Paprika - 4K Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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Paprika


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Movie: :4.5stars:
4K Video: :4.5stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :5stars:
Extras: :5stars:
Final Score: :4.5stars:




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Movie

As a fan of Anime since I was a kid in the 90s, I remember the backlash that “new” 21st century Anime fans had when they were first introduced to it. I still remember arguing on anime.net that no, Paprika was NOT ripping off Christopher Nolan’s Inception, and no, Christopher Nolan probably didn’t rip it off to the older fans. Both movies are brilliant in their own rights, but it’s not hard to see how someone might take make that assumption after you watch both films. Paprika is a bizarre and surrealistic anime flick, with a strange deconstruction of a dream within a dream type of narrative, mirroring some of the takes that Nolan did with Inception. But what makes it so much different than Nolan’s work is how it delves so deeply in psychological onion peeling, and flaying of the mind to its very core in a psychological thriller manner rather than a sci-fi action orientation. Either way, Paprika is a bizarrely fascinating bit of sci-fi/thriller animation that is finally getting an utterly fantastic remaster on 4K UHD from Sony in Steelbook form (and ironically was not released in an amaray case before steelbook previously like Sony is prone to do).

In a slightly futuristic world, therapists and psychologists have developed experimental machines known as the DC Mini, which can read the dreams of patients and have a window into what makes them tick in order to create a proper therapeutic treatment. However, the powerful machine not only reads and documents the dreams, but has the ability to allow someone access to the person’s unconscious mind directly as well, which creates a giant back door for someone with nefarious intentions. Which means if one of the machines every got into the wrong hands they could literally destroy someone’s mind and control and indefinite amount of people with it (yay, gotta love the downsides to technology).

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As you can already guess, three of the machines go missing, leaving everyone involved terrified at the possible fallout that could happen, and engage in a desperate attempt at regaining control of the machine once more. The only people who can properly track it down are it’s original creators, Dr. Shima Tora-taroh, research scientist Osanai Morio, and awkward genius Tokita Kohsaku. To get what they need the trio have to engage in dream walking, as they try and track down the ripples of chaos that are created by the misuse of the machine. The most adept at them being the film’s protagonist Atsuko, who uses the dream walking effect with her dream alter ego code named “Paprika” to hunt and track down the perpetrators before countless innocent lives are altered forever with the powerful machines.

Paprika is a mix of a fun sci-fi narrative and surrealist art house fare in a strangely comedic blending. The film deals with concepts of responsibility over what we create, as well as a look into the human psyche and how we view it from the outside in. Paprika is lavishly drawn and full of stunning visual effects, but the art house flair to it sometimes overshadows the more traditional narrative, forcing the viewer to watch the film multiple times to really grasp all of what’s going on. In that I find a minor distraction, otherwise Paprika is a masterpiece of anime cinema that HAS to be watched if you’re an anime fan. It’s got stunning eye candy, a fairly complex story, and some great mind twists that aren’t simply put into the story to confuse you (a curse from some of the more mind bending anime directors).




Rating:

Rated R by the MPAA




4K Video: :4.5stars: Video: :4.5stars:
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As an original adopter of Blu-ray and HD-DVD back in 2007 we had a lot of rough transfers out there, and Sony had a ton of those “wince worthy” upgrades back then (I still keep my copy of Ultraviolet just to show had bad some of the original transfers were), but Paprika was not one of them. It was one of the format’s early demo material discs and for good reason. It was bright, shiny, showed tons of color and great black levels without any artifacting. AND the difference between it and the DVD was staggering. Now fast forward 17 years and the upgrade to 2160p is almost as big of a jump. Paprika was always an eye candy sort of film, but the new 4K UHD upgrade has done some great fine tuning to the already great looking blu-ray. Fine details are excellent, and while the film has a minute amount of softness applied to it’s art style, it’s a good bit sharper and cleaner than the 1080p disc. I noticed line art standing out substantially more, as is the case with the richer colors thanks to the HDR application.

While there is some VERY mild noise going on throughout the film (I noticed it in the first half an hour, and upon freeze framing it realize that it’s a minor bug that flows through the entire film), the disc is artifact free thanks to the beefing up of the blacks and colors thanks to the HDR. Colors aren’t overly brightened or anything (they tend to be on the darker side), but they seem deeper, richer, more vibrant with more depth to them than the Blu-ray. The black levels get the biggest boost, as they allow for some great detail in dimly light scenes, but also keep the minor crush away that the Blu-ray suffered from. It’s not a PERFECT looking disc, but it’s REALLY close to it.








Audio: :5stars:
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Paprika sports a more cinematic and surround sound centered track than the usual Anime film (which tends to be front heavy with musical score bits filling out the back end). To put it simply, it sounds like an actual movie, complete with some incredible bass moments in the dream hopping, as well as an incredible intense and sometimes claustrophobic feeling surround usage. Overheads get some nifty discrete and ambient noises to fill things in, and I noticed that the rear channel really elevated the mix over the 5.1 mix in terms of putting the listener right into the center of things. Directionality is probably the best feature of the track, actually making me think that there are things coming from directions that my speakers aren’t really situated in, or even better, making me think that sounds I heard were in the room with me and not just taken from the speakers. Honestly, this is a FABULOUS track that does the film justice by fine tuning the already good 5.1 mix and amplifying the listening experience in a helpful way.













Extras: :4stars:
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4K UHD Disc
• Restoring Paprika

Blu-ray Disc
• Filmmaker Commentary
• Tsutsui and Kon's Paprika – Making-Of Documentary
• A Conversation About the "Dream"
• The Dream CG World
• The Art of Fantasy
• Storyboards and Original Drawings
• Theatrical Trailers













Final Score: :4.5stars:


Sony Pictures did a bang up job with the 2007 release of the flick on Blu-ray, so I was hoping for at least a moderate upgrade in 4K UHD. Luckily for us Sony’s meticulous remastering abilities are on full display, as the new master and 4K UHD disc absolutely blow the old Blu-ray out of the water. Back in 2007 I used Paprika as animated demo material, but mastering techniques have changed and this new 4K UHD has taken full advantage of Dolby Vision improvement as well as a more fine tuned master to source from. For a classic mind bending sci-fi film like Paprika, it’s a treat to see it in all it’s glory on 2160p, and the classy Steelbook case is simply a bonus. Highly recommended.


Technical Specifications:

Starring: Megumi Hayashibara, Toru Emori, Katsunosuke Hori, Akio Otsuka
Directed by: Satoshi Kon
Written by: Yasutaka Tsutsui, Seishi Minakami, Satoshi Kon
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 HEVC
Audio: Japanese: Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Core), Japanese, English, French, German DTS-HD MA 5.1, Cantonese, Italian, Spanish (Latin), Spanish (Castilian), Thai DD 5.1
Sugtitles: English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Korean, Mandarin (Traditional), Thai, Turkish
Studio: Sony Pictures
Rated: R
Runtime: 91 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 20th, 2024
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Recommendation: Highly Recommended

 
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