In the streets of Tokyo, a new menace has surfaced: Shounen Bat, a young boy who wears golden roller skates and a baseball cap, and likes to whack people on the head with a golden baseball bat. These seemingly unconnected and random attacks soon become a police investigation... but after all is said and done, is there a pattern to this chaos?
StoryParanoia Agent is a brilliant, intelligent story that is extremely hard to explain without spoiling. The general story revolves around what you see above: people are being randomly attacked by Shounen Bat. But around episode 5 or 6, a new plotline evolves, which becomes very enthralling and in depth. By the end, fear not, the main idea of the story is revealed, but you are indeed left with many questions, twilight zone style. In general, the story is presented in an AMAZING way. It's hard to explain why the story flowed as good as it did. Each episode almost seemed like an autonomous story, but yet, in some cases they still ended up being connected to other stories in turn. Each episode was also told in an entirely different way, sometimes, but it still totally sucked you in and made you want to watch more. One episode, for example, was almost like a tour of an anime company, with still frames pointing out what each character did, etc. I think the best part was that each episode had some sort of punch line (or twist), and the twist was revealed slowly or in a really unusual way. No episode started out explaining what was happening, it was revealed slowly. It was this unique storytelling ability that followed through in EVERY episode, that made me love watching this series. No episode was slow and boring, each episode was a new story with a new mystery to figure out. Also, although it was fairly confusing, it wasn't AS confusing as, say, Lain or other completely messed up series. You had an idea of what was going on, and could guess what you thought would happen as well. I really don't like series where I understand almost nothing the entire time, just to be given a small handout at the end which explains almost nothing. At least with Paranoia Agent, the mystery was engaging and interesting, so you could tolerate being confused for the most part. Although the show is basically a mystery, there are very hilarious comedic moments, mostly dark comedy, or random/slapstick. All of it was told in a very subtle way, so it isn't like the kind of "humor" where a guy gets beat up by a girl every 2.5 seconds for no reason (ala Love Hina style). You'll be interested in the mystery, laughing at the comedy, and shaking your head at the truly disturbing parts of the story. (episode 6, anyone?) I gave it a 9.5 for story, for the marvelous storytelling, and plot in general. .5 was removed for the plot points that just aren't explained well enough, or not explained at all. I like leaving some things to my imagination, but I would have liked a few more key things to be explained at the end. AnimationParanoia Agent had a very unique style of animation that I've seen in newer series, and it by far is my favorite. No dark black lines are used for outlines (with some exceptions), especially on characters. Instead, many different shades of colors are used to show borders and such. Although this makes the visuals look flatter, it makes for a very rich and beautiful look. Paranoia Agent also uses a wide variety of lush colors to make the mood even more interesting. Although most series tend to do sunsets well, Paranoia Agent manages to excel at it with dark pinks and even purple to illuminate the oranges and reds. Dark purples, blues, and iridescent greens tended to dominate night scenes, which are fantastic compliments of each other, I think. Characters themselves all were fairly simple looking as far as shading and coloring, but were VERY visually convincing as far as the person's character. There were two extremely slimy looking men who had the slimiest characters and stories, and you could tell. And I mean literally, you see them and think "oh god, this person is so slimy and disgusting!". By slimy, I mean sleazy and creepy, by the way. This was a total success as far as I'm concerned. Most anime characters all have a stock appearance, which was partially true in Paranoia Agent as well, but it also had characters who REALLY fit their molds. SoundFrom the very strange yet oddly catchy opening track, you know the music is going to be a winner. Often, music is replaced by extremely creepy suspenseful noises that build and build, while repeating themselves. Music, though, was extremely varied depending on which episode you were watching (as each episode had it's own kind of tone and dynamic). Whimsical pieces were there, as well as creepy ones and general ones. It's hard to describe it more than that, so I'll just say that the music delivered 100%. It wasn't blaring and annoying, each piece was picked perfectly for the mood, and didn't sound generic ever, on that note. Voice actors were VERY well chosen, from the slimy men's voices being slimy, to the bravado of egotistical children. Even secondary characters or walk-on roles had great voices chosen. You can tell there was attention to detail on that. CharactersParanoia Agent was chock full of characters. There were quite a few main characters (usually one per episode, at least), with several being permanent fixtures such as the Chief and Maniwa. Tons and tons of secondary/third (haha, I know that isn't a proper term) characters as well. Although there wasn't a great deal of character development for any of these characters as far as emotional or mental growth, each one tended to have a very deep story or history attached to them. A lot of the episodes revolved around a single character and their story. This means that in only 20 minutes, the story had to be told to make you interested, and to make you feel like you really knew the character and their plight. And by all means, they succeeded every single time. In addition, everyone fit their roles perfectly. From the person who feels they are a victim, to the slimy men, to the Chief and Maniwa, and their doubts about Shounen Bat and the case in general. OverallParanoia Agent is one of the most intelligent series I've seen, with a story that will keep you intrigued and guessing until the end. If you are looking for something mindless and action-filled, this is not for you! PA has a very unique way of telling you each person's story, which sometimes are a bit slow or seem fragmented. Be assured that the outer story does play itself out eventually, and you probably won't be too disappointed (except wishing more things had been explained!) The animation is beautiful, the sound is fitting, the characters are realistic and deep, and there is no reason you shouldn't watch this. If you are looking for something with character, that will challenge your mind more than mindless ecchi crap, check this one out.
Paranoia Agent is Satoshi Kon's only TV series, a curveball from his usual M.O. of doing films. Like several of his other works, it strives to confuse between reality and fantasy, often doing so by showing the world as perceived by the characters. Paranoia Agent is, in whole, a story of escapism, how society is falling further into it, and the negative consequences that will follow. The plot begins as Tsukiko Sagi, a woman responsible for designing the well-known plush toy dog Maromi, is being pushed to create a new design, and is rapidly succumbing to stress. On the way home, in desperate need of a way out, she is suddenly attacked by a boy on rollerskates with a baseball bat. At first, the police don't believe her, and think she is making up excuses, but before long, other people are attacked by the boy now dubbed Shonen Bat (Little Slugger in the English dub). As the series progresses, we see how rumour and truth become distorted, and how Shonen Bat goes from a mysterious attacker into something far, far worse. All of this leading back to the question... just who, or what, is Shonen Bat? What follows is 13 episodes of social commentary, clever writing, bizarre stream-of-consciousness mindtrips that blur the lines of perception and reality to both the cast and the audience, and overall mystery. Paranoia Agent manages to throw an interesting spin on what initially appears to be a whodunnit thriller. It does, on multiple occasions, dip its toes into the psychological horror genre, and when it does, it does so excellently. These aspects of it make great use of how the audience often does not know how much is real and how much is fantasy, and as a result manage to make some truly creepy moments. Most notably, Maromi is insanely creepy. Yes, Maromi, the little stuffed dog mascot thing. You heard me. In technical terms, Paranoia Agent is Satoshi Kon, Madhouse and Susumu Hirasawa all coming together on one project, which inevitably means it will excel in every single one of these aspects. The art is a strangely realistic style, if often somewhat exaggerated. The animation is completely fluid throughout the series, and is surprisingly produced to much the same level of high quality as Kon's movies are. The directing is, of course, top-notch, and as mentioned before Kon is a genius at blending reality and delusion in such a way that you often have to take a second to wonder what's going on, in the best way possible of course. The English Dub is excellent, and while nobody really sticks out, it's definitely one I'd recommend over the original Japanese track. The music is often very cheerful, and this is used as juxtaposition against the events of the series, creating something downright weird in the process. In particular, the opening and ending themes are some of the most unsettling things ever shown in anime. Paranoia Agent does have some flaws, mind you. One is in the pacing. It's entirely possible that Kon's lack of experience (or transition into) the medium of a TV series caused this, but around the middle, a lot of the episodes don't really seem to tie in to the plot. Rather, they come across as episodes that strengthen the point of the series, but don't really lend themselves to it as a story. This is easily forgiveable in that the episodes in question are quite strong in their own right (and in some instances, oddly comedic). Another valid, yet easily forgiveable fault that the series has is that in its switching between the real and unreal, it takes some steps that seriously raise disbelief. In general, it's all done for the sake of a clever metaphor, but it's something that will undoubtedly nag at the back of the mind, especially at the ending, which is a rather monumental example of this. Overall, Paranoia Agent is an extremely clever series. It's probably the most accessible thing in Kon's discography, if not necessarily (though quite arguably) his strongest. It's been described as a mindfuck series, but I'm not entirely sure it would fit into that category. For the most part, it is a realistic and grounded setting in which abnormal elements are introduced, and barring the aforementioned dips from reality it mostly stays that way. Regardless, Paranoia Agent is one of those anime I would definitely recommend to pretty much anyone, especially those into psychology, who would most likely love it for its insights and observations of the human condition. Animation/Graphics: 10/10 Story/Plot: 8/10 Music/Background: 10/10 English Dub: 9/10 Overall: 9/10 For Fans Of: Paprika, Boogiepop Phantom.
To be honest, I really wanted to like Paranoia Agent. I like the mindf*ck genre a lot and tends to be a favorite of mine. This was recommended by a friend of mine and I tried to watch it 3 separate times and now I finally stuck with it and was surprisingly disappointed in the whole thing. The story is: Shounen Bat is a kid who wears gold roller blades and a baseball hat. He likes to hit people over the head with a kinked golden baseball bat. The police take on an investigation to try and catch Shounen Bat, but matters prove to go deeper than just a mere kid who hits people with a baseball bat. Did you ever get so stressed and feel cornered from the weight of everyday life? Paranoia Agent plays on this theme pretty heavily and had tons of potential to fully explore a theme like this, but never quite rounds second base. The story starts out great. Very creepy vibe and makes you wonder what is going on. However, after about episode 5 is where things start to make, practically, no sense. The middle starts with the so-called "filler" episodes that have, honestly, nothing to do with the main story and loses itself until the last couple of episodes. The last episodes feel rushed and full of wasted potential due to the useless filler episodes that plagued the middle of this series. Paranoia Agent took a chance to try out a theme that speaks to all people because we all feel like we are being cornered by life. It didn't fully realize that potential nor did it really stick with that mind frame throughout and resulted in: BEGINNING- Great premise and sense of fear, MIDDLE- Fillers with no connection to the main plot, END- Rushed and feels like corners were cut. The animation felt very simple. I'm no animation expert, I'm a storyline and character analyst, so animation isn't ncessarily my specialty. I didn't mind it other than I believe it could've been better. You can definitely tell they cut corners towards the end it's almost hilariously sad. It started off great, but throughout the course of the 13 episodes, you can tell it starts to fall apart the further in you get. The sound was hit or miss for the most part. When it wanted to be creepy, it could be. Only problem is that the further into the series you get, those moments become further and further apart until they don't happen anymore. The opening theme, in my opinion, set the tone for the show because it's kind of mentally insane. The closing theme is more soft and calming. It's nothing special, but it works for this show. The voice overs were fantastic for some of the characters, but otherwise I'd leave it at mediocre. Characters in Paranoia Agent are, frankly, just not that interesting. The only people that had any kind of growth were Shounen Bat and the Chief's wife. Everyone else was very one-sided, one-dimensional, and never showed any intent to stand out as a character to be remembered. Except for Maromi. How could you forget that creepy/cute pink dog?! I didn't really care for most of the characters because of what I stated earlier, but some of them didn't really play as much of a role as I felt they should've or some of the characters were just unecessarily there with no purpose to the story. I am a strong believer in having characters become the story. You can tell a crap story with strong/memorable chracters, but it doesn't work with a brilliant story with crap characters, then it just feels like a great story was wasted. All-in-all, the characters are mostly un-important and serve no real purpose in bringing Paranoia Agent to it's full potential. Overall I wouldn't say Paranoia Agent was the most terrible anime ever. It was more disappointing than anything. It had a lot of potential to be something that could've really stood out in the crowd. It took themes that everyone can relate to and tried to make a great story out of it. Instead it failed in realizing where they wanted it to go as a whole which resulted in something that started out truly excellent, then it slipped and fell not realizing it can't get back up, but when it does get back up, it does so too quickly resulting in slipping again. There are a lot of people that like this anime, I thought/hoped to be one of them, but sadly, I can't really join that crowd. Paranoia Agent isn't bad, I wouldn't really recommend it personally. I say at least watch it because a lot of people do like it and see where you stand on this anime.
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