Stephen reviews: Paprika (2006)

paprika-movie-poster-2006-1020689313Paprika [パプリカ] (2006)

Starring Megumi Hayashibara, Tohru Furuya, Akio Ohtsuka, Daisuke Sakaguchi, Katsunosuke Hori, Kouchi Yamadera, Toru Emori, Akio Ōtsuka, Hideyuki Tanaka

Directed by Satoshi Kon


The final film of Satoshi Kon’s is something of a combination of all his previous ones. It has the reality warping confusion that characterizes his usual style, and it blends both the lighthearted cheer of Millennium Actress with the despondent terror of Perfect Blue, then adds in quirky-but-loveable characters like Tokyo Godfathers.

The standout feature of Paprika is its sci-fi premise. The plot revolves around a new device that lets you jump into other people’s dreams (just like the later film Inception would do). It was developed by a psychiatric research team for treating patients, but someone stole the thing and is using it for mysterious terrorist activities. But the science in this film is just there to trick you into thinking Paprika is a science fiction film. Once you peel back the layers, however, you find that it’s actually compete fantasy, and the weird stuff going on by the end of the film just can’t be explained by the device alone.

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Stephen reviews: Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

tokyo_godfathersTokyo Godfathers [東京ゴッドファーザーズ] (2003)

Starring Aya Okamoto, Toru Emori, Yoshiaki Umegaki, Kouichi Yamadera, Kyouko Terase, Mamiko Noto, Seizo Katou, Yuusaku Yara, Satomi Koorogi

Directed by Satoshi Kon


This is the most normal anime Satoshi Kon made. There’s nothing in it at all that’s confusing or mind-bending. Absurdly improbable, sure, but not flat-out bizarre. The film’s world functions in a more or less realistic way. This did leave me a bit bored with it early on. I love the more psychedelic aspects of his other films, so I was disappointed to see a relatively down-to-earth narrative here. But as the film went on, and the characters grow more depth, I too grew more attached to them.

The concept is simple enough. Three homeless people find an abandoned baby in a trash pile on Christmas Eve. Then they spend the next week until New Year’s Eve searching for the child’s parents. As a holiday film, it has its share of Christmas miracles, but it’s not just some sappy happily-ever-after fairy tale. The main characters are all homeless, and there is always a palpable sense of bleak despair hiding behind even the most cheerful scenes of the film. Kon walks a razor’s edge here as he makes a film that is both uplifting and depressing at the same time.

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Stephen reviews: Adieu Galaxy Express 999 (1981)

adieugalaxyexpress999_1Adieu Galaxy Express 999 [さよなら銀河鉄道999 -アンドロメダ終着駅- Sayonara Ginga Tetsudo 999: Andromeda Shuchakueki] (1981)
AKA Goodbye Galaxy Railway 999: Andromeda Terminal (more of a literal translation, really)

Starring Masako Ikeda, Masako Nozawa, Kaneta Kimotsuki, Makio Inoue, Reiko Tajima, Kei Tomiyama, Youko Asagami, Toru Emori, Ryoko Kinomiya, Hidekatsu Shibata

Directed by Rintaro


As the title implies, this is the conclusion of the Galaxy Express series. But wait, didn’t I tell you all in last week’s review that this was the second film in a trilogy? Well, yes, but it’s a rather impromptu trilogy since the third film, Galaxy Express 999: Eternal Fantasy, didn’t come out until the late ’90s, so Adieu was intended to be the conclusion. Actually, the original Galaxy Express 999 wasn’t intended to have a sequel either, so all three films in the trilogy were the end of the series. And none of them actually stayed that way. (Ok, ok, so Eternal Fantasy was followed by a TV series spin-off rather than a true sequel. So sue me.)

Of course, making a sequel to a film that doesn’t need one is always tricky business. Not only do you have to unravel the ending that had already been neatly tied up, but you have to then face the twin complaints that the sequel is either too much or not enough like the original. While I enjoyed Adieu quite a bit, hecklers will complain about it from both sides of the field. Probably simultaneously.

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Stephen reviews: Harmagedon (1983)

Harmagedon [幻魔大戦] (1983)
AKA Harmagedon: The Great Battle with Genma, Harmagedon: Genma Taisen, Genma Wars

Starring Tōru Furuya, Mami Koyama, Ichirô Nagai, Toru Emori, Yasufumi Hayashi, Junpei Takiguchi, Takanobu Hozumi

Directed by Rintaro


How can I not love an 80s movie called Harmagedon? As soon as I realized I had missed out on what could only be a supreme gem of 80s awesome, I had to rectify the situation. Once I popped it in the DVD player and realized that this was also a film by Rintaro, my expectations were through the roof. Now I have always had my issues with Rintaro’s films, but one thing is certain: the man can make a badass action scene. Even when his films as a whole aren’t that great, which is usually the case, there is always some part of them so amazing that I still can’t help but love them. Then I found out he was teamed up with Katsuhiro Otomo, the creator of Akira, and my mind was blown. And then there’s the inexplicable addition of Keith Emerson, of Emerson, Lake and Palmer fame, as music composer. Sure he only did about one-third of the film’s music, but there’s no confusing which it was when one of his tunes kicks in, synth ablazing. Do I even have to say more? This film is a total trip of epic proportions.

The bizarreness kicks in straight away with the narrator. Most films opt for a calm and objective narrator, but not Harmagedon. Its narrator is a crazed, black-robed fortune-teller prancing around the empty streets of Tokyo raving about the apocalypse. And mysteriously teleporting around. We mustn’t forget about that. If this doesn’t prepare you for some crazy shit, maybe the next scene will.

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