When I look for shows to watch, I tend to search for ones that have meanings behind the plots, powerful symbols that represent real life situations, and tons of character mysteries. Well, the series I am reviewing today has all three of these wishes I want from a show, and it’s named Paranoia Agent. Directed and created by critically acclaimed anime director Satoshi Kon, he brings some of the most mind-provoking story elements into this underrated physiological thriller that leaves the audience in awe and wanting more each episode ends.
In Paranoia Agent, we follow introverted character designer Tsukiko Sagi who created the immensely popular pink dog named Maromi finds herself pressured to repeat her success, As she walks home one night, she is attacked by a child with golden rollerblades and a metal bat named—by the media—Lil’ Slugger (or Shounen Bat in the English Subtitled version of the show). When two detectives are assigned to take care of the case, they suspect the girl has been lying about the attack…until more citizens are attacked by the same person.
Jumping into the show, I had no idea what I would be getting myself into. I just saw the title on a list of physiological anime series and decided to give it a try since I enjoy mind-provoking pieces of entertainment, a couple examples include Serial Experiments: Lain and FLCL. After watching the first episode, I was pretty much hooked onto the series, watching half of the thirteen episode series in one day! Did I identify this show as flawless? Unfortunately, no. There were a couple of storytelling elements missing from the anime that made me not give this show a perfect rating.
Satoshi Kon, director of this series and classic anime movies such as Perfect Blue and Millennium Actress, adds lots of mystery and important themes behind his stories. In this anime, he sneaks in the theme of lies and alludes them to how we communicate with one another. Although Paranoia Agent aired in the early 2000s, Kon describes how we, as a society, tend to speak of rumors and lies more often than truths behind important situations. Like I have mentioned in my review on Serial Experiments: Lain, the director begs the question to his viewers of whether or not everyone around the world will trust the internet and news for anything in the future. And thirteen years later, this is true for our modern society. Lots of people go to the internet for advice and their news these days, which can lead to riots and rumors being spread.
With the story in mind, this theme mostly revolves around the plot and the characters involved in this series. Both the main and side characters tend to lie about Lil’ Slugger’s identity and where and when he attacks his next victims. Closer to the middle of the series, the detectives tend to figure out why Lil’ Slugger has been using his acts of violence to certain types of people. The viewers also figure out towards the end of the series who Lil’ Slugger is, but some, like myself, will probably figure out his identity towards the middle of the anime. Since Paranoia Agent is in the physiological genre, the series will not be spoon-feeding the audience any big hints to the identity of the main antagonist, which can be a flaw for some viewers, especially to those who enjoy the Shounen genre.
The characters, or victims of Lil’ Slugger, in this anime are very mysterious and at times memorable in their own way, sometimes in a good and bad way. In each episode or two, the victim(s) have their own spotlight to tell their story on how they are struggling in their own life and why the antagonist arrives at the most struggling moments. There are some characters who reveal why they are struggling while some do not, which is a big flaw in a thriller. One good character example has to be school tutor Harumi Chōno, one of my favorites in the series. Harumi struggles with having an alternative personality named Maria, who works as a prostitute at night. The two personalities communicate via an answering machine, which brings chaos to Harumi’s life. While struggling with her Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), Harumi tries to get rid of her alternative personality so she can live her life peacefully with her fiancé Akihiko Kase…until Lil’ Slugger shows up and attacks her at night.
For an animated series made in the early 2000s, the animation is just above average compared to other series made in that time, but that does not mean I did not enjoy it. Although the character designs are a bit rough in the beginning, they start to seem almost realistic to viewers eyes throughout the anime. The background scenes, even during the daylight hours of the anime, have eerie looks and darker colors to give the audience that disturbing, psychological feeling through the series. Also, let’s not forget the adorable, bright, and memorable Maromi that Tsukiko created in the first episode of the anime! Her different tones of pink can send a calming or bone-chilling—maybe both feelings—to the audience.
Now, unlike the animation, the music used for Paranoia Agent is not ordinary nor plain. Each of the pieces from the soundtrack, composed by one the most splendid anime composers, Susumu Hirasawa, will definitely send chills down one’s spine, whether it be techno, violin, or guitar music. (For the ones who do not know who Hirasawa is, he has composed music for anime such as Paprika, Berserk 1998, Trigun, etc.) I have tons of favorite pieces used in this anime, including Taishou Teigi, Focus, and Juunichijou. But my favorite song used in this series has to be the opening, Yume no Shima Shinen Kouen. The opening theme foreshadows what will happen in the show with its lyrics, background vocalists, and animation sequences used in the song, which can give the viewers tons of goosebumps. Well, it put it into simple terms, this song symbolizes the struggles each of the characters go through. The victims of the Lil’ Slugger attacks are shown standing still and laughing as if they are joyful and happy, when really they are faking their happy emotions. One will be able to notice if they look at the backgrounds used for each of the characters that they show the places where they are struggling the most in their lives. To me, this song stands at one of my top ten favorite opening themes used in anime.
I usually have long paragraphs about the voice acting used in anime, but that will not happen with this one. The English Dubbed voice acting is about mediocre, just like the animation used, but worse. While the voices fit with each of the characters, the non-fluid articulation and diction are a bit robotic and choppy. I listened to the Japanese voice acting for this series and I actually enjoyed it a bit better than the English voice overs. Why is it that the English voice acting is not as good as the others I’ve heard? Could it be that way just to give the series more of a creepy atmosphere?
Paranoia Agent offers a lot in an animated series to the mature audiences looking for something entertaining to watch, which brings me to conclude my rating of a four and a half out of five stars. Some things I would have liked to see in this anime would be some more character development for a few of the victims and better voice acting from a lot of the characters in the series. If one has seen Death Note, Serial Experiments: Lain, Another, or FLCL, then he or she will probably enjoy the enthralling mysteries of the underrated classic Paranoia Agent.
Warnings: This series contains suggestive content and themes, instances of gore, some nudity. The show is also only for mature audiences who can watch a series without being fed the mysteries hidden behind the characters and plot.
Started watching the series: March 12th, 2017
Finished the series: March 16th, 2017.
Hi, viewers!! Since spring break is finally here, I will be posting more frequently than I have been for the past month. All of those reviews in the ‘Upcoming Reviews” slide show on my home page will finally be posted for you guys.
GG 🙂 ❤