Warning: This work is hard to place within one genre, but its plot, for the most part, is that of a mystery thriller. Naturally, spoilers abound. Even certain tropes on this page will be spoilers in and of themselves. It is advised you watch the movie first (or the novel, although this page is mostly concerned with the animated film). You have been warned.
Dr. Atsuko Chiba / "Paprika"
A psychiatrist at the Institute for Psychiatric Research, and a member of the DC development team. She uses the DC Mini, a portable version of the machine to perform unauthorized psychiatric treatments as Paprika, her hyper-feminine, outgoing alter-ego.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Paprika, not only having the textbook personality, but also being one quite literally, too. In-Universe, this is most probably deliberate on Chiba's part (who herself absolutely averts the trope), since her work as a psychiatrist is helping people move on from past trauma.
- Sexier Alter Ego: Chiba is not unattractive by any means, but Paprika is friendlier, bubblier, and much, much flirtier.
- Secret Identity: Straight-laced psychiatric researcher by day, bubbly rogue therapist by night.
- The Shrink: The Awesome Shrink portrayal all the way, and then some. She uses the DC to go beyond the traditional, clinical approach to psychiatry, walking her patients through their dreams and intercting with them in a more casual, intimate way. Doubly so when the real world blends with the dream world and she has to physically subdue the culprit.
Detective Toshimi Konakawa
- Voiced by: Akio Otsuka (JP), Paul St. Peter (EN)
One of Paprika's patients, a police detective suffering from stress and anxiety. He becomes an ally in the search for the DC Mini thief. He is secretly very passionate about film.
- Always Someone Better: Reveals that he felt this way over his deceased childhood friend. He felt that he was better and everything, and soon developed deep-sitting resentment towards him, something that mortified and haunted him throughout his life.
- Hidden Depths: It's very clear from the very beginning of the movie that he really likes film. Not only that, he demonstrates that he knows a lot about film-making, as well. He, however, keeps this a secret outside of his dreams.
- The reason he does this is because he used to be an aspiring film-maker in his youth, but then his best friend and fellow film-maker died young, and he could not bring himself to go on making movies. He also felt repressed resentment for his partner, since he felt he was better than him at everything, including film.
Institute for Psychiatric Research
Dr. Kousaku Tokita
- Voiced by: Touru Furuya (JP), Yuri Lowenthal (EN)
A young, brilliant scientist that created the DC system, and the DC Mini. Although clumsy and obese, he is very smart, and very knowledgeable of his own invention.
- Absent-Minded Professor: A very gifted scientist and inventor, but he is a bit childish and naive. It's suspected that his carelessness is what resulted in the DC Mini devices being stolen, but to his credit, they were actually stolen by the Chairman, an insider, so it was probably not his fault after all.
Dr. Toratarou Shima
- Voiced by: Katsunosuke Hori (JP), David Lodge (EN)
An older researcher involved in the DC project. He is an old friend of Konakawa, and a confidant to both Dr. Chiba and Dr. Tokita.
- Cloudcuckoolander: He is a tad eccentric. This is why it took so long for everyone to figure out that something was off when the mad dream was implanted in his head at the beginning: The occasional eccentricity in his speech is normal.
- Non Sequitur: The first sign that something was not quite right with him, right before he breaks down into full blown incoherence by the parade dream.Shima: I think we are getting sidetracked. We need to find the mini, not Paprika's bikini...
Dr. Morio Osanai
- Voiced by: Kouichi Yamadera (JP), Doug Erholtz (EN)
Another researcher for the Institute for Psychiatric Research. He has a thing for Doctor Chiba.
- Depraved Bisexual: Hinted at. He is very clearly interested in Dr. Chiba to the point of unhealthy obsession, and despite anything Chiba herself has to say about it, but his relationship with his master, the Chairman, who is also male, also has sexual undertones, considering the Chairman wants them to "become one". Much more explicit in the novel. Satoshi Kon felt the portrayal was a bit too demonizing of LGBT men, so he toned it down significantly in his animated adaption.
- Voiced by: Daisuke Sakaguchi (JP)
A former collaborator in the DC project. He is the main suspect in the theft and abuse of the DC mini, since he bears a strong grudge against Tokita, who he used to be friends with..
- Depraved Homosexual: Several homoerotic magazines can be found in his apartment, and he is pretty much confirmed to be the culprit of the terroristic dream attacks. Subverted, when it turns out he was a red herring... And a victim himself. Again, much more prominent in the novel. In the movie his homosexuality is much more subtle, and it's portrayed as something incidental to his antics.
Dr. Seijirou Inui, the Chairman
- Voiced by: Touru Emori (JP), Michael Forest (EN)
The elderly, wheelchair-bound Chairman of the Institute for Psychiatric Research. Heavily opposes the DC project, since he believes dreams are the last private sanctum humanity has left.
Mr. Jinnai & Mr. Kuga
- Jinnai Voiced by: Satoshi Kon (JP)Kuga Voiced by: Yasutaka Tsutsui (JP)
The two bartenders working at Radio Club, an odd bar/website that serves as an entryway to the dream world.
- Creator Cameo: Jinnai is voiced by Satoshi Kon, who directed the film, and Kuga is voiced by Yasutaka Tsutsui, who wrote the original novel.
- Ink-Suit Actor: Although a bit stylized, they are clearly based after Kon and Tsutsui:
- Jinnai is a lankier and grayer Satoshi Kon. In particular Jinnai's glasses, mustache, and deadpan expression all resemble Kon's own features.
- Meanwhile, Kuga is a shorter and wider Yasutaka Tsutsui. They took some liberties with the hairstyle and mustache (Kuga wears a toothbrush, while Mr. Tsutsui appears to prefer a thin pencil style), but otherwise the lines of the face and the eyes match.
- Perpetual Frowner: Jinnai barely gesticulates, always keeping a straight, serious face.
- Perpetual Smiler: Kuga, on the other hand, always bears a friendly smile. Like Jinnai, however, he never changes his expression.
- Those Two Guys: Never seen apart.
- Voiced By: N/A
The subject of a mental patient's delirious dream. It is weaponized by the one who stole the DC Mini.
- A Glitch in the Matrix: Well, that's not something you see every day...
- A God Am I: About the closest thing to a coherent thought its victims seem to consistently have is a delusion of grandeur and power.A random victim: Truly, I am the one king chosen by God himself!About four other guys: I DON'T RECALL CHOOSING YOU!
- Brown Note: Exposure to it, even while wide awake, is enough to drive a person to gibbering, suicidal insanity. Thankfully, it does not appear to be permanent... Yet.
- Faux Symbolism: Invoked. It's an incoherent mish-mash of Shinto, Buddhist, and Christian religious icons, with heaping doses of God-knows-what-else. Justified, because in real life dreams don't usually make much sense at all. Specially the dreams of people with severe mental illness.
- Leitmotif: Titled simply "Parade". A grandiose march peppered with instruments that sound like vague, highly distorted vocals. It seems to sound more eccentric and deranged with every listen. The version heard in the movie is purely instrumental, but there's a version with lyrics (linked above), which are pure surrealistic gibberish.
- Word-Salad Horror: Its victims start sputtering long-winded nonsense right as they start losing their minds.
- Youkai: Figures of Tanuki and Oni can be found among its ranks.
- It also seems to be inspired by the Hyakki Yagyou, the "Night Parade of a Thousand Demons". In Japanese folklore, it refers to a massive horde of Youkai marching into our world... Which is exactly what The Parade does during the climax of the movie