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Customer Review

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reality bites, 10 July 2010
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This review is from: Paranoia Agent: Complete [DVD] (DVD)
With three full-length animated feature films behind him of the calibre of Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress and Tokyo Godfathers, Satoshi Kon certainly doesn't need the length afforded by a 13 episode anime series to develop complex ideas and innovative animation techniques, but it's fascinating all the same to see the ideas and themes of one of Japan's greatest filmmakers - some indeed left-over from his earlier films - expanded across a wider range of characters in Paranoia Agent.

The underlying theme of the series becomes apparent fairly quickly, each episode focussing largely on one particular character who it becomes clear is going to be the next seemingly random victim of a mysterious baseball-bat wielding school kid on rollerblades, known as Lil' Slugger (or Shonen Bat), who has been terrorising the neighbourhood. Each of the characters, while seemingly having lives and careers to aspire to, all however have deep personal and personality problems, finding themselves cornered and only able to be released from their torment by a vicious whack across the head by the enigmatic rollerbladed assailant who corners them in an alleyway late at night. As the tagline indicates "When darkness overcomes the heart, Lil' Slugger appears".

This alone is a very entertaining concept, but there is much more to Paranoia Agent than that. There are other connections between the characters, and rather than just repeating variations on a theme, Satoshi Kon peels away layers and manages to develop the relationship between them as the series progresses, quite brilliantly making a comment on people as individuals as well as what this says about the modern society they live in and the demands it places on them, "investigating a generation" through its lifestyle and interests (manga and anime included), and where random and seemingly inexplicable violence is an accepted part of everyday life, and in some cases an answer. Answers however are not always so easy to come by in Paranoia Agent.

Everything about the series is well-conceived and masterfully executed, the tone established effectively by the rather disturbing sight of the characters laughing hysterically at the apocalypse during the rather unusual opening title sequence through to their peaceful slumber on the grass at the end of each episode. In between Satoshi Kon draws on a variety of techniques (capably animated by the Madhouse studio) some of which can be seen in his features - freeze-frame still sequences, an overlapping comic narrative in one episode that recalls Alan Moore's Watchmen - but he takes them to another level here.

After the first seven episodes that set up the premise, the story seems to descend into Twin Peaks weirdness and there is no doubt some filler material included, but it all adds to the legend of Shonen Bat, before his origins and his legacy are revealed in the explosive apocalyptic conclusion. That seems like a very traditional Japanese comic-book convention, but in reality the whole series is indeed a commentary on anime themes and their origins, as well as what they tell us about Japanese society today. You'd expect nothing less from Satoshi Kon, would you?

Barring some interlacing and minor blurring from standards conversion, the quality of MVM's 4-disc DVD set of the complete series is fine and there are a few good extra features, including a brief interview with Satoshi Kon and a full storyboard multi-angle feature for the first episode. The final three episodes all have a very interesting commentary from the director and producers.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Aug 2010 21:39:55 BDT
Critias says:
I can't really add much to this excellent review, however I think it might be interesting to note that a scene from the 'Happy Family Planning' episode was cut (strangely enough a suicide attempt that might inspire children, on an 18+ rated series). Because the cut isn't well executed, it does make for a strange moment in viewing. This doesn't deteriorate the story or the overall quality of the set, but I think a mention would be appropriate.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Oct 2015 12:58:48 BDT
R. A. Caton says:
And its a scene that is seen elsewhere, maybe in the trailers? The actual act of "stringing along" as it were, before they fall down the hill...
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