Interpretation of dreams gets a wild Japanimation joyride

Posted: June 15, 2007

Some questions for those who cling tight to the mattress as time moves in one direction and fantasy in another: Do androids dream of electric sheep? Are electronic devices haunted by human ghosts? Are we earthlings cosmic puppets, strings jerked by Big Business?

Paprika, an eye-popping, mind-blowing and prodigiously potent anime from the gifted Japanese director Satoshi Kon, boldly answers these metaphysical queries - yes, possibly, absolutely - in a scenario that might have been imagined by a tag team of novelist Philip K. Dick, cyberpunk scribe William Gibson, and technoscientist Donna Haraway.

Understand that if these genres don't have appeal, probably neither will this adult Japanimation, the most consistently entertaining time I've had at the movies this year.

Because Paprika suggests that dreams and reality (not to mention man and machine) are separated by a semipermeable membrane, describing the plot poses formidable challenges.

Imagine, if you will, a dream machine, the DC Mini, that allows psychotherapists to experience the dreams of their patients. And that some of these devices have been stolen.

And that Konakawa, a Dick Tracy-like detective having serious nightmares, gets rescued (in his dreams) by a sexy bodyguard named Paprika, the cyber-avatar of the repressed Dr. Chiba, who works at a psychiatric institute that uses the DC Minis for therapeutic purposes.

Put another way, Dr. Chiba and Konakawa each set out to find the missing gizmos and meet each other . . . in his dreams.

The far-out, way-in plot is echoed in Kon's visuals, boldly rendered in hand-drawn and 3-D animation, wedding the smiling-cat imagery of Japanese folk art with the vine-swinging action of American movies. It is both surrealist and super-realist.

While I liked the film's aesthetics and its futurist imaginings, its most important attraction is how it engages. Some movies massage you; others tickle you. This one jacks you into cyberspace, involving you psychically and physically.


Paprika ***1/2 (out of four stars)

Produced by Jungo Maruta and Masao Takiyama, directed by Satoshi Kon, written by Seishi Minakami and Kon, based on the novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui, music by Susumu Hirasawa, distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. In Japanese with subtitles.

Running time: 1 hour, 30 mins.

Paprika/Chiba. . . Voice of Megumi Hayashibara

Kogawa. . . Voice of Ajio Otsuka

Tokita. . . Voice of Toru Furuya

Parent's guide: R (anime nudity, violence, sexual assault)

Playing at: Ritz East and Showcase at the Ritz Center


Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://go.philly.com/flickgrrl/

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