Paranoia runs deep, and it's the topic and title of the newest anime from the deranged (but fantastic) mind of writer/director/character designer Satoshi Kon. Kon is the mastermind behind such films as Perfect Blue, Millenium Actress and Tokyo Godfathers; each known for fucking with one's mind, playing with reality, and/or combining 50,000 plot points into one well textured finished package. Well, ol' Satoshi did it again with his most recent work, the schizo-styled TV show Paranoia Agent. And it is about 97% good. That's a pretty nifty average.
Previously, each of Kon's stories had its own individual feel. Perfect Blue was all crazy and psycho, Millenium was a bit hokey, but trippy, and Tokyo Godfathers was all about the insane pace and "feel goodness" tone of the holidays. Or as the Japanese would say it, the "feer goodinessu" toner of horidaysu. Whatever, you get the point. Well, Kon took all of the best parts of each of his previous works and blended them together for Paranoia Agent. PA is bizarre, trippy, evil, phychotic, dirty, scary, fun, amazing, mysterious and too good for lowely viewers like me. There were times that I felt that I was just unworthy of watching this incredible show. For the first 13 episodes I was constantly wondering where it was going... And yes, I do know that it was indeed only 13 episodes long. That was me making a funny, you fucktard.
Anyway, that opening song/animation is a good indication of what you're in for. When I first saw it I was a bit freaked the hell out, but now... Well, it still unsettles me, but by the end of the series the whole thing makes sense.... Kind of. The opening is a peppy and grand J-pop song sung by some guy who's waaaay too happy. The visuals that go along with it are a bunch of very different people (age, gender and body type wise) standing still and laughing (and laughing and laughing) in weird circumstances. Some are on top of sky scrapers, some in the middle of a flood, some falling from the sky, some hyucking it up in front of a mushroom cloud and some under the ocean with schools of fish swimming about. It's really really strange. The ending song and visuals are almost as strange (all the people from the opening are just lying in a field with their bodies making up a big question mark, while a giant, stuffed pink dog sits in the center of the punctuation mark and lullabye music plays), but by the time I first saw the ending, I had kind of gotten a taste of the show, so it was less shocking. But, the first time I saw the opening it took me by complete surprise, like an aluminum baseball bat to the back of the head.
Speaking of which, that's the basic plot of Paranoia. It seems that some kid in golden rollerblades is skating around Tokyo and attacking people with his bent, golden aluminum baseball bat. Pretty much every episode features a new main character/victim. Though we do follow two cops around who are investigating the attacker, dubbed "Shounen Bat" (or "bat boy" in Ingles), and trying to fit all the pieces of the mystery together in order to stop more attacks and to help unconfuse the viewing audience. At first all of the attacks seem random, but slowly and surely the cops find out that........ What, did you really think I'd tell you? This show is a mystery show. That'd ruin the mystery. And even if you're like me and love spoilers, trust me, you'll be glad you went in blind to PA. It's much more freaky freaky that way.
One thing I will talk about though is Shounen Bat (whom the American company who got the distribution rights to PA originally tried to rename most heinously as "Lil' Slugger"). Shounen bat is like the scariest (or at least creepiest) serial mamer/killer I can think of. Freddy and Jason have nothing on this little fucker. Fred and Jase at least LOOK like serial killers. If you see them walking down the street, all burnt, bloody and carrying sharp objects, you know you're about to be in a world of hurt. Shounen bat though is a little kid. Yeah, he looks like one of those little dickheads who shoots through pedestrian traffic on his rollerblades and laughs whenever somebody gets knocked down, though I can actually admire mean-spirited bastards like that in the right light. Shounen bat just appears out of nowhere and then disappears just as ghostlike. Plus his smirk is simply grotesquely evil. And another thing about Shounen bat is that his motives are very unclear at first. Is he bashing in brains out of spite? Revenge? Insanity? Is there a method to his Madness? "Father wears his Sunday best; Mother's tired she needs a rest. Our house, was our castle and our keep; Our house, in the middle of our street." Madness rulez.
Anyway, with its "new main character a week, one long mystery" style, Paranoia may remind you of another show that attempted (and utterly failed) to do the same thing. But Boogie Pop Phantom should not be mentioned in the same sentence as the show I'm reviewing right now. Which is why I didn't mention Paranoia Agent's name in the same sentence previous to this one. BP tried to be all "Oooooooooooo! Scary, arcane shit is going on! Oh no, there's an unknown weird being popping up all over town and strange things is happening to different people every week!" But it was not riveting in the least. It took me about 5 months to get through Boogie Pop and it's only 13 episodes long. I just didn't care what happened to anybody in that world. But PA (which is actually written by the same guy who did BP) had some major help from Kon's superb directing skillz. Kon brought humanity to even the lowest of the sleazeballs in Paranoia. Every character has a major malfunction, but the viewer can still connect with them. They're all human. Sometimes though I did find myself rooting for Shounen bat over the character of the week, but I'm actually pretty sure that that's the way Kon wanted us to feel. PA totally succeeds in every way that Boogie Pop failed (BP was uninteresting, the characters were bland, and the overall story was not very exciting). PA keeps you guessing as to what is happening, but it also doesn't confuse you to the point that it all becomes gibberish. It's so bizarre. But not random bizarreness, well plot out bizarr-o-ness. It makes no apologies for its ways either. Like the guy who farts in your crowded elevator and then announces it was he who dealt it without trying to pass the buck. And he smiles.
What in the muthafuckin' hell was that?
Whoa! Was that show, like, for real? That little bad news bearshole kid really tripped me out. Now, everytime I hear some rollerskates or some shit rolling down the sidewalk I have a tendency to punch first and ask questions later.
On a related note, I just wanted to say "Sorry" to that little twerp on the rollerblades in the park that I met the other day. Oh, and sorry to his mom too. Honestly though, they both should have seen that I was a bit aggitated and carrying a baseball bat of my own. That's not the kind of person you want to accidentally bump into, or then scream in their face after they already pummeled your child. And did I make them pay for breaking my bat? Nope. Chalk one up for good-citizen Chi-Chi. Man of the people. God I need a drink.