The career of the late and great Satoshi Kon is one of the anime industry’s best. From his films Perfect Blue to Tokyo Godfathers, Kon’s masterful work champions a love of the gritty, humanistic and surreal. His first and only television show Paranoia Agent is no different. Paranoia Agent is a 13 episode mini-series released originally in 2004 and produced by studio Madhouse. The show centers around the lives of different citizens of modern Tokyo, Japan, and their encounters with a mysterious young vigilante known as ‘Lil’ Slugger’ or ‘Shounen Bat.’ Despite the best efforts of two Tokyo detectives, the vigilante runs rampant and the mystery behind him unravels to become a force larger than life.
A show like Paranoia Agent is a tricky one to recommend to those unfamiliar with Kon’s work or newbies to anime in general. The structure of the show lends itself to be more confusing to watch in the moment than his feature films, and Kon is a master at keeping the audience just beyond arm’s length away from the answers to the mysteries presented. The episodic structure keeps you on the edge of your seat as to where the plot is going next; and while the plot direction may seem a bit scattered in the former half of the show, around the halfway point he starts to weave several small stories together to create a captivating and chilling narrative around Lil’ Slugger.
The show is marketed as a mystery, but thematically Paranoia Agent lends itself equally to psychological horror; portrayed through its masterful character writing, direction, and sound design. Kon loves to play with surrealist visuals to suck you into the madness these characters are experiencing; and while there are a few characters that stand out as more integral (such as Tsukiko Sagi, Keiichi Ikari and Mitsuhiro Maniwa,) every character in this large cast has a stake in the plot no matter the size of their role. For viewers who know how to sit back and enjoy the show, Paranoia Agent is an unsettling, interesting, and visually striking treat. The show is an incredible installment in Kon’s collection of works, and a must-watch for any fans of his work or mystery anime in general.
Note: A copy of the complete series was provided to us by Funimation/Sony for our honest review of the series.