A review of “Paprika” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: R for mature themes and cartoon violence. In Japanese with English subtitles

Run Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

 

 

Fantasy clashes with reality in Satoshi Kon’s cautionary tale of the perils of new technology.

“Paprika” is a bittersweet tutorial in the form of mind-bending Japanese anime; all sharp edges and caustic wit that veers dangerously close to home.

The crux is the DC-Mini, a scientific key that allows access to one’s most personal dreams. Naturally the Mini falls into the wrong hands, sending Police Detective Konakawa (voice of Akio Ohtsuka) into a parallel universe with a gamine red-head named Paprika (voice of Megumi Hayashibara) as his guide.

The stolen Mini is used to plant a powerful vision in unsuspecting minds, forcing its victims into permanent hypnosis. With the help of the remaining Minis Paprika’s alter ego Dr. Atsuko Chiba (Hayashibara again) and corpulent Mini-inventor Tokita Kohsaku (voice of Toru Furuya) can see the invasive reverie that wreaks havoc with their colleagues’ psyche.

Truth bumps up against fiction with manic glee as saviors and perpetrators race against time to salvage the wreckage. Imagery piles on imagery until the lurid – and logic-defying -- climax, a resounding crescendo of conceit and neglect with a resonant message – it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.

Kon utilizes inspired animation and uncomfortably familiar technology with disorienting flair, relying on crayola color and warped perspective to push cerebral terrorism into the ether-zone. Saucy minx Paprika roams the nether-regions where classic porcelain dolls with bulbous eyes and screeching giggles come to life with Twilight-Zone precision.

Visually arresting and thoroughly unsettling, “Paprika” is an animated fever dream sure to haunt long after the lights have come up.