Paprika is my second-favourite Satoshi Kon film, after Millennium Actress. In terms of its storytelling style, I felt like Paprika was like Perfect Blue but more refined. Whereas Paprika was relatively easy to follow because events took place in somewhat restricted space, Perfect Blue occasionally made me feel like I not only had no idea of what was happening, I didn’t even understand where it was happening. Paprika felt much more consistent in that respect, though that’s not to say its settings were boring.
All of Kon’s films, with the exception of Tokyo Godfathers, make use of blurring the line between fantasy and reality (the reality of the main story, I mean), and I think Paprika gets the most out of that particular quirk of storytelling. Not only does reality flow smoothly into fantasy and vice versa when the obfuscation of the line demands it, there are a number of abrupt shifts between reality and fantasy that serve as a contrast to the smooth transitions, and they make the story easier to follow. This, coupled with the fact that the story itself revolves around a technology that allows people to “enter other people’s dreams” makes for a very enjoyable kind of psychological mystery story. And, to mention something not by Satoshi Kon, Ghost in the Shell: Innocence also did something like this, and I very much liked it for that.
Aside from the story, Paprika has its visuals and its sound. The animation is fantastic, but the thing that really stands out is the colours. Vivid colours don’t really have any place in Kon’s other movies, but they really (literally) shine in Paprika. As for the music, the soundtrack by Susumu Hirasawa sounds kind of similar to his soundtracks for Kon’s other movies, particularly Millennium Actress, but his style still stands out so much that it doesn’t really matter that it’s similar. The technical side of the movie is fantastic in its own right, but together with the story I think they make Paprika a masterpiece. Millennium Actress is my favourite in terms of personal enjoyment, but I think Paprika is the best of Kon’s movies that I’ve seen.