revolutionary new psychotherapy treatment called PT has been invented. Through a device called the “DC Mini” it is able to go into people’s dreams, explore their subconscious thoughts and hopefully solve their psychological problems. In the wrong hands, the potential misuse of the device could be devastating, and this proves to be the case when the device is stolen. As dreams and reality begin to converge with terrifying consequences, Dr. Atsuko Chiba must enter the dream world as Paprika, her beautiful fantasy alter ego, to discover who has stolen the technology, and for what dark purpose.

Field Agent Report by: Tremolo
Overall 7.50
(not an average)

It would be fair to say that I expected a great deal of Paprika. I’m an enormous fan of Satoshi Kon’s previous works, save the phenomenally overrated Perfect Blue, and after the glorious hat trick ofMillennium ActressTokyo Godfathers and Paranoia Agent, the bar was raised incredibly high. Perhaps too high.

In terms of eye candy however, it’s hard to be remotely disappointed. This is quite possibly one of the best-looking animated films I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness in my entire life. Everything about it is absolutely, unrelentingly top-notch. The characters move like real people, which is initially fascinating until the illusion takes over and you stop noticing. The textures, CGI integration, character designs, and indeed the design work and imagery in general is just stunning. For Kon fans, the unique character design style of his is present and correct, which is quite comforting. It’s nice for a director to employ such a recognizable style that doesn’t get boring and really, really works.

The music lives up to the challenges set by the visuals with ease. I love Susumu Hirasawa’s music with an undying passion and really wish that he wasn’t so criminally underrated. He’s worked on all of Kon’s prior projects, and it’d be unheard of now to see Kon go ahead without him. I’d liken their relationship to that of Tim Burton and Danny Elfman – a director and musician working in absolute perfect synch with each other and producing something special time and time again.

Unfortunately, the film disappoints in other areas, primarily that it just doesn’t fulfill its potential. The storyline is an intriguing and genuinely thought-provoking one in many areas that touches upon a lot of different genres: psychological thriller, murder mystery, horror, science fiction, even romance – and possibly the most unlikely romance you’d expect at that. But it’s let down by a subplot that flat-out doesn’t work and an over-reliance on rather dull, slow, albeit naturalistic dialogue scenes.

There’s a lot of talking in the film, mostly about the DC Mini, which would be fine if it was actually interesting and didn’t border on technobabble, but it does. Kon’s usual spark for dialogue and character relationships is missing, and this could be attributed to the characters themselves being a generally uninteresting bunch. Even the titular heroine isn’t especially fascinating, simply because there’s nothing to her. She’s a bit sexy and wears funny clothes, but that’s about it – I honestly expected more than that.

Paprika is nowhere near as poor as Perfect Blue, but rather worryingly it does revisit the same tedious pace and dull dialogue, only mixing it up with Paranoia Agent’s surrealistic, nightmarish insanity. The main flaw of this film is really that such an approach doesn’t quite gel. It should be an interesting juxtaposition, but the lack of compelling characters means that the film has an odd stop and start quality to it that makes for an occasionally frustrating viewing experience. Paprika is at its best when displaying spectacular imagery and music, and in those areas there’s a lot to recommend. If you can overlook the inconsistencies elsewhere, this is an enjoyable, eye-meltingly gorgeous way to spend an hour and a half.