Despite the fact that mainstream American audiences associate anime (Japanese animation) with giant robots bashing each other about while they tramp hip deep in skyscrapers, Japanese directors have long been willing to tackle sophisticated subjects that producers of American full-length animated features would never even consider.
American studios are still under the impression (perhaps unfortunately correct) that feature length animation intended for theatrical release here must be “family fare” to have a broad enough appeal to make their box office.
While I often complain about the adherence to simplistic formulas in American animation, anime is certainly locked into its own formulas at times, particularly in the area of science fiction; but from a genre whose ventures into science fiction have been largely near future and post apocalyptic adventures populated with robots, gynoids and exoskeleton mecha, comes an eye-popping exploration of the unconscious.
Renowned anime director Satoshi Kon has adapted Paprika from the science fiction novel by Yasutaka Tsusui, about a device that allows psychiatrists to immerse themselves in the dreams of a patient. In the story a reserved psychiatrist/inventor uses a prototype of this device to venture into the dreams of patients, where she is represented by a fairy-like avatar, until the machine is stolen, leaving her trapped in the psychedelic landscape of the dream state, confronted by the nightmare imaginings of the inner mind.
You can see the groundwork for Paprika in Kon’s own work and in films like Otomo’s Akira, and Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, in which the borders of reality are flexed an rippled with the push and pull of events.
Kon has said that he based the imagery in Paprika on his own dreams, and the trailer and preview images promise a cornucopia of fantastic and wildly imaginative scenes.
Kon studied at Musashino Art University, majoring in Visual Art Communication Design, but his original interested in manga (Japanese comics) increasingly gave way to a fascination with animated film. He was influenced by the traditional anime classics, and Gundam style fare, but also by the hallucinatory films of American director Terry Gilliam.
Many of Kon’s previous films have a tendency to wiggle the line between dream and reality. Kon also wrote the screenplay for the Magnetic Rose segment of Memories, which was directed and animated by Koji Morimoto.
There in an offical site for Paprika, that includes a trailer and a gallery of images.
The film opened in New York yesterday and opens in Los Angeles on June 1st. The hopes for a wider theatrical distribution, as usual for adult-themed anime, seem dim; and like most American anime fans, I’ll probably have to wait for the DVD release. American theaters, even on the art house circuit, seem clueless about the appeal and potential audience for films like this, despite the proliferation of bad, second-string anime on American television.
Link via Wired