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Paranoia Agent Collection - Reissue [DVD]
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All 13 episodes of the intricately plotted Japanese anime series, following two detectives on the trail of a mysterious young boy who has been attacking complete strangers with a golden bat. As the detectives investigate, they learn more about the boy's strange history. Episodes comprise: 'Enter Lil' Slugger', 'The Golden Shoes', 'Double Lips', 'A Man's Path', 'The Holy Warrior', 'Fear of a Direct Hit', 'MHz', 'Happy Family Planning', 'ETC', 'Mellow Maromi', 'No Entry', 'Radar Man' and 'The Final Episode'.
A psychological thriller that strives for social commentary, Paranoia Agent is an anime series from director Satoshi Kon (Perfect Blue, Millenium Actress). Kon makes the leap to the small screen with the same fluid professional images and mature plotlines and themes that mark his films. Utilizing an episodic structure, Paranoia Agent focuses on the attacks made by serial assaulter Shounen Bat, a mysterious adolescent who beats random victims with a baseball bat and quickly rollerskates away. As the detectives charged with investigating the Shounen Bat assaults find only confusion, the city itself threatens to explode with pent up rage, frustration and paranoia. This release contains all 13 episodes of the enigmatic and dark series.
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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.
Tokyo has become the haunt of a violent attacker, a child wearing in-line skates and wielding a crooked baseball bat to brutal effect. However, as the two police detectives investigate, they are forced to question the nature of the assailant: is he real or the creation of his victim's imagination? The first episodes focus on the stories of the early victims who are all somehow connected. Then we see episodes that show how the urban legend has gained momentum and a life of its own in the city, affecting disparate lives in indirect ways. The last three episodes reveal the nature of the attacker, tell us the origins, and provide a surreal - though coherent - resolution to the story.
The animation is top-notch, the music is perfect and the character design gives the character real character. This is nothing short of a masterpiece!
The first thing that stood out to me when I started watching this (barring the highly annoying OP) was the art. At first I really wasnt sure if I loved or hated it, and the art was infact one of the reasons I didnt watch it for a long time, however, after the first episode you come to absoloutely love the art. Its beautifully coloured, and at certain parts in the series (Towards the end around episode 10 especially) it shows some outstanding visuals. The colours are all very vibrant, and bright, which adds to the atmosphere of this show alot.
I give the sound a 9/10 because it was (although limited, and not too varied) still very good, and a brilliant cast for the voice actors. However, the 9 could drop to an 8, but I'm in a good mood after just finishing it!
The characters in this show are brilliant, they are all very well developed throughout, and you grow to love them. The only problem I had is remembering who's who (Im still bad with Japanese names...). All the same though, you really do develop a bond with the characters and your heart really goes out for them during the series. Also, although it comes under art, I feel I must mention again how beautiful they look. All the characters look unique (barring the odd 1 or 2), and they are all beautiflully animated.
As far as enjoyment goes, I thoroughly enjoyed this series. Around episodes 6-8 you discover some important parts of the story that does raise some questions, and confuse you, but I must urge anyone who watches to stick with it, and in the final 5 episodes all those quesions will be answered. There are quite a few sad parts, and the end of the series will make your eyes well up and want to cry, but it just adds to the brilliance of this show.
Overall, this is an absoloutely marvelous show that i'm so glad to have seen. There are a few questions I have left, but that will be easily sorted with a re-watch, something I intend on doing again soon! I know i've been quite vague about some things here but, really if I were to tell you to much it would spoil the experience for you. All I can urge you to do while watching is stick with it. Try to watch the episodes in bulk of about 3-4 at a time, or more if you can as just watching 1-2, you may not want to pick it back up as the story jumps between characters quite alot, but it will be worth it once you get near the end and everything is much, much clearer.
Truely enjoyable, everyone should try this!!
Thanks for reading,
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Kon is master when it comes to messing with the mind.Read more