“I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours,” someone once proposed, and that sense of merging realms of consciousness could be Satoshi Kon’s one-sentence resume. Of his three previous anime features, Perfect Blue’s personality splits were enabled by different modes of media representation; Millenium Actress overlapped cinematic history and personal and national memory, courtesy the malleability of the animated image; and Tokyo Godfathers superimposed the contemporary Japanese metropolis on Ford and Wayne’s Three Godfathers. Still, nothing quite prepares for Paprika’s supercollided dreamscape.
Who’s“Paprika?” She’s a psychotherapuetic superheroine, first glimpsed chirpily side-kicking anxious dreams, and accessed via an experimental gizmo. When several prototypes are stolen from a research lab, tricky-(Philip K.)Dick shenanagins ensue (source novel author Yatsutaka Tsutsui is, perhaps, “Japan’s Dick”), with Paprika’s real-life sexy-librarian template one of several characters plunging into a psychically linked R.E.M. world, represented as flashbacks, movie references, and, recurrently, a teeming parade of giants and toys. As the center of Paprika’s subconscious Venn diagram expands, Kon’s animation assumes carnivalesque menace, while alter egos face off, the mind-body problem confounds, dream-worlds spill out of movie projectors, and characters jump into TV sets and out of rolling cameras. What’s Paprika? It’s the locus of a turf war between the conscious and unconscious mind. In short, a movie.
Specifically, an anime movie, with all that entails: a metastasized climax — filigreed with fanboy drool — demonstrates the form’s susceptibility to the same inverse ratio of narrative I.Q. and f/x capabilities afflicting block-busting live-actioneers. Still, a hangover seems a fair trade-off for the multitudes Paprika crams into your head.