Paranoia Agent Anime Review
Though it was a while ago, some of you may remember my Top 20 Anime of all time, where this show ended up placing high, specifically at the number three spot. Satoshi Kon was one of the most unique anime directors out there with this show easily being my favorite of his works I've seen. Paranoia Agent doesn't follow one main character, but each episode features a different lead and how they are related to Little Slugger, a mysterious person who seems to strike anyone going through some kind of emotional turmoil. And his weapon of choice is a bent golden bat.
A huge draw of the show is how you are constantly questioning what's going on, specifically the idea that Little Slugger may or may not be real, and the constant questioning of whether or not anything supernatural is going on. From beginning to end there is a constant blurring of delusion and reality, and how the two of those things can intersect.
With all but one exception, the episodes do a great job at building up the threat of Little Slugger despite all featuring different leads. The only one I can bring up without potentially spoiling something is the group of gossiping women, who are sharing exaggerated stories of the exploits of Little Slugger. It does a great job of showing the bigger the tail becomes, the more prevalent he starts to become almost as if the stories themselves are feeding him.
The one episode that does feel like it adds nothing is one of my favorites, Happy Family Planning (I might be off on the time). The episode is largely comedic and focuses on the failed efforts of an old man, a gay man, and a young girl who form a suicide pact together. The fact that sentence can exist is amazing, and while you really could cut the episode and nothing would be lost it offers a demented kind of comic relief if you are marathoning the show.
It's also a great showcase of how you can build up a character in a short period of time, something a lot of other anime struggle to do with multiple episodes. It takes one episode to fully establish Yukiko, Kawazu, and Ikari. You understand them, you know what motivates them, and you get a good feel for a lot of their quirks as characters, all this comes in addition to starting to establish other characters like Maniwa who are going to be important down the line.
The big thing to note is I can't think of anything the show does wrong, at least not anything major. Despite the many production horrors that went on behind the scenes, none of them seemed to negatively effect the show. The story, characters, themes, and unique visual design all work fantastically together and other than the episode with the gossiping women feeling like it drags on and gets a bit repetitive compared to other episodes, pretty much everything the show does works.
This ranked as my third favorite anime of all time, and there is good reason for it. There has never been another anime director I've seen manage to capture the same feel that Satoshi Kon did, and I don't know if I will ever see another person able to fill the whole he left when he passed. Paranoia Agent is a truly fantastic show, and I encourage everyone to give it watch to see just how much you can do in such a short run.