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Paranoia Agent
Reviewer: Rowena Lim Lei 05/12/2005

Sagi Tsukiko is a successful character designer, having come up with the huge phenomenon that's sweeping the nation -- Maromi the dog. People of all ages love Maromi, but behind the scenes Sagi is already being pressured to design the next big hit. One night, Sagi is attacked and injured. Sagi claims that a boy wielding a metal baseball bat is responsible for the incident, but two detectives working on the case are inclined to believe otherwise... until several other people are also attacked by the mysterious "Shounen Bat" (Bat Boy) or "Li'l Slugger" (in the English version).
Director Satoshi Kon once again blurs the line between reality and fantasy with Paranoia Agent, his first TV series. Paranoia Agent is mainly about a serial attacker branded as "Shounen Bat" (he's "Li'l Slugger" in the English version, but for this review's purposes I will use his original name "Shounen Bat"). Shounen Bat is supposedly a grade school kid who goes around on rollerblades, hitting people with a metal baseball bat. At first, police think that Shounen Bat strikes indiscriminately. However, further scrutiny reveals that Shounen Bat attacks people who are cornered by problems and have nowhere else to turn to. Shounen Bat's victims even seem relieved instead of distressed, which makes the case a lot more complicated than your usual mugging.
Two detectives are assigned to Shounen Bat's case. As they investigate every possible angle, we are given a glimpse into each victim's psyche: a corrupt police officer who's neck-deep in debt; a woman with two personalities -- a caring tutor by day, and a wild prostitute by night; a gradeschool student who's suspected of being Shounen Bat... the list goes on, until we get to a point where production for Maromi the dog's cartoon series is taking place. Members of the production team start dying one by one. What is the connection between Shounen Bat and Maromi the dog?
Satoshi Kon transports us into a surreal world where one's deepest and darkest thoughts can come to life, devouring everything and everyone around it. He manages to amply flesh out all the characters while seamlessly incorporating fantasy elements into what's supposedly a criminal case. Maniwa, the more open-minded of the two detectives, is the first to realize the possibility Shounen Bat may not even be an ordinary human being. Suddenly their search for answers leads Maniwa to consult sages, gather mystical weapons, and talk to dolls. I know it sounds weird, but it works -- and it's something that you just have to see to believe. Paranoia Agent's storytelling style is always evolving, constantly challenging the viewer's mindset.
If you've seen Satoshi Kon's previous works, you would agree that Paranoia Agent's art and animation has Kon written all over it. Character designs and settings exude a realistic feel in spite of the film's fantasy elements. Meticulously composed scenes flow smoothly from one to the next. The music fits the series perfectly as well.
Paranoia Agent is excellent in every way -- except for the part where the R1 version refers to Shounen Bat as "Li'l Slugger". "Li'l Slugger" sounds like some innocent baby in little league, not a menacing bat-wielding serial hitter. It's actually been quite a while since I've seen a series this good. Highly recommended.
Paranoia Agent spans thirteen episodes. For more of Satoshi Kon, also check out "Perfect Blue", "Millennium Actress", and "Tokyo Godfathers".

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Review Title:
Paranoia Agent
Alternative Titles:
Mousou Dairinin
325 Minutes
General Rating:
5 out of 5 stars
Suitable For:
Young Adults
Drama, Mystery, Psychological,
Sci-Fi, Supernatural, Thriller
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