My Creepy Anime Fix of the Year
Forget everything you knew about anime and take a whack at Paranoia Agent.
If there’s one good thing that happened last stormy Thursday, it was that I was able to watch the trippy anime Paranoia Agent, and boy what a mind-trip that was. This 13-episode series is yet another nail in the coffin of the statement that anime is just for kids.
From the twisted mind of anime maestro Satoshi Kon (Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress), Paranoia Agent is a title that resists being placed easily into any category. Part murder-mystery psychological thriller, part black comedy, party Ringu/The Grudge-esque horror, part social commentary and urban legend, Paranoia Agent would feel right at home with anime like Serial Experiments Lain.
The story begins with a young woman named Sagi, a famous character designer in Japan. She had just created a popular cute mascot, and is now under intense pressure to come up with something even better. One night, while heading home, she is suddenly attacked by a mysterious assailant. Later, when she is interviewed by the police, she relates that the attacker was a little boy, armed with a bent golden baseball bat, and wearing golden rollerblades.
While the account of a boy rampaging in the streets striking people down sounds absurd to the police at first, things suddenly take a bizarre turn when ANOTHER victim falls to the bat-wielding attacker. Now dubbed Shonen Bat (Bat Boy), the elusive suspect soon begins to strike with alarming frequency and increasing violence. Who is Shonen Bat? Does he really exist? And who will be his next target…? Is that the sound of rollerblades that I hear..?
This is one creepy anime, and you can pretty much tell that from the opening animation/credits, where you see the various characters standing before you in a myriad of locales and settings, just staring at you and laughing, while the haunting (and catchy) opening song plays. The show itself is animated excellently, with a pseudo-realistic/caricaturist visual style that is anything but wide-eyed cutesy anime. Each episode seems to focus on a prospective victim, and we see their life spiraling out of control little by little through the show. At the point when all seems darkest, Bat Boy appears like some grim reaper, dispensing pain and… relief? But as his appearances become more and more frequent, Shonen Bat’s attacks also become more vicious and sinister. What is he? Is he real or not? Can he be stopped? And who will be his next victim?
This is also a pretty mature show- there’s sex, nudity, violence and other stuff that marks this as off-limits for kiddies (as are most of director Kon’s shows). But these elements are never gratuitous, and the heaviest stuff concerns things that relate to society (particularly Japanese society), such as topics of bullying, the blurring of the lines between fantasy and reality, the need to belong and simply the terrible stress of modern life.
Not what you’d think someone like me would like, but before I knew it, I was hooked into this offbeat show. And I think a lot of you out there will be too, if you give Paranoid Agent a try. A little madness never hurt anyone. Well, a hit to the head with a bat would, but it’s only an anime. Right? RIGHT?
Just remember to always watch your back. And when you hear rollerblades, don’t forget to DUCK. Heh.
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