XenForo Template Paprika Release Date: November 27, 2007 Studio: Sony Pictures Year: 2006 Rating: R Running Time: 1h31m Video: 1.85:1 anamorphic Video (Special Features): 1.33:1 Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1: Japanese, English, French; Dolby Surround: Spanish Audio (Special Features): Stereo Subtitles: English, French, Spanish Packaging/Materials: Single-disc keepcase with cardstock slipcover MSRP: $26.96 The Feature: 4/5 Psychotherapy researchers have developed a remarkable device called the DC Mini that lets them enter the dreams of psychiatric patients. The instrument gives therapists access to a region of the mind that may hold the answers to a patient's treatment and cure. But like anything that has the potential to help, it has equal potential to harm. When three of the devices go missing it's doubtful they were stolen for benevolent reasons. The first to be attacked is Chief Dr. Shima, head of the department that created the DC Mini, who without warning begins to live out dream events in the real world until he runs through a real world plate glass window. Mentally and physically incapacitated by the incident, the investigation falls to Dr. Chiba and Dr. Tokita who believe one of their research assistants may be involved. When Shima's condition worsens - his mind and body becoming lost in his delusional dream state - Chiba enters his mind as Paprika, an alter ego she has been secretly using for patient therapy. Where Chiba is aloof, cautious and womanly, Paprika is gregarious, adventurous and girlish, qualities that allow her to deftly navigate the bizarre intricacies of a person's dreams. But finding the culprits behind the DC Mini thefts proves difficult in just one reality, requiring both Paprika and Chiba to follow the clues found in their respective worlds. As they get closer to the answers, their realities meet and begin to merge, endangering everything but also providing them the opportunity they need to prevent total disaster. Adapted from a novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui, master animation director Satoshi Kon turns in another mentally engaging and aesthetically remarkable production. His most highly regarded work to date is "Perfect Blue," which also explores reality vs. fantasy themes but with lines that are much more obscure. In "Paprika" the line between dreams and reality is highly distinct and, consequently, the narrative thread is much easier to follow. Though some of the technical jargon and logistics around the DC Mini may remain a mystery, they won't get in the way of either the story or the artwork, the dream sequences naturally being the primary appeal of the film. Though it was certainly a chance for the animators to go all out - and they certainly did - their work never gets so bizarre that it's alienating. Most of the animation appears hand drawn - all the more impressive given the amount of detail - though CGI is clearly used in some scenes. However its telltale fluidity of motion and comparative artificiality serve to enhance dream scenes; whether its used in other parts of the film tends to be more difficult to discern. Those new to anime should have few complaints with "Paprika," being highly accessible in both story and art. However be aware this is not meant for young children - some of the images are disturbing - though the "R" rating seems a bit extreme. Video Quality: 4/5 "Paprika" has an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 but the image is matted on all four sides, producing about a one-inch black frame on my 47" display. Besides this curiosity, the picture is free of edge halos, dust, dirt and damage. Sharpness is quite good, though detail takes a slight hit in the wider shots. Black levels and contrast are also very good, the film having a nice balance of dark and bright scenes. Colors are excellent, the dream sequences standing out for their boldness and depth. Audio Quality: 5/5 The Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese track is excellent, the sound mix balanced and enveloping. As with the visuals, the audio highlights center around the dream sequences when the full speaker array gets put to use. Deep LFE and everything from 360 degree pans to highly localized sound effects make it one of the more exciting and interesting tracks I've heard in awhile, though never gratuitous or inappropriate for the story. The credits sequence set to a lively Japanese pop techno tune and some beautiful animation is also an audio-visual highlight. The English language track is decent, though I found the voice acting for Paprika annoyingly juvenile. Special Features: 5/5 Filmmakers' Commentary: Kon, composer Susumu Hirasawa, and associate producer Morishima provide commentary with subtitle track available for non-Japanese speakers. The three have a good time together and provide interesting anecdotes, background information and thoughts about their work. Tsutsui and Kon's Paprika (30m06s): "Video diary" of the production provides background on the novel, which was published in installments in a Japanese women's magazine, and how Kon went about adapting the work for an animated film. In Japanese with English subtitles. A Conversation about "The Dream" (29m03s): Sit-down with Tsutsui, Kon, and voice actors Megumi Hayashibara (Paprika/Chiba) and Toru Furuya (Tokita). They cover their favorite scenes, the challenges of voice acting and some of their own dreams. In Japanese with English subtitles. The Dream CG World (15m09s): Cinematographer and CGI director Michiya Kato describes the use of CGI in the film, which is used in some form in one-third to half of the picture, in many cases to add incredibly minute details. In Japanese with English subtitles. The Art of Fantasy (12m07s): Art director Nobutaka Ike discusses his work crafting the deeply detailed environments of the real and dream worlds. In Japanese with English subtitles. Previews: Coming to Blu-Ray, Youth Without Youth, Angel-A, Interview, Tekkonkinkreet, Moliere, Tokyo Godfathers, Vitus and Resident Evil: Extinction Recap and Final Thoughts The Feature: 4/5 Video Quality: 4/5 Audio Quality: 5/5 Special Features: 5/5 Overall Score (not an average): 4/5 Beautiful and accessible animated work from Satoshi Kon gets a very good video transfer, excellent audio and a thorough special features package. Recommended.