PictureWatching Paprika kind of reminded me of the first time I watched The Wizard Of Oz. Just as Dorothy enters Oz for the first time, we are treated to what can only be described as a retina burning moment. Fortunately, for us, the makers of Paprika do manage to tone the palette down slightly at times - but it is a major Technicolor experience watching this movie.
Framed correctly at 1.85:1 and coded at 1080P using the MPEG2 system, Paprika does look mighty fine indeed. The picture is in the most part, razor sharp. It does have a few moments where colours bleed into one another and it goes a little soft, but they are so rare, it would be nit picking to mark the picture down for it.
Made with a mixture of hand drawn and computer animation, the picture is detailed enough to see the difference between the two. The amount of detail that is onscreen is sometimes frightening. The makers' imagination runs wild in the dream sequences and there are times when there must be a hundred moving objects onscreen at the same time - all visible down to the tiniest detail.
If I must pick a hole, it's in the inconsistencies of the picture quality. There are times where the sharpness disappears and is replaced by a haze that gives you the impression that it's out of focus. The opening circus scene is the best example of this.
However, Paprika is a visual treat from beginning to end and you'll hear very few complaints from me on the quality of the picture on this Blu-ray disc.
SoundPresented with Japanese and English Dolby TrueHD tracks, could the sound quality match the high standard of the picture? I chose the Japanese Dolby TrueHD track along with English subtitles. This was decoded internally by my PS3 and piped to my Onkyo 875 via HDMI.
Now believe me when I say there is lots. going on onscreen throughout the duration of this movie. During the dream sequences, there are bands playing, explosions going off, and objects moving across the front soundstage as well as planes, blimps and helicopters flying overhead. Overall, it's a very “busy” soundtrack. However, it's handled perfectly by this Blu-ray disc, sending sounds to individual speakers effortlessly. Steerage is inch perfect and dialogue is locked to the centre channel. The LFE channel kicks in every now and again - but you'll know when it does because your neighbours will be banging on the wall complaining about the sub 20hz frequencies rattling the ornaments on their mantelpiece.
As always with foreign language movies, I would recommend watching the film in its native tongue. This enables facial expressions to match perfectly the pitch in the voice. This does still come into play when watching animation as well - particularly when the facial features are as detailed as the ones depicted here. Also, a point to note here. The English subtitles tend to differ somewhat from the dialogue spoken in the English track. All the more important to listen to the Japanese track with the subtitles as I imagine they would be a more accurate translation.
Those of you that have equipment that can't decode the Dolby lossless track, never fear. The down mixed version is also an extremely dynamic affair.
ExtrasAll of the extras are in the native Japanese language with English subtitles and are a direct port from the SD DVD. Please note that for some strange reason, my Japanese PS3 played up quite badly when translating the dialogue for me. All too often, it would refuse to display the subtitles. Sometimes, it displayed the Korean subs even after I had selected the English ones. I put this down to a bug in the system - and I got there in the end.
Filmmakers Commentary is a little tedious to watch for those of us that don't have fluent Japanese on our CV's. Whilst the English subtitles do their best to keep up, I found it best to watch this with the English audio track selected with the English subtitles. The commentary is still in Japanese, but it's a lot easier to understand where the filmmakers are coming from.
Tsutsui and Kon's Paprika - making Of Documentary (30.07) includes many interviews with the filmmakers and novelist. It's really an in depth comparison between the book and the film.
A Conversation About The Dream (29.04) is a chat around a table involving the director, novelist and the two lead voice actors. Here they discuss their favourite scenes.
The Art Of Fantasy (12.08) allows us to spend twelve minutes in the company of art director Nobutaka Ike. He tells us how he developed the art in the movie.
The Dream CG World (15.10) is a delve into the world of cinematographer and CG artist Michiya Kato. Here we find out that about a third of the film is CGI.
Storyboard Comparisons takes us back to when the movie was in pre-production. In particular, we see the difference between the original idea on the storyboards and the finished product for three key scenes - The parade, the ruins and the skin splitting scenes.
There's plenty of extra material crammed onto this disc and most of it is well worth a watch - particularly for fans of the genre. I've not heard of any other such problems as the ones I had with my Japanese PS3 - so playing them back should be OK
VerdictAnime is like the Marmite of the movie genres - you either love it or hate it. There is no in between. Whilst I appreciate the efforts made by the filmmakers to get things looking so good, It's the stories behind the fancy graphics that tend to point me towards the hate camp. However, I'm here to review the disc - not the movie alone.
Whilst we all stare open jawed at the immaculate detail in every frame, the makers always seem to hide the moral of the story under layers of nicely coloured padding. For me, the story should be the one thing that grips me and keeps me watching until the end. Here it was the visuals - and if I'm honest, I couldn't really have cared less what the story was about or about any of the characters.
As a Blu-ray package, it's a technical triumph from Sony. Animation nearly always looks good once encoded. And this disc is no different. Cast your minds back to when DVD first appeared. All of the High Street shops had A Bugs Life showing on their screens because it looked good. The encoding on this disc is a little soft in places but not really enough to write home about. The soundtrack keeps up well with the mayhem going on onscreen nicely and will impress your mates. The extras will keep lovers of the genre occupied for a couple of hours and owners of Japanese PS3s' frustrated to the point of launching it out of the nearest window...
Paprika comes recommended by me to anime fans everywhere. Anybody else that wants to show off their new Home Theatre to their mates should also click buy. The rest of us are probably best leaving well alone.
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