Note: Review copy supplied by MVM Entertainment
Title: Paranoia Agent
Anime Studio: Madhouse
Genre: Psychological Thriller
From Satoshi Kon, director of Paprika, Perfect Blue, and Millennium Actress.
Truth is stranger than fiction.
The line between belief and reality is challenged in this dark and mysterious psychological thriller where citizens across Musashino City are being assaulted and terrorized. Now, two detectives must figure out the truth about Lil’ Slugger.
Paranoia Agent is, at times, a difficult series. Thematically, we tread in some dark territory here, with Satoshi Kon covering everything from suicidal thoughts to self-victimisation. In that regard, it feels a lot like it is simply holding a lens up to the part of society that isn’t always acknowledged as being prevalent. That it makes the real-world effects of this clear, even when dealing with an eccentric presentation, makes it even tougher to watch.
If you can get past the themes, you then have to contend with the storytelling style. What we are presented with, at least initially, is a series of one-shot stories that are all interlinked only by the Lil’ Slugger case. It isn’t until we start heading towards the conclusion that things begin to tie up and make a little more sense.
The thing is, while both these points make Paranoia Agent a little less viable as a mainstream title, they actually form part of what makes the series so magical. This is, in essence, a dark story, told in a chaotic way. Somehow, that feels right though. The story leaps from one tragic case to another, giving us just enough time to take each moment in before sending us on to the next. It all comes together to give the series some authenticity, even with the more fantastical moments. These are characters that feel real, precisely because they hurt like we do.
As a strange side, it was interesting to note that the series was released in 2004. The idea that Lil’ Slugger’s attacks leave some positive effects for the victims has an odd parallel with another 2004 release. In the same year, we saw the release of a film where people were harmed with the end result being a potential release from their own darker tendencies. That film was Saw.
The pacing of the first episode does a great job at introducing us to the story too, giving us a glimpse of the themes and some key characters in a way that keeps you interested throughout. While the overall pacing feels a bit disjointed due to the jumping around, when you take the stories as individual tales, the episodes fly by. Aesthetically, the series is also very good. The animation is smooth, and at its best, it has aged well. Meanwhile, the audio is also decent, with strong performances from the voice cast.
Overall, Paranoia Agent is an interesting release and one where it’s easy to see why it’s called a classic. It won’t be for everyone, but there’s no denying the quality of the work as a whole. I give this 4 out of 5.