Paranoia Agent ~ final thoughts
November 16, 2011
Paranoia Agent is a Madhouse production TV series from 2004, and an important part of the artistic legacy of Satoshi Kon, who passed away at the age of 46, in 2010. Paranoia Agent is a 13 episode series that might be classified in the Police Procedural genre, as, on the surface, it concerns itself with a series of murders, the police investigating the crimes, the lives of the victims, and the effect of the crime spree on the population at large. As with several of Kon’s works, Paranoia Agent really is an exploration of the grey area that exists somewhere between reality and fiction. One can say that the real subject of the series are Lies, those we tell to others, and those we tell to ourselves.
This review is intended to be spoiler free, but for those wanting the bottom line: Paranoia Agent is well worth watching.
Several of Satoshi Kon’s major works explore the border between Reality and Unreality. Sometimes Unreality is the Dream world, as in Paprika, and sometimes it is the public personas of actresses (such as Millennium Actress or Perfect Blue). In Paranoia Agent, more than any other, Unreality is the artificial world of lies, that is the stories we tell others and ourselves, to smooth over the parts of Reality to which we don’t care to admit . The genius of this body of Kon’s work is the way it explores the inter-penetration of Reality and Unreality. Dreams, public personas, lies, myth it doesn’t just exist in a separate Unreality, it also has an effect in Reality, just as Reality projects into the mirror-world of Unreality. “They speak many lies, but shreds of truth are hidden therein.”
At it’s heart this series is about the pursuit of Shounen Bat (literally Bat Boy, although translated as Little Slugger in the English dub). He arrives without warning, wielding a baseball bat, and seems to prey on those who are in states of extreme psychological distress. In his wake he leaves not only victims, but an effect in society. Those unaffiliated with the tragic incidents gossip and opine. Media celebrities are quick to point out that, given the assailants apparent age, his behavior can be attributed to the bad job society has done in instilling a solid understanding of the difference between what is Virtual and what is Real.
The series breaks down into roughly three parts: a beginning in which the plot seems tied more tightly to the police investigation, a middle, in which the focus is moved to the impact that Shounen Bat is having on society, and the conclusion. As a result, the perspective often jumps, so that the whole story is told from a myriad of view points. In fact some reviews will state that the subject of the series is really a social phenomenon, such as that described in Lewin’s Equation, B = ƒ( P, E ).
I wanted to point out episode 10, in particular, because I have a fascination with anime that attempts to describe processes, and especially with artistic processes, such as the production of an anime, as is described here. As in Animation Runner Kuromi, a lot of humor comes from seeing what might go wrong actually happen. For anime fans who decide they just don’t have time to watch this series (*shame on you*), I highly recommend checking out episode 10 for an interesting view behind the curtain.
Of course all those who are looking to avoid my withering *shame* abilities, must now watch the entirety of Paranoia Agent. It is dark at times, and philosophical at times, but that really should not scare you off from seeing this series. For those looking for a more uplifting work in the same style, Satoshi Kon’s Millennium Actress is quite incredible. It is such a shame that this genius creator died so soon.