Mind Game is some sort of demented anime classic

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      Directed by Masaaki Yuasa. In Japanese, with English subtitles. Rating unavailable

      Imagine getting the chance to do it all over again, righting everything you’ve ever done wrong, by hitting a reset button.

      That’s the basic premise of the endlessly inventive anime extravaganza Mind Game, which is based on a manga by Robin Nishi. Director Masaaki Yuasa takes us on a fantastical journey that starts out in the rain-splattered back alleys of Osaka, and then detours to the belly of a whale that—in a clever metaphor for Mother Earth in the 21st century—is in its dying days as a host for human inhabitants. The main message? Actually, there’s a nonstop blur of them, including that fear only takes the shape we’re willing to give it, and that there’s no point playing it safe when you only get one life.

      Cleverly, spineless manga artist Nishi (Kôji Imada) gets two kicks at the can, a trip back from the afterlife making him realize he’s blowing his time on the planet. He starts the film unable to pull the trigger on declaring his love for his cartoonishly well-endowed childhood sweetheart, Myon (Sayaka Maeda), only to have everything change after a World Cup–fixated yakuza ganger blows his brains out in a yakitori bar. That the bullet comes from a gun firmly wedged between his ass cheeks while he’s cowering in a modified downward-dog position gives you an idea what to expect from Mind Game.

      After a brief spin through a freakified heaven that suggests Hayao Miyazaki, Ralph Bakshi, Siobhan Vivian, and the entire crew of Adventure Time With Finn & Jake dropping Orange Sunshine together, our flawed hero wills himself back to Earth, reinventing himself as a rebel who follows no rules but his own.

      Mind Game doesn’t tether itself to any one style. The animation moves fluidly, if sometimes frenetically, from blood-splattered manga to delicate traditional Japanese illustration to western Uncle Grandpa–style pop-art anarchy. But for all the insanity—smoking koi, giant talking flowers living on dinosaur poop, an elegant synchronized-swimming sequence with a Japanese-edition Loch Ness monster, set to Franz Liszt—there’s also a beautiful poetry to Mind Game.

      In the middle of the dreamlike chaos, Nishi asks, “Would you rather lie around doing nothing, or would you rather feel alive?” If the answer, for you, is the latter, Mind Game is a mind-melting place to start.