Published on August 14th, 2013 | by Michaela Buckley0
Animé. What a divisive subject, one which many people say I am not qualified to discuss as I frequently mention my dislike of animé tropes. That is not to say that I don’t like animé. Like this one for example.
Created by Satoshi Kon from ideas he was too attached to from earlier films, he instead decided to blend them together into this little gem. Known for his fantasy-blent dramas, Kon doesn’t let up with this, his first ever animé series, the opening in all its typically swirling animé glory features the cast of characters laughing gleefully at nothing while staring at the camera. At you. They’re laughing at YOU. Probably for watching such a tacky intro. But there’s some Susumu Hirasawa music, which eases it all somewhat.
The animé follows the events surrounding a mysterious assailant known as “Shonen Bat”, a young boy who attacks victims seemingly at random in the streets. He wears a baseball cap and uses a large golden metal baseball bat which is bent in order to hit people with and escapes quickly by zipping off on his golden skates. The show begins with a young, meek woman who, after a tough day working on a follow-up design for a character she is famous for creating, leaves for home of a night and is attacked after dropping her stuff on the floor.
As a mystery with somewhat fantastical elements added, the character of Shonen Bat starts to become an almost legendary figure as the show continues, as more people are being attacked, the similarity of the crimes begins to warp the perception of Shonen Bat into somewhat a saviour. Satoshi Kon is known for using psychological horror and the esoteric to line his stories, it can be seen in his earlier films, Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress and Tokyo Godfathers.
Almost every episode follows a new character and their present situation and events leading up to an eventual attack or encounter with Shonen Bat, unlike other vignette style works though, the chronological continuity is pretty consistent and the characters are directly referenced by one another in other episodes. Also when other characters appear in a scene, it doesn’t feel like we’re looking at the former star of an episode from the new main’s eyes, instead it feels like it drops the main character whenever other people become involved, opting to tell the story in a more coherent and objective fashion than to attempt to cling to the current temporary protagonist like a jealous lover. I like that, as it shows that despite Kon’s artistic leanings, he clearly knows when aesthetic is just getting in the way of a good thing.
The flow of animé has always been something that I have had many issues with, to the point where I end up over-praising a series simply because it didn’t screw up the end or just managed to fulfill the promises that addictive, progressive plots and episode direction often make and then toss to the side when it’s satisfied it’s had enough of your attention. Paranoia Agent doesn’t do that, but it doesn’t exactly excel either. Despite being a psychological mystery which are wont to air on an episode-by-episode basis, so each one has a twist or an exciting ending to make sure you tune in again, PA doesn’t do that, it’s pretty constant and doesn’t become really more-ish, nor does it bore you at all. Each episode is fulfilling and the further you go on, you realise that the drama is more important and well developed than the core plot.At only 13 episodes, it’s really short, making it odd that there are what could be considered ‘filler’ episodes cropping up at the half-way mark, laying waste to the little tension that is built between episodes and distracting from the plot.
I tend to watch most foreign language work in it’s native, being a big old hipster purist, me. The Japanese voice acting was great and the subtitles were all very good and typo-free, the only issue being in the first episode where they use ‘dub-titles’. All dubs by nature of language are less accurate than sub counterparts, however dubtitles are just the translations of the dub being put underneath and is really lazy production on the publishers part. As a result of the first episode’s dubtitles, Shonen Bat is called ‘Little Slugger’.
The music outside of Hirasawa’s opening is pretty mild and electronic, with a glockenspiel sounding ending theme. The animation was high quality considering it is still a series, albeit a very short one.
Main complaints were some of the overarcing themes were repetitive of early work and laden in terrific animé tropes, however each episode’s insights is more than enough to make up for it. I’ve always thought that Kon’s work was good to show to people who aren’t into animé and Paranoia Agent is no exception. The intrigue is great for regular television addicts and the fantasy elements are good for people who love excitement. There’s just enough sillyness to ease people into the world of Japan, but a good deal of serious concepts and beautiful imagery for those intellectual types you inevitably get too.
Not the finest of its genre, but is fun and short and does the job nicely where magic realism often falls so flat in other animé of its kind. Rather on the expensive side to purchase so is probably best borrowed from someone else. If you like this than Paprika and Perfect Blue are a must.