Last night at the theater, I saw a cool Japanese animation film called "Paprika". This is a great sci-fi flick from Satoshi Kon (Tokyo Godfathers, Millennium Actress, Perfect Blue). Its based on Yatsutaka Tsutsui's novel which follows Atsuko, a female psychiatrist who studies her patients' psyches by entering their minds and accessing their dreams through a machine called the "DC Mini". Its powerful technology ... yet dangerous in the wrong hands. And sure enough, the machine is stolen and used for evil purposes. Enter Atsuko's alter ego, the daredevilish Paprika, who trails suspects through various dreamworlds to find the culprit.

Paprika features very imaginative visuals - especially when characters travel between the dreamworlds. It felt like Miyazaki with a sci-fi urban edge. The cynical humor adds a wonderful counter to the purposefully and beautifully nonsensical illusion of each dream sequence.

There were at most 10 people at the theater last night (artsy folk and anime geeks) and I sat there thinking about how people are missing out on this movie. It definitely reflects the differences in how animation is viewed in Japan as opposed to the U.S. My dad dismisses any type of animation as a cartoon for kids. This isn't suprising considering mainstream Pixar/Disney fare is geared towards children. At best, their offerings are kiddie movies with subliminal adult humor to keep the parents somewhat entertained.

Similarly to the Studio Ghibli films, Paprika's ending represents aspects of Japanese philosophy towards balance and nature. I am by no means a Japanime expert or an otaku, but I have great admiration for the depth, complexity and cultural references found in the storytelling.


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