The DC Mini, invented by the immensely obese Tokita Kosaku, is a device that allows its user to enter into others’ dreams and explore their unconscious, like a detective. It is intended for psychotheraputic use, and among the test subjects is a police detective named Konakawa, being treated by Dr. Atsuko Chiba, whose alter-ego in the dream world is a brighter, cheerier version of herselve called “Paprika.”
When a DC Mini is stolen from the research facility, the thief turns it on the staff of the facility, starting with Dr. Himuro, who almost goes mad in an overwhelming, personality-draining, nonsensical “nightmare parade”. Dr. Chiba works with the recovering Himuro, Tokita, and Konakawa to discover who stole the DC Mini and why they’re using it as a weapon of terror. The investigation turns up several surprises about their personalities – especially Chiba’s – and the mastermind is the person everyone least suspected…
Why are we reviewing a six-year-old movie? Two reasons: one, a friend of RABUJOI recommended it for weekly Movie Night; and two, we enjoyed it thoroughly. Feeling much longer and deeper than its scant 90-minute runtime, from the trippy pre-credit dream and super-trick opening sequence to the increasingly mad, epic climax, the movie always had us wondering what was real and whose dream we were in. Reality bends like pizza cheese, and the characters are never far from Alice-In-Wonderland madness.
The production values are what you would expect of a full-length movie; far higher than your average weekly anime, and have held up well in six years. The story and its aesthetic calls to mind a number of iconic films that deal with similar themes, from Blade Runner and The Matrix to Akira and the aformentioned Alice in Wonderland. There’s even a little Inception in Paprika, a film it predates. It also borrows imagery from cinema and mythology (the precursor to cinema). It takes the ideas of dreamcrime, the nature of the personality, and the positive and negative potential of groundbreaking technology, and paints a vivid and original detective mystery in which the detectives learn a lot about themselves and each other before the case is closed.
The villain – the aged, wheelchair-bound chairman of the psychiatric reseach facility – is perhaps the weakest link in a very strong picture. When it becomes known that people are being harmed by the DC Mini, he pulls the plug on the project, but his subordinates defy him in order to find answers, which leads them to the revelation that he’s behind it all, killing the chance of commercial application by exhibiting how destructive the DC Mini can be. It’s implied he doesn’t want technology interfering with the natural order of dreams, but he also wants to be young and spry again, and wants to merge the dream world with reality, thus requiring the very technology he hates.
His somewhat murky motivations notwithstanding, his downfall is artfully portrayed, as a Chiba, just shed of her Paprika-avatar skin, becomes an infant when she merges with the childlike Tokita, and gradually grows back into adulthood as she consumes the Chairman’s giant avatar and the dream around her. The side-story involving Konakawa’s case, in which he pines over an unfinished film from his youth, is nicely woven into the main plot, paralleling Chiba/Paprika’s own personality issues. It’s a deep, rich, engaging, satisfying film that we recommend for any Movie Night.
Car Cameos: Paprika featured an Aston Martin DB7; an Isuzu Elf truck; a Mercedes-Benz E-Class (W210); a Piaggio Vespa PX scooter; ’64 Subaru 360; a ’94 Toyota Camry; and Toyota Crown Comfort taxi; a Toyota HiAce; and a ’65 Vanden Plas Princess 1100 Mk I. We weren’t able to pause-and-capture, so we had to rely on IMCDb.