Fans of Megumi Hayashibara will enjoy this - her first appearance for a while, as far as I'm aware, and a fun little movie to boot. Fans of Satoshi Kon's other work (Paranoia Agent, for example) will also know that the wierd and wonderful will also play a part. While Paprika doesn't make much sense, it certainly has a sense of fun...
In the near future, a revolutionary new psychotherapy treatment called PT has been invented. Through a device called the "DC Mini" it gives therapsits the ability to act as a "dream detective" of sorts, entering into people's dreams and exploring their unconscious thoughts. However, before the government can pass a bill authorizing the use of such advanced psychiatric technology, one of the prototypes is stolen. In the wrong hands, the potential misuse of the device could be devastating, allowing the user to completely annihilate a dreamer's personality while they are asleep, and so renowned scientist, Dr Atsuko Chiba, enters the dream world under her exotic alter-ego, Paprika, in an attempt to discover who is behind the plot to undermine the new invention...
There are a few main characters to get a handle on here. The DC Mini was created by Kosaku Tokita, a giant of a man (too much McDonalds) who, although clearly a technical genius, is in most respects stuck with the mind of a child. He's created this technology, but doesn't really realise the benefits or danger of it - that falls to his colleague Atsuko and their boss Torataro Shima, who's one of the first victims of a misused DC Mini, resulting in him taking an unscheduled trip out of a second-floor window. Fortunately, he lives to tell the tale.
There's also Paprika, Atsuko's dreamworld alter-ego and a personality very different from Atsuko's own, to the point where you begin to wonder if Paprika has somehow been able to take on a life of her own. Paprika's been working with detective Konakawa Toshimi, who's eventually assigned to investigate the missing DC Mini. The investigation begins in the real world, but soon delves into the dream - and that's where Satoshi Kon can begin to have fun with his idea. In the dreamworld, of course, anything is possible - and in this case, the weird and wonderful can have profound effects on those experiencing them, so when you have Tokita dreaming he's become a giant robot, launching missile around the city, those in the dream with him are in mortal danger. Or you could jump through a travel agent poster to find yourself in an exotic location. Such tricks are used extensively, and with the story (such as it is) moving along at speed watching the film soon becomes more of an experience than something you can easily follow.
Just don't expect to be able to follow it easily, though - there are twists and turns and surprises along the way that will catch you out if you're not paying attention or following along closely, and with the speed that events unfold at, particularly in the second half of the movie, any distraction means you're likely to miss something. That said, there's a lot to be said for just going along for the ride, instead of trying to make sense of everything. Once Paprika takes control of the situation and the dreamworld takes centre-stage, there's almost the feeling that you're on a roller-coaster ride through the movie's world, and that's exhilarating enough on its own to make the fil enjoyable. Yes, you'll get a different experience out of it if you give it the attention it needs (I was going to some "something more", but that's not quite true), but its not something you have to do to get your money's worth out of the title. There probably aren't too many movies you can say that of.
Satoshi Kon's work always comes with a certain level of expectation attached to it, that you're going to get something different from the anime mainstream and that, on some level at least, is going to try and mess with your head a little. Paprika certainly delivers that, with a movie that operates on several levels and will reward you differently depending on how you approach it. Watch it in one frame of mind, come back later when you're in a different mood and maybe get something different out of it - you can't really ask for better than that.
If there's a criticism, it's that the story has more range than depth, and there's also been some criticism that Kon has reused a number of ideas from his previous works - something that will spoil the fun of this piece if you've seen the others. Neither of those issues bothered me to any great extent, though - I was just happy to get hauled along for the ride. Add in some impressive visuals - another case of Blu-ray blowing me away with just what it's capable of - and there's a lot of fun to be had with this title. If you balk at the cost of the Blu-ray release, it's also available on DVD as a cheaper option, but either way, it's well worth a look.