Paprika ★★★★

Paprika hurt my brain, overloaded my senses, and was so unrelenting in stunning imagery and ideas that I barely grasped the plot, but can't wait to return to find out what I missed.

Paprika is rightly praised for the ingenious way it imagines a dream world, and I think that leads to my favorite aspect of the film - even in a world that doesn't obey physical laws, every single item in it, from pieces of confetti to towering robots, all have a sense of weight to them. Even when the items are imaginary, everything in Paprika gives the illusion of gravity (sometimes exaggerated) and heft. Even when Paprika is riding a cloud, there is a real expectation that if she steps off, she will fall until she regains control of her mastery of the dream world.

What I found most difficult to follow, and I now realize it was intentional, was the blurring of the dream world and the real. Paprika's identity was a stroke of genius in the way it was obfuscated, and then revealed, doubling her personality, and making her much more interesting in the process rather than just another ghost in the dream machine. It helped separate the dream and reality in the beginning, and just when I started to figure it out, Satoshi Kon started playing with the separation between both, and bleeding the dream world into the real one (narratively just, but I'm still not exactly sure how it happened in the story - I thought they were going down the path of some natural and inevitable breakdown in the reality barrier due to the use of this strange and wonderful new technology, so I was a little disappointed in realizing that it seemed to be more human-initiated).

I think my only overt complaint is that of Detective Konakawa's character - I loved that he brought a murder-mystery vibe to the story, and thought his personality was charming, but the whole movie-making aspect of his hang-ups felt a little out-of-place with the rest of the story. It is an apt metaphor to dreams, but his established personality just didn't jibe with that later element introduced.

Paprika smartly doesn't delve deeply into the science of sleep, apart from a few minor expository snippets, and instead dives headfirst into an imagined world, full of bright colors, anthropomorphized objects, and one of the cutest and bubbly protagonists I've seen in a while. The story's details, while complicated, don't take away from the mind-bending elements of the overarching plot. The animation here is absolutely top-notch, and is worthwhile merely to watch every frame in awe of the talent behind the screen to imagine with such vivacity, even if the details of what exactly just happened are still a little hazy.

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