In 2006, Madhouse Studies released the psychological Merry-Go-Round of Paprika, roughly based on the 1993 novel of the same name by Yasutaka Tsutsui. Another film by Satsohi Kon, Paprika dives into the realms of the subconscious and brings the joy of dreams to life. This movie was well-received by its audience, and won the Best Feature Length Theatrical Anime Award at the sixth annual Tokyo Anime Awards at the Tokyo International Anime Fair in 2007. This is among one of my favorite films and one the purest examples of why Satoshi Kon is among my favorite directors of all time.

Atsuko Chiba, a composed, stern and unbending woman, is a dream therapist who uses the new, experimental device called the “DC Mini”, which allows the user to enter the dreams of another and explore their thoughts. In the dream world, Atsuko goes by the persona of Paprika, a spunky redhead who’s not afraid of being fun and eccentric, to illegally help people out in their dreams, since use of the DC Mini has yet to be authorized. One day, one of the experimental devices is mysteriously stolen, sending everybody into a scare; the DC Mini, if used incorrectly, could permanently damage a persons psyche and drive them mad, or even wipe a persons mind clean. Using Paprika, Atsuko enters the dream world and follows the paper trail left by the criminal as those around her soon start to lose their grip on reality and the line between dreams and the real world starts to become blurred. Will Paprika be able to find the perpetrator before a major catastrophe happens?

Paprika is probably my favorite film by Satoshi Kon, due to the excellent story telling. The characters, although represented in a somewhat cartoonish way at times, are real and you get to dive right into the heart of their character through their dreams, fantasies, and, for some, the demons that haunt their subconscious. Atsuko Chi goes through a major transformation as a person, and grows greatly as a character by the end of the movie. As the story goes on, you’ll soon find yourself questioning whether or not the characters are awake, or if they are dreaming. And just when you things couldn’t possibly get any crazier, the insanity meter goes up ten fold. In the end everything comes together and answers are found for the characters, and even yourself too.

The visuals are probably the most fascinating part of this movie, as several different styles are used in both the dream world and the real world. Some of the images seen are things that you’d only imagine being in some of the most far-fetched dreams, to the most twisted and bizarre fantasies. As a warning to all, there is a seen of brief nudity, but rest assured that it is for the sake of the plot and not random like a lot of movies today. Otherwise, the animation is very smooth, compelling and is what makes the story so strong, bringing to life what is in the book in a way that a live action film would never be able to do.

Overall, this movie is a great and fascinating dive into the subconscious mind and the dream world, establishing itself as a piece of art. Paprika is certainly psychological joyride, and highly recommended to those who enjoy weird movies with a lot of depth and visual roller coasters. This movie deserves a 9/10 for stunning animation, superb storytelling, and characters that we can relate to on a personal level. I consider this film to be on par with Neon Genesis Evangelion, and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and deserves to be recognized as one of the greatest films to come out in the last decade. Watch it now, watch it twice, even; it’s just that good.