Paranoia Agent

Psychological thrillers seem to be a popular topic around here, so now I go to cover Satoshi Kon’s Paranoia Agent. In 2004, this weird show first aired in Japan, produced by Madhouse. How it came to fruition is really quite interesting:

“During the makings of my previous three films, a mountain of unused ideas for both stories and arrangements has piled up in my drawers. Not that I dropped them because they weren’t good enough, but they just didn’t fit into any of the projects. It hurts to see material go to waste, so I looked for a chance to recycle it (MAP Interview).”

So, apparently, Paranoia Agent was born out of a bunch of unused ideas put into one, and together they make a shows that countless people hold favoritism for, including myself. Despite the use of a variety of separate ideas, the plot in Paranoia Agent isn’t completely random, and although most of the individual episodes are stand-alone, each does its part to push the plot forward and continue the mystery of Lil’ Slugger.

In the world of Paranoia Agent, a famous pink dog, Maromi, is all the sensation in Japan, and the height of accomplishment of the young designer, Tsukiko Sagi. Tsukiko is under extreme pressure to create another hugely successful character like Maromi, yet she cannot come up with anything. One night, when walking home, Tsukiko is attacked my a young boy on roller skates with a bent, golden bat. Investigator Keiichi Ikari, and his partner, Mitsuhiro Maniwa get the case, and at first they believe that Tsukiko is lying about the attack in order to escape the pressure the world is applying to her, but before they know it, another report of a victim getting attacked by an kid with roller skates and a bent, golden bat is brought to their attention, and soon another. The phenomenon of Lil’ Slugger spreads throughout all of Japan, and it is up to Ikari and Maniwa to solve the case and find out the truth about the attacks.

Kon is well known for this weird story-telling, with such works Perfect Blue and Paprika, and Paranoia Agent is no different. The story-telling of each episode is unique in it’s own way, some telling of a specific case with Lil’ Slugger, others going into the public perspective of the Lil’ Slugger attacks, some even seem completely irrelevant to the story (those probably being the most important); each gets more and more bizarre and adding more to the overarching mystery.

The characters are probably the strongest part of the entire story. Each one of them, young or old, seems to have their own personal crisis going on within the story. Whether or not that crisis is resolved is up to the character, or it’s up to Lil’ Slugger. Some of these characters are portrayed in a comedic way, adding to either the insanity or simple comic relief, while others have serious attributes that many viewers may be able to connect with in some way and develop a strong relationship with the characters.

Overall, the complex universe of Paranoia Agent comes together quite nicely in the end and some unexpected twists and turns are to be expected along the ride. If you like something funny, scary, silly, thrilling, and that dives into the depths of insanity, Paranoia Agent is the right show for you. Together, I think this show deserves a solid 9/10 for all the best aspects of a psychological horror and combining it with something completely new within the anime medium. This show certainly secures Satoshi Kon as one of my favorite directors of all time, as well as making this one of my most favorite shows of all time, and perhaps it will for you too.