Paprika (パプリカ Papurika) is a 2006 Japanese animated science fiction film, based on Yasutaka Tsutsui's 1993 novel of the same name, about a research psychologist who uses a device that permits therapists to help patients by entering their dreams.
The film was directed by Satoshi Kon, animated by Madhouse, and produced and distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. The film's score was composed by Susumu Hirasawa.
In the near future, a revolutionary new psychotherapy treatment called dream therapy has been invented. A device called the "DC Mini" allows the user to view people's dreams, exploring their subconscious thoughts. The head of the team working on this treatment, Doctor Atsuko Chiba, begins using the machine illegally to help psychiatric patients outside the research facility, using her alter-ego "Paprika", a persona she assumes in the dream world. The movie opens with Paprika counseling Detective Toshimi Konakawa, who is plagued by a recurring dream, the incompleteness of which is a great source of personal anxiety for him. This type of counseling session is not officially sanctioned, so Doctor Atsuko Chiba and her associates must be cautious that word does not leak out to the press regarding the nature of the DC Mini and the existence of Paprika. Her closest ally is Doctor Kōsaku Tokita, a child-at-heart genius and the inventor of the DC Mini. Unfortunately, before the government can pass a law authorizing the use of the device, three of the prototypes are stolen. Because of their unfinished nature, the DC Minis can allow anyone to enter another person's dreams, giving the culprit an opportunity to get away with all sorts of malicious deeds. Almost immediately, the chief of the department, Doctor Toratarō Shima, goes on a nonsensical tirade and jumps through a window, nearly killing himself.
Upon examining Shima's dream (which consists of a lively parade of inanimate objects, instrument-playing animals, and various cultural icons), Tokita recognizes his assistant, Kei Himuro, which seems to confirm their suspicion that the theft was an inside job. After two other scientists fall victim to the DC Mini, the Chairman of the company, who was against the project to begin with, bans the use of the device completely. This fails to hinder the crazed parade, which manages to claim Tokita, who was inside Himuro's dream trying to find answers, and intrude into Konakawa's dream. Paprika and Shima take matters into their own hands, and find that Himuro is only an empty shell. Tracing the "roots" that controlled him, Paprika confronts the Chairman, who claims that he is in fact the "protector of the dreamworld", guarding this last haven against the inhumane horrors of reality and technology. He is aided by researcher Doctor Morio Osanai, who agreed to give the Chairman his body and become the Chairman's lackey as long as he retains equal powers over his own dreams. Paprika is eventually captured by the pair after an exhausting chase. Paprika wakes as a butterfly pinned to a table in a room surrounded by pinned butterflies. There, Osanai admits his love for Chiba, and literally peels away Paprika's skin to reveal Chiba underneath. However, he is interrupted by the outraged Chairman who demands that they finish off Chiba; as the two share Osanai's body, they battle for control as they argue over Chiba's fate. Konakawa enters the dream from his own recurring dream, and flees with Chiba back into his. Osanai gives chase through Konakawa's recurring dream, causing Konakawa to realize that his recurring nightmare and anxiety result from his guilt that he never finished the film he was making with a now deceased friend. He decides to "finish the film" and take control of the dream by shooting Osanai. The act actually kills Osanai's physical body with a real bullet wound.
Dreams and reality have now merged. The dream parade is running amok in the city, and reality itself is starting to unravel. Shima is nearly killed by a giant Japanese doll, but is saved by Paprika, who has become an entity separate from Chiba thanks to dreams and reality merging. Amidst the chaos, Tokita, in the form of a giant robot, eats Chiba and prepares to do the same for Paprika. The Chairman also returns in the form of a living nightmare, reveals his twisted dreams of omnipotence, and threatens to darken the world with his delusions. A ghostly apparition of Chiba appears and reveals that she has in fact been in love with Tokita this whole time and has simply been repressing these emotions. She comes to terms with her own repressed desires, reconciles herself with that part of her that is Paprika. Paprika returns to Tokita, throwing herself into his body. A baby emerges from the robotic shell and sucks in the wind, aging as she sucks up the Chairman himself, becoming a fully-grown combination of Chiba and Paprika. In this new form, she is able to consume the Chairman's dream form and end the nightmare he created. In the final scene, Chiba sits at Tokita's bedside as he wakes up. Konakawa and Shima leave the two as Chiba puts her hand in Tokita's. As Konakawa and Shima walk down the street, Shima asks if Konakawa ever figured out the meaning to all this. Konakawa, turning to his reflection and seeing the figure of his film friend, realizes that he in fact became the character from their original film: the cop. Konakawa visits Paprika's website and receives a message from Paprika: "Atsuko will change her surname to Tokita... and I suggest watching the movie Dreaming Kids." The film ends as Konakawa purchases a ticket for the movie.