Maromi, a doll that a young woman named Sagi created, is a huge success. It's the biggest thing in Japan, and every simply has to have merchandise. The only problem is that now they want more. Everyone wants Sagi to create another Miromi, but Sagi finds that she simply can't. Then, just as she feels as if the weight of all the pressure might crush her, a mysterious child on rollerblades rolls in and knocks her unconscious. Soon, more and more people are attacked by the mysterious boy, now nicknamed Lil' Slugger, and in spite of that, he never gets any easier to find. The police simply can't catch him. They are left to ask; who, if anyone, is Lil' Slugger?
Oh, Satoshi Kon. You were truly a great director taken well before your time. You were passionate about the messages you wanted to deliver, and always delivered them well, but not without bending logic a bit. Kon bent logic a lot in paranoia agent. When it’s in the characters’ minds, it makes sense, outside of that, well... Usually it’s easy to brush off, but sometimes you question it. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it’s what had to be done, but it may still annoy some people.
Another issue some people have with the series is that it’s apparently confusing. It’s not. Paying attention is key here, and if you do that it’s easy enough to understand what’s happening on screen, even when you are being bombarded with the occasionally unearthly visuals. Just remember that what you are seeing is what is perceived by the character that is being focused on, it's the audience's job to dig through it and figure out what's real, and what's just in the character's imagination. It really isn't that hard at all. Moreover, everything is explained in the end, so it shouldn’t be overly difficult to understand.
The art and animation in paranoia agent is absolutely top notch. The characters always look like real Japanese people. None of those not-at-all Japanese looking people you seem to see in the majority of anime. A lot of people may consider them ugly, but hey, if real-looking people don’t live up to your standards, then it sucks to be you. It's easy to see that the show had a practically endless budget when you look at the animation in some of the scenes. It flows beautifully. The backgrounds are always detailed and real, and the use of shadow is absolutely magnificent.
The music is paranoia agent is a bit of an odd match, to be honest. That isn't to say it doesn't work, because it does, and does so very well. It in all right shouldn't. It's actually quite upbeat when listened to alone, but when put into the anime, it matches perfectly. The anime also uses silence a lot, though, in it's more scary scenes, rather than playing music at all. The opening is also very impressive (as well as oddly creepy).
The acting in paranoia agent in perfection in both languages, having an extremely strong Japanese cast, along with one of the strongest English dubs in existence. Special mentions go to Halko Momoi, who played Maromi in the Japanese version, and made that demon stuffed animal really sound like something from hell. In the dub, special mentions go to Sam Regal’s snarky and creepy lil' slugger, as well as Liam O’Brien’s determined,focused, and even insane portrayal of Detective Maniwa.
Now the characters. The characters in Paranoia agent are a bit difficult to write about. None of the characters get a particularly large amount of time on screen. You learn the problem of each character, you start to sympathise with them and hope for the best, and then lil’ slugger rolls in and hits them over the head with his baseball bat. It does develop the characters, but only as much as it needs to, which is actually just perfect in this case, and works to the series’ advantage rather than dragging it down. The few recurring characters such as Detectives Maniwa and Ikari, as well as the one who started it all, Sagi, get significantly more development than the other characters, and become extremely interesting.
At the end of the day, Paranoia agent is an intriguing, original, and well presented exploration of the human mind, how people adapt to changes, and how paranoia affects the lives of people both negatively and positively. Some people may find it confusing, its logic may be a bit stilted, and some episodes aren’t as interesting as others, but it doesn’t hold it down, and doesn’t stop it from being a truly breathtaking experience.