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.
on 13 June 2008
I have just finished watching this series over three nights and am stunned at the reviewer who gave it only one star - he seems to have failed to understand the genre in every way. This is simply the most beautiful and glorious anime series that I've seen to date. To give you some idea of what to expect, this is a surrealist psycho-thriller. The surrealism is limited in the first volume but increases as the series progresses and should not be read literally. The series quickly becomes a dark satyr on the human condition and modern life, in turns uncomfortable, charming, and funny. Above all, it is thought provoking and stays with you. I should also note that for all the darkness, there seems to me to be a real affection for the human being and even a kind of optimism.
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!
on 9 May 2008
Why there's two version of the "Paranoia Agent Box Set", it's because this version (released April 2008) is the "thin" version, meaning it takes up less space on your self.
There are no extras to mention so don't bother re-purchasing if you already own the original set - unless self space is importanted to you.
I hope this helps.
on 2 October 2015
I bought this collection on the basis of the first couple of episodes seen on a region 0 Anime sampler.
Kon is master when it comes to messing with the mind. The characters are all well designed, and all have flaws....flaws that bring them to breaking point and within the reach of "Shounen Bat". I'm not going to spoil your pleasure but would say that its not all dark, Episode 8 "Happy Family Planning" has some lighthearted moments as a trio of misfits try and fail repeatedly to accomplish their shared goal...but for the most part we are treated to displays of just how screwed life and some people can be...
Not for those seeking an easy view or a touch of fanservice. I have to confess to watching the dub rather than the sub; so sue me, the acting was good. (if you want to see a dub as good as any sub, watch Haibane Renmei... ultimately a more heartwarming experience)
Paranoia Agent is an excellently made series that will mess with your head.
on 4 January 2009
Okay, so finally I have got around to watching and completing this series, and I must say it was truely fantastic.
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,
on 5 October 2012
This is a really good anime, with a lot of adult themes that include: suicide and crime. Each episode leaves you wanting more! As I write this review, this is the only work of Satoshi Kon that I have seen. I must say, I am very impressed with the plot. But, I was left rather confused at the end of the anime, as the programme still remains much a mystery for the fans to try and work out. If you enjoy psychological, and thriller animes, then this is certainly for you!
Each episode has a separate theme, and explores each character's life as you come across them. The main story is about two detectives trying to solve the case of 'Lil Slugger (or Shonen Bat if you watch it in Japanese) who whacks his victims over the head with a baseball bat, but each crime is linked and each episode explores most of his victim's lives.
There isn't much else I can say without ruining the plot. There are 13 episodes in total. But, as I have said above, this is a very good anime and I highly recommend anime fans to watch it!
on 7 February 2011
These 13 episodes focus upon individual key characters for the first seven episodes, deviate away from these for episodes 7-10, and then return to them, concluding the main story for the final episodes.
It is rated 18, but is not excessively violent, or graphic (a plus or a minus, depending on your taste). The main premise of the series is about how individuals perceive reality, and how myths and legends are built up from individual fantasy and mass communication... Lil' slugger is the key link between all the stories, and his character is one which builds and builds, until the final apocalyptic set-pieces of the final episode.
Satoshi Kon, a modern master of Anime and Cinema, is responsible for the creation of this television series, and like his other work, it is entertaining, thought provoking, visually sumptuous, and completely heads above anything else in this field. Comparisons with western filmmakers like David Lynch, Terry Gilliam, and David, Cronenberg can be drawn - with a similar sense of intelligence, sharp surreallity, and left-field logic - but like these director's, Kon is a unique and diverse talent.
It includes Japanese and English audio versions - with English subtitles, translated from the Japanese original.
It has a great informative and fun commentary by Satoshi Kon, and the producer, on episodes 11-13. The other DVD extras include a storyboard comparison, and initial character sketches.
on 27 November 2012
Yet another one of Satoshi Kon's masterpieces, Paranoia Agent is the type of anime that keeps you guessing at it's mystery and intrigue. It starts off as a normal detective-style anime but then the plot twists and turns into this bizarre and surreal psychological thriller. At first I thought this show would be a waste of time, but I was wrong. It had me on the edge of my seat as I wondered who shounen bat was and why he had the tendency to bash emotionally unstable people on the head. The show was filled with drama, mystery, comedy and great thrills and was very thought provoking. Paranoia Agent was an excellent show, I would recommend this especially to anime fans who would want to watch something different than the usual anime genre i.e. No giant robots, samurais ect.
on 1 November 2010
I shall keep it brief and to the point.
I recommend this to anyone who likes "perfect blue" or "paprika"
Its quite a short series (13 episodes) and each show concentrates on a different character with there own story to tell. as the series developes the big picture is revealed and all the characters tie together.
It is a story about (as the name suggests) paranoia and societies willingness to forget there troubles over quick, but ultimately useless, fixes.
Very interesting if slightly confusing at the end (what anime isn't!). i would give it 8 out of 10.
also i love the opening theme tune, absolutely bonkers, something about lunch benches and mushroom clouds...good stuff.
on 12 March 2011
This series really left my jaw hanging; a disturbing insight into todays society and of the rules and systems we follow. Mixed with themes of psychological dramas and even light comedy; and finally all through the gauze of two detectives trying to catch a pre-teen serial killer... Who we don't even know exists or not.
The way the series crosses from dreams to reality is really quite amazing, and constantly demands your full attention.
I absolutely loved it, and don't feel ashamed in saying that once it was over, I genuinely decided to go right back to episode one and watch it again (although this time via a DVD player, rather than online stream).
Which brings me to the DVD itself.
The packaging on the boxset is fantastic, and my only quarrels would that it is using the term 'L'il Slugger' rather than (much preferred) 'Shounen Bat'.
Another quarrel would be the slight inconsistency with subtitles between various discs, but these are only minor errors, and nothing to really make a fuss about.
Ultimately I would recommend this a great deal, whether a fan or not, it's worth having in your anime collection.