Well here we go, all aboard the express train to the human psyche. Please enjoy the sights; regret, fear, helplessness and guilt. Paranoia Agent has it all, which maybe I should have guessed by the title but to be honest I thought this was going to be more of a race against time to catch the ‘bad guy’. Instead we get a glimpse into multiple lives and the fears that dwell within.
So the basic plot is there is a teenager in Tokyo, with the most fabulous bat and roller blades in the land, who is assaulting people. I should mention that he isn’t killing people just brutally beating them into the ground. The series focuses on two aspects; the detectives trying to catch the guy, nicknamed Lil’ Slugger, and the soon to be victims. But the series is much more than a simple cat and mouse chase. The first major character is a woman named Tsukiko Sagi, a character designer who had god like success after creating a pink dog character named Maromi. This character is considered the cutest thing to ever exist but to me it looks like it’s possessed by Ai Enma’s spirit and eyes.
Already you can tell something is a little off with Tsukiko, she is exceptionally meek and has enormous pressure on her to create a character with just as big an impact… also the dog talks to her when she’s alone so you know something is gonna happen. Predictably the more her colleagues demand results the more her fears grow to boiling point, whilst walking home one night, Lil’ Slugger appears and brutally attacks. Our next two leads turn up, police detectives Ikari and Maniwa, they question her but end up thinking she made up the attack. As reports come in revealing more victims it becomes clear that this isn’t just going to stop. Tsukiko is now off the hook as no one expects her to work while recovering in hospital, thus begins one of Paranoia Agents recurring themes.
Each episode focuses on a different character and their inner struggles before their inevitable bashing by Lil’ Slugger. There are also connections between victims, for example the next victim after Tsukiko is a sleazy reporter who tries to follow her for details about the attack. This for me was the most interesting part of the series, everyone has things they wish to hide and many people would rather live in a fantasy world believing their own lies rather than face grim reality. As the series progresses it becomes clear that Lil’ Slugger attacks people who have reached breaking point so in a twisted way becomes a solution, after the attack by Lil’ Slugger the victims are relieved. Whatever was troubling them is resolved or no longer important. As more and more reports come in, the fear and disturbing fascination of Lil’ Slugger grows into hysteria throughout the entire city.
One of the stand out episodes for me involved a woman, named Chouno Harumi, with dissociative identity disorder. She is the teacher of a previous victim and had just gotten engaged. However she hasn’t told her future husband of her alter ego, Maria, which would be quite a shock on the wedding night! Rather than face his reaction she tries to destroy (or at least subdue) Maria, who works as a prostitute, by throwing away her ‘work’ clothes. Unfortunately for Chouno, Maria takes over just as she reaches the dump, both personalities leave messages for each other on the answering machine and as the situation escalates Maria gets angrier while Chouno becomes desperate. The episode ends with the two personalities fighting each other in the street, which yes means that it’s just a lady trying to rip her own hair out but whatever it was creatively done xD until BOOM Lil’ Slugger beats her to the ground.
The series does a good job at keeping enough information out of reach, is Lil’ Slugger real? Is he just a group manifestation of fear? Or is he just a name given to all the bad things that happen to people? The series will keep you guessing until the very end, when it does reveal the true nature of what is actually going on. While all this is happening it doesn’t let you forget the individuals whose lives have become twisted and are just desperate for any way out. The animation for it is ok, nothing too special but the characters did have an eerie look about them with the right exaggeration of certain features. The music wasn’t really memorable but I find with a series like this less is more.
This anime won’t be for everyone, it does deal with some dark themes like suicide so if that bothers you I would skip this. Obviously this also means it isn’t something to light heartedly watch before bed as it does encourage you to guess what is happening, what is a red herring etc. while keeping you on the edge of your seat. I enjoyed the intrigue but it does come across as heavy-handed with some of its themes especially towards the end. Overall it is a good thriller especially if you enjoy delving into human psychology, with only 13 episodes it doesn’t out stay its welcome and does resolve things, mostly. My main issue is that now I’ve watched it and the mystery is gone, I don’t feel the need to ever revisit it. If anything in this review has intrigued you, my recommendation would be to give it a chance, if not then enjoy your Maromi free dreams.