A Horrible Critic’s review published on Letterboxd:
Paprika was a film that I was longing to see. I would always see it amongst the top animated films, as it dealt with very abstract and psychological elements. I was definitely stoked to see a movie like this, especially one focusing on dreams. Dreams are an endless amount of possibilities, which would obviously give the animators a ton of freedom to create whatever visuals they'd want. In some respects, it met my expectations. In others, they unfortunately fell flat.
In the near future a device called the DC Mini, is capable of monitoring and entering dreams. Although relatively new, they are being tested by Atsuko Chiba, a psychiatrist that uses it to help her patients under the alter-ego of "Paprika". She continues to help her patient, Detective Toshimi Konakawa, through a reoccurring dream he's been having, that ties in with a murder case in reality. Soon it's discovered that one of the DC Mini's has been stolen, having no idea why someone would steal one. Things start to become stranger as people who used the machine start to fall under hypnotic states, acting out their dream in reality. As some almost kill themselves by accident, its up to Paprika and her colleagues to save them from the dreams as well as figure out who's responsible.
So, one of its problems right off the bat is explaining the material. I only gave a simple synopsis but trust me, it gets a lot more confusing and crazy fairly quickly. The film starts to introduce people going into other dreams, dreams merging together, dreams being implanted into someone else, and dreams merging with reality. We have all of this going on, yet without a good enough explanation on how this can actually happen logically. Like, how exactly did dreams turn into reality? How did Paprika's site change, despite Konakawa not having a DC Mini on? I'm all down for comparing dreams and reality, but when you mix the two, it ceases to become reality. You can't mix sense and non sense together, because then it just doesn't make sense.
One of the other things I didn't like were the unclear character motivations. Not all of them but certainly a couple. For example, nearing the end of the film Chiba confesses her love that sorta comes completely out of no where. There weren't any big hints to make this confession sound convincing. Their relationship wasn't set up well throughout the film either, in fact it felt quiet the opposite. Not to mention the other character is pushed to the side in the middle of the film. So when Chiba admits her love, it feels forced and out of place. Might I add that this confession is the crux of Chiba's problems. Problems that didn't seem severe or evident up until now. And similar things happen to other characters too.
Alright so I complained a lot about this film, but I do actually like a great deal as well. For one, I like Toshimi Konakawa's character. He's a good guy at heart and his past is a pretty interesting one. I love that there's this mystery to him that even he can't uncover. He gives hints about his past, both by his actions and by his dreams, that explain his anxiety and guilt. And I found this to be very interesting all throughout the film. Especially how Paprika was comparing it to films and such. I also enjoyed his interactions with Paprika. How he fantasied her, how she guided him, how he was new to this dream world, and how she was practically born from this fantasy. It was a good mixture and I wish this could've been explored more. I also found his conclusion to be a fitting one. It brought things full circle and showed that he can move on, all in a tasteful manner.
I also enjoyed the visuals, animation, and especially the transitions. The opening credits are such a delightful and creative treat, with Paprika moving around the city. Its things like this that can only be done through dreams, and its such a spectacle to see. I love the use of colors, the objects used as metaphors for the story, and the animation itself. I will say that I did find the nudity parts a bit weird. They occur so rarely in the film that I wondered why they even bothered to put them in the final cut. I get that nudity can bring a lot of symbolic elements, but it's one of the few things audiences can understand without the need to show the actual breast. It's a very minor complaint, but it could've easily retained from showing any nudity very easily.
I think the best analogy to give this film is "too many cooks in the kitchen". I could sense a very powerful and wonderful film lying within Paprika. There was a lot of potential and mesmerizing visuals to keep me interested. I loved certain characters and certain things they were trying to do with the film. However I also don't like a lot either. It really does feel like the film's focus was set to be on something else originally. Watching the whole film and thinking back makes me believe that a concrete idea couldn't be made. So instead the ideas were just merged into one, much like the dreams merging into reality. And speaking of which, that aspect of dreams literally becoming reality confuses me. I detest films that constantly hold your hand, but I also dislike films that barely explain themselves. Had the film explained certain unclear elements, developed certain characters a bit more, and integrated certain ideas in a cleaner manner, I probably would've adored this film. However it pains me to say that I just found this movie to be an alright one. Which is probably one of the hardest things I've ever said about a film.