Accel World owes a lot to Serial Experiments Lain. The script may not be penned by Chiaki J. Konaka and has yet to deal with digital deities but a great many of this new series' ideas can be traced back to it.
First released: February 2004
The story goes that after Satoshi Kon's movie triumvirate - Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress, and Tokyo Godfathers - there were a surplus of ideas and the desire to break from being locked into a two and half year development cycle for movies. So with the aid of Madhouse studios, Paranoia Agent was born. Demonstrating a familiar mix of reality bending, mind melting storytelling and a flair for the symbolic and layered, the series is a stunning achievement shifting from detective thriller to black comedy to erudite social commentary with jaw dropping ease. Challenging and subversive, this is everything a Satoshi Kon fan could want: a playground where he runs free; as bleakly funny just as it is darkly incisive there are some minor hiccups along the way but it is a powerhouse of a series that rightly deserves but never demands attention.
It's not a stretch to say that Paprika is the movie that Satoshi Kon has been building up to. Simply attaching his name to a film indicates its content: a trip into the human psyche where perspectives blend and questions about the nature of "self" are posed. This is no different and follows a similar formula to his other films where alternate realities begin to intrude on actual reality, eventually blurring the already indistinct line between the two. Intellectualism and introspection aside, while not a different blueprint to previous movies such as Perfect Blue or Millennium Actress, Paprika is far better paced and perhaps a lot more subtle than previous works, helped no doubt by the blindingly excellent animation from auteur favourite, Madhouse studios.
The questions Paprika asks are not new to anyone who has had a cursory glance at the philosophy and literature surrounding recent Hollywood fare, most notably The Matrix and Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind among others; how it asks them is unique though. The film focuses on a device which allows a psychotherapy professional to both view and interact with a person's dreams, potentially identifying the root cause of their psychological problem and "fixing" it; this sets up a tight cast of characters ranging from an obese genius to a duplicitous therapist to a troubled police officer, all of whom take part in a technicolour journey that eventually culminates in a potentially world-altering event. The aforementioned therapist has the titular alter ego whose flippancy is only matched by her choice of attire and it is through her eyes and dives into dreamscapes that the story unfolds.