Paprika Blu-ray Review
PicturePaprika is one of the most colourful movies that I have ever seen, and it often feels like you're watching Thomas the Tank Engine on acid. It comes presented on Blu-ray complete with a 1080p High Definition image in the movie's original widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The line detail is fantastic throughout, with no unintentional softness, absolutely no grain (as you would only expect from an animation) and negligible edge enhancement. The colour scheme, as aforementioned, is the broadest that you could imagine, even in your most vivid dreams, and the colours are all rendered vibrantly and realistically. Blacks are solid throughout, and allow for excellent shading and dark/night sequences. Overall the video presentation is superb, up there with the best of them, showcasing the fantastic animation in the best possible way.
SoundThe best track on offer is the original Japanese language Japanese Uncompressed PCM 5.1 mix, although those who are not fond of subtitles should be content in the knowledge that the English Dolby Digital 5.1 track is pretty damn good as well. Dialogue is presented clearly and coherently, largely dominating the frontal array. That is, except when the tremendous score kicks in, which is quite a strange but nevertheless evocative medley of seemingly random noises, and perfectly suits the on-screen happenings. The effects are vast and reasonably well observed - particularly the smaller, more atmospheric nuances, and overall it is a great solid sonic presentation for this perfectly-scored production. In terms of subtitles, the English subtitles offered appear to differ quite significantly from the English dubbed audio track, so I would recommend watching the Japanese version with the subtitles switched on (as you should always do with foreign movies).
ExtrasAlthough - once again disappointingly - Sony haven't bothered including anything High Definition-exclusive on this release, we do get all of the Standard-Def DVD Extras ported over as well as a couple of extras that, whilst not technically 'exclusive' (like IME), are at least more than what the SD DVD had. First up we get a full length Audio Commentary by the filmmakers, where we hear about how they thought that circus music was psychotic and that this was the kind of style that they hoped to achieve in paprika, how they wanted a whimsical but ominous soundtrack for this movie, they talk in detail about the style of animation and the specific avoidance of things that looked photo-real, the complexity of the narrative and the fact that sometimes you have to take more of an overview in order to follow the story. Although it is quite an intelligent Commentary, it can feel quite dry at times (perhaps because those who don't speak fluent Japanese will have to follow the English subs instead) but thankfully at least you can be listening to the English dub version of the movie at the same time.
Most of the other 'visual' extras are also in the original Japanese with optional English subtitles (which unfortunately also do not appear by default). The Making-Of is half an hour long and has plenty of interview contributions from the Director Satoshi Kon and the Novelist Yasutak Tsutsui, who talk about the original concepts, the psychology involved in the narrative, the futuristic nature of the story, the characters and the end result, with nice little background introductions into these two creators themselves and their background in the industry.
A Conversation about The Dream is a thirty-minute conversation between the Director and Novelist as well as the lead Vocalists Megumi Hayashibara (Paprika, also the voice behind Rei in Evangelion) and Toru Furuya (Tokita, the fat genius). They discuss their favourite scenes (which include the visually overwhelming parade sequences and the excellent Paprika flying moments), the fact that some of the dreams used are very similar to dreams that we must have all had (who hasn't dreamt about flying or trying to run but finding themselves moving very slowly), the characters they created, and the romantic storylines that had to be brought into play convincingly. With so many interesting revelations and discussions on the production, this Featurette marks another worthy watch for fans.
The Art of Fantasy spends 12 minutes with the Art Director Nobutaka Ike dissecting his artistic style and showing us how he created much of the fantastic and fantastical imagery on offer here. We see his computer designs, his concept art, and how everything was layered together to create the visually opulent final product.
The Dream CG World takes a fifteen minute look at the cinematography and computer-generated world of Paprika, as discussed by the Cinematographer Michiya Kato, who talks about the parts of the movie in which they had to used some form or other of CG technology (used in roughly a third of the movie) and the manner in which it was utilised, trying not to detract from the rest of the animation. Prime examples include the luminous blue butterflies in the final act of the movie and the sand in the desert parade sequence.
Three key scenes: The Parade, The Ruins and the Skin Slitting Scene can also be visually dissected using Storyboard Comparisons, Original Drawings, and Character Paintings, with the option to view them separately or in split-screen. This is a nice visual method of showing us how much of the animation was done. Finally we get Trailers for Tokyo Godfathers and for Tekkonkinkreet.
VerdictPaprika is one of the most imaginative movies that I have ever come across, a very dream-like experience coupled with an involving storyline, interesting characters and compelling vocal contributions, as well as a superb, perfectly-suited score that enhances the production no end. Released on Blu-ray with a pristine High Definition video rendition and a superior Uncompressed audio mix, as well as the wealth of interesting extras that were also on the Standard DVD, fans will have no reason not to pick this up straight away, and newcomers should strongly consider checking it out as well. Following the likes of Perfect Blue and Millennium Actress, this is the kind of masterful anime that should not only consolidate the feelings of avid followers but also draw in interested newcomers.
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