(2006)4Derek ArmstrongThe huge popularity of anime in Japan has failed to translate in the United States, in part because the two cultures hold very different ideas about narrative structure and content. Americans tend to want a more grounded, linear approach, whereas the Japanese have historically been comfortable with fragmentation and fantasy. That Satoshi Kon's Paprika found a devoted audience in the United States is somewhat surprising, because it's as fragmented and fantastical as anime movies get, with almost everything that happens governed by dream logic. But it's also as visually decadent as they get. Dizzyingly imagined and confidently rendered, the images just pop off the screen. The basic thrust of the plot is not hard to follow. A device is created that allows therapists (or terrorists, if it falls into the wrong hands) to view the dreams of the subjects wearing it, and even insert a dream version of themselves as a character. Paprika stops making sense when the device starts commingling the dreams of people not wearing the device, as the movie basically throws out logical rules and gives itself over to a series of albeit compelling and disturbing recurrent images. Like many anime films, it builds toward a huge climax in which the fate of the entire world is in the balance, but you aren't really sure why. Still, Paprika makes it pretty easy to divorce yourself from the need for logic, as its approach is at least consistent, and the characters it introduces are easy to either cheer or hiss. The most literal-minded viewers are likely to reject it on some level, but Paprika wasn't intended for them anyway. It was intended for viewers who appreciate abstraction and grand-scale ambition, and those viewers will be pleased as pudding.