I should get writing a novel for the future. Ah, but I think I have a stomach ache right now so not today. It really hurts. Everyone has doubts, it will never succeed, the pressure is far too much.
Then he hit me on the head.
Paranoia Agent is one of the most intelligent, thought-provoking and true to life shows made. The state of the human mind in modern times brings forth Lil’ Slugger, a boy who rides in golden inline skates, wears a baseball bat, a smile and carries a bent golden bat. When the world becomes too much… thwok.
The thirteen episode series directed by Satoshi Kon tells the tale of two detectives trying to track down this mysterious slugger. Initially nothing links, nothing makes sense, and the answers aren’t going to come easy. The first victim is a girl, Tsukiko Sagi, a character design who produced a small pink dog toy called Maromi. She needs a new idea, but can’t come up with one. The the Lil’ Slugger hits her. The case begins and we are introduced to new characters each episode all full of problems and ready to be attacked by Lil’ Slugger. It has a Twilight Zone style feel, each episode providing a stand alone story, quickly turning to the surreal. The mystery of if the Lil’ Slugger is real or not and the outcome kept me hooked, trying to guess how it all unravels. The characters are all rather horrid people, but then you see them as real endearing people. Everyone has problems, everyone does stupid things.
One of the best aspects of the show is the barriers it breaks. Reality breaks down to confuse the viewer, though show a more visual representation to the characters feelings, and it can be truly haunting stuff. Rated 18, it doesn’t contain any extreme violence or sexualised nudity. Instead the creeping suspense, topics of suicide, multiple personality disorder and other character problems show why this is not for kids. One episode tells the story of three people who meet in real life after talking online. An old man, a young man and a little girl. The three agreed to meet up to kill themselves. In a comedic fashion they go through different situations attempting to off themselves and you will laugh with them, before the unsettling realisation kicks in. The way such dark topics can shift from disturbing to funny is truly masterful writing, and the show keeps it up till the end.
The opening title theme and images are worthy of mention to. Rather than picking some teen girl pop band or an emo rock group, the show forms a song which will bring real chills down the spine. Like a yodel, it sings of mushroom clouds and the characters in the opening all stand stiff, but laughing. Laughing with nuclear mushroom clouds in the background, children laughing in a tsunami. Paranoia Agent from the beginning paints an image that will be hard to rub out.
Out of the thirteen episodes, three around the middle point could be cut out and nothing would be lost. In a plot progression sense that is, the three episodes are some of the best in the series and tell some stories which help develop the myth of the Lil’ Slugger. We have one episode of housewife rumours, which allows the show to provide mini shorts which range from the unsettling to the hilarious. Another shows the production of an anime and the problems, and how a useless employee ends up causing the others to fall apart. The world while dipping in and out of reality, always has solid grounds. It doesn’t use confusion as a weakness to the plot, the strengths means it can do it in truly unique ways.
Paranoia Agent then is a masterpiece. Each episode has a strong identity, not a single character will fade into obscurity and the final message of the premise will create questions for yourself. If you want to get out of something and say you are ill, does the feeling suddenly kick in to make yourself feel better? Would a Lil’ Slugger walking into town and knocking your problems away bring happiness? Is it okay to cling onto trivial things in hopes of quick unearned happiness? Is escaping into fiction such a bad thing? And what does anything mean? Paranoia poses these questions, but never answers them. It leaves you to make your own impression. This is a show everyone should see. The word anime unfortunately puts a lot of people off, but does it really matter? This show may change your life.