Dec 19, 2009
For a show that sprung from unused ideas leftover from earlier Satoshi Kon and Seishi Minakami projects, Paranoia Agent is a surprisingly cohesive experience. Described as being about that feeling when you’re a child and will yourself sick to avoid going to school, a variety of characters find themselves assaulted by a mysterious roller-blading assailant known only as Shonen Bat. It’s a psychological thriller in the most literal sense.
As interesting as the overlapping narratives of the first seven episodes are, the real fun comes in episodes 8, 9 & 10 were we divert from the characters whose destinies have been interlinked so far and we see how the Shonen Bat story is turning into mass hysteria. The overall highlight is Satoru Utsunomiya’s episode 8 “Happy Family Planning”, which is probably the funniest thing ever made about suicide. Unfortunately in the UK, there is a cut of over a minute in this episode –
Cuts required (on potential harm grounds) to the sight of a child attempting to hang herself, and accompanying subtitles. Cuts in accordance with the Video Recordings Act 1984
– so make sure you get the R1 release rather than the UK release, as that episode really deserves to be seen in it’s complete form. Episode 9 is a number of short pieces from a variety of animators and episode 10 is a satire of the animation production process with storyboards from Tatsuo Sato (Nadesico, Stellvia).
Other familiar Kon collaborators like musician/composer Susumu Hirasawa and character designer/animator Masashi Ando are present here too and their contributions add to the appeal a great deal. Hirasawa’s opening theme is hauntingly demented, and Ando’s character designs are some of the best in the business. He’s never afraid of turning a character into a caricature and their faces are so rich with personality that animators can really cut loose compared to the usual copy/paste manga faces that permeate anime.
Some folks will complain that the ending doesn’t explain everything for them, but it’s a testament to Kon’s powers as a director that it never seems to be that much of a problem for them. All in all it’s pretty much what you’d want from a Kon television project, a chance to both examine ideas in a longer form than film allows, as well as using throwaway ideas that you couldn’t build a film around. Great stuff.