Adapted from a science fiction novel by Yatsutaka Tsutsui, Paprika is probably my favourite film from this year's Animation Nation. The closing film (technically, since it's the last film to be screened tomorrow), it is one heck of a thrill ride, and will definitely engage an audience at different levels.
In contrast to the dark doom and gloom hanging over Paris 2054 in Renaissance, Paprika at first glance is surprisingly light hearted and colourful, though it has its fare share of gloom and probably has darker themes which unfold as the story progresses. It's central plot revolves around a futuristic method of psychotherapy with the aid of a newly created invention known as the "DC Mini", which is a device that probes into the annals of your brainwaves, and allows the doctor to analyze and diagnose problems which surface in your subconscious.
Until the device is stolen that is, and it's up to our key project team members to try and contain the situation, prevent the device from falling into the wrong hands and get abused, and in essence, investigate the loss, with the help of fellow patient detective Kogawa Toshimi. In some ways, the movie's storyline resembles a bit like the Matrix movies (which of course, borrows from Japanese anime), in having the hero the champion of both worlds - the real one, and inside the artificially created one. surviving in both with the adoption of different personas. Here, our heroine is Dr Chiba Atsuko, who in her alter ego as Paprika, is able to traverse through the dreamworld with great ease.
There are plenty of stuff happening in almost every scene, and some might deem it a little "noisy" with so much to see, but so little time on screen. However, never for a moment does it feel very cluttered, and I am still pleasantly pleased at how so much story can be compacted into a nifty 90 minutes, without compromising on quality. Despite the dark themes in the movie, there are a number of light hearted moments which seem to punctuate the movie at the right places, no doubt most coming from the characters of Tokita the DC Mini creator, and Detective Kogawa in his (in)ability and slow enlightenment to the entire scheme of things, nevermind a dark subplot solely focused on his character alone.
At another level, it explores much about our dreams, and how within them, we can be who we want to be, but yet all comes to naught once we wake up from it. What if we're given the ability to merge both the real world and the dream world. Then what would become of life as we know? Will it be utter chaos when dreams and desire start to run amok?
Full of vibrant colours and energy, Paprika is just about everything that you would expect from an excellent piece of animation. A story that makes your brain work at figuring out what's happening on screen, yet doesn't allow such mysteries presented to stifle your concentration on what's going on next. A hauntingly mesmerizing soundtrack. Beautiful art pieces from background sets to character design so detailed. And with so much on screen at any one time, it definitely seeks a second viewing to truly appreciate and take in everything.
Director Satoshi Kon has made a fan out of me with this movie, and I think, if time and money permits, I'll be hunting down some of the earlier works, if this is any indication whether I'll enjoy them to bits.
Paprika will be shown tomorrow during the Animation Nation festival's closing, but I hear that tickets are already sold out (I bought mine on the first day when the tickets were out on sale). I do think there should be a general release, so keep your fingers crossed!
Oh yeah, Bill Plympton was in the house too!