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Paranoia Agent

a.k.a. Moso Dairinin

paranoia-2
Genre: Drama
Company: Studio Madhouse
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 2/2/2004 to 4/26/2004

A bent, golden bat swung at her by a young, inline skater sporting a red baseball cap is the last thing Sagi Tsukiko, designer of an idolized, dog-like character, remembers before losing consciousness. An ordinary case of undisciplined teenagers is what Karino and Mitsuhiro first think this is. But, as these “Shounen Bat” assaults start to multiply and the rumors spiral out of control, they soon realize these attacks amount to a lot more. They will have a hard time telling truth from lies, fact from fiction and sane from insane.

summary by Kjeldoran

 

Reviewed: 09/18/2004 by
Grade: 86% av-Kjeldoran

Highs: Erratic plotline that always keeps you guessing; beautiful animation and music

Lows: Said plotline has a few major disappointments

My suggestion to anyone who wishes to see Paranoia Agent is to watch it all on the very same day; sleepless nights await anyone who does not. The engrossment level of this anime skyrockets straight from the bat with a grand slam of incredible art, animation, music and originality in its opening credits. The quality and creativity seen stays present and constant throughout the whole television series. These traits are even on par with even theatrical releases by the same director, Kon Satoshi, which says a lot when looking at Millennium Actress and Tokyo Godfathers. The captivation for this anime grows exponentially with the gradual introduction of a cast of psychologically intense and perturbed characters, all linked in some way to a roller-blading assailant.

This series suffers a huge blow in episode 5, however, when it appears to display a premature resolution… and a hugely disappointing one at that. Where was the anime going to go from there? What could they possibly do to keep things interesting from then on? I was terrified at the idea such a great beginning could be all for naught. Yet, even while having lost a bit of its focus, Paranoia Agent manages to resume the mystery. Some of the few filler episodes dropped here and there afterwards are pretty entertaining. The actual ending explains just enough to feel complete and leaves a few floating uncertainties, making it a good conversation subject once it is all over.

Even with a few wrong turns, this is still Kon Satoshi magic. Its psychological suspense could be compared to Perfect Blue but on a larger scale because of the number of main characters working in this puzzling script by Boogiepop Phantom‘s Minakami Seishi. A great deal of intrigue and surprises are just a swing of a bat away.

 

Reviewed: 11/19/2005 by
Grade: 73% av-Taleweaver

Highs: Well-paced mystery plot; top-notch animation

Lows: Too many false leads; action movie ending

Part The X-Files and The Twilight Zone, Paranoia Agent is probably one of the most unusual anime series of the decade. Half the story is told from the perspective of Shounen Bat‘s victims, with the remainder from the perspective of the two policemen investigating his serial attacks. By contrasting both, Kon Satoshi (very much in the spirit of his earlier Perfect Blue) skillfully builds a mood of mystery and suspense rarely found in anime.

The semi-episodic nature of the story is what makes this series so enjoyable. Paced almost perfectly during its first half, Paranoia Agent keeps the viewers guessing without ever becoming boring, and even the two filler episodes that don’t advance the plot are great mood setters. The animation is top-notch for a television series, and the character designs are rather realistic, easily drawing the viewer into the mysterious world that unfolds here.

Of course, mystery can be overdone, and that’s unfortunately what Paranoia Agent does during its second half. In an attempt to obfuscate the true nature of Shounen Bat, this series offers one false lead after the other, only to resolve them at the end of each lead’s respective episode. It’s the same flaw that The X-Files suffered from; there are so many possible explanations thrown at the audience that you finally stop caring about the real one.

Maybe that’s the reason why Kon Satoshi chose to resolve Paranoia Agent with an ending befitting an action movie, not one worthy of a good supernatural mystery plot. Everything ends, quite literally, with a bang and a truckload of havoc, and the true nature of Shounen Bat becomes almost irrelevant. It is only for the satirical undertones of the aftermath that I don’t consider this ending a total failure.

With technical brilliance and an intelligent, well-paced plot, Paranoia Agent is just what you’d expect from Kon Satoshi. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend it as wholeheartedly as his movies Perfect Blue and Millennium Actress. Less would have been more for this series: less confusion in the second half of the plot and less flashy explosions in the ending. With its flaws, Paranoia Agent is an above average series, nothing more.

 

Paranoia Agent can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.


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