[Paprika, written by Satoshi Kon and Seishi Minakami, based on the novel by Yatsutake Tsutsui, directed by Kon. Released by Sony Pictures Classics.]
Animation is ideal for stories that inherently warp reality and feature rapid transformations and scene changes. It was the ideal art form for a family-friendly whirligig like Disney’s Aladdin and it’s breathtakingly apropos in Japanese director Satoshi Kon’s Paprika. The story involves a device, the DC Mini, that can capture one’s dreams on electronic equipment. But when one goes missing from a psychic laboratory, it turns out that all external reality can be shifted by the illicit user, who must have come from within the company.
Thus, the circumspect Dr. Chiba Atsuko, her alter-ego Paprika, the gluttonous inventor Himuro, a cop who is haunted by a partner’s death and others undercut each other’s attempts to dominate reality. The stunning anime imagery can range from an explosion of blue butterflies coming out of a character’s head, to a giant, traditional Japanese toy doll decimating a downtown area in a fit of pique.
Paprika, like many anime projects, explores themes like the clash of Western and Eastern cultural iconography and the nature of identity. But its ongoing rush of normally inanimate objects or creatures wreaking havoc, mixed with the corporate skullduggery, are an absolute joy to behold and worthy of a second look, especially down the road on DVD.
[Critical Moment: Overwhelmingly visual stunner, with nice touches of humor and character development. At the top of the list for not just anime but animation.]