The infamous Shounen Bat (Lil' Slugger) is terrorizing the residents of Musashino City. Flying around on his rollerblades and beating people down with a golden baseball bat, the assailant seems impossible to catch—much less understand. His first victim, the well-known yet timid character designer Tsukiko Sagi, is suspected of orchestrating the attacks. Believed only by her anthropomorphic pink stuffed animal, Maromi, Tsukiko is just one of Shounen Bat's many victims. As Shounen Bat continues his relentless assault on the town, detectives Keiichi Ikari and Mitsuhiro Maniwa begin to investigate the identity of the attacker. However, more and more people fall victim to the notorious golden bat, and news of the assailant begins circulating around the town. Paranoia starts to set in as chilling rumors spread amongst adults and children alike. Will the two detectives be able to unravel the truth behind Shounen Bat, or will the paranoia get to them first? [Written by MAL Rewrite]
Satoshi Kon, director of such classics as Perfect Blue and Millennium Actress, is famous for pushing the boundaries of anime. His latest effort (and first series), Paranoia Agent, is no different. But, like his other works, you’ll either love it or hate it. This short 13 episode series is full of more twists and turns than you can shake a stick at, and the animation style is anything but traditional.
The story begins with detectives Keiichi Ikari (AKA ‘the Chief’) and Mitsuhiro Maniwa investigating the street assault of Tsukiko Sagi, a famous designer for a toy company and creator of Maromi, a popular cartoon character. She claims she was walking home from work the night before when she was attacked by a boy on roller blades wielding a bent baseball bat. When rumours get out of her attack, the people in the town begin to refer to him as “Lil’ Slugger” (in the dubbed version) or Shounen Bat (Shōnen Batto 少年バット in the original Japanese version). Unfortunately, there isn’t enough evidence to point Ikari and Maniwa to any significant suspects. They don’t have to wait long, however, before Lil’ Slugger strikes again.
The first four episodes of Paranoia Agent deal with Lil’ Slugger’s first five victims – Tsukiko Sagi, Shogo Ushiyama, Yuichi Taira, Harumi Chono, and Masami Hirukawa, respectively. Usually, Lil’ Slugger knocks his victims unconscious when he attacks them, but in the case of his fifth attack, Hirukawa manages to get to his feet and hit Lil’ Slugger on the head with a rock as he tries to skate away. With Lil’ Slugger captured, Ikari and Maniwa breathe a sigh of relief, believing the case is practically closed. However, they soon realise just how far from the truth that is…
I won’t give away anything else about the plot, but take it from me; it’s one of the most bizarre, mind-blowing anime series you’ll ever see. Satoshi Kon does such an amazing job of telling the story – fantasy and reality blur to the point of being indistinguishable from one another as the series progresses and the disturbing story behind Lil’ Slugger is slowly unraveled. The characters are rich and believable, and the writing is witty and intelligent.
Another thing about Paranoia Agent that really caught my attention was the animation style and character design. Madhouse really does a fantastic job on this series – the characters are dark, disturbed, and many are (perhaps most importantly) unattractive. Now that’s something you don’t see every day in anime. I’ve noticed that Satoshi Kon, who assists in character design for all of his works, feels the need to create characters that are actual people with actual problems – both mental as well as physical. Call me crazy, but I get tired of the traditional anime style. Paranoia Agent is a fantastic break from pink hair and over-exaggerated features.
The two detectives, Ikari and Maniwa, are interesting and easily relatable. Ikari, the chief, is a middle-aged man living in the past who can’t seem to get a grip on today’s world. He sees Lil’ Slugger as a symbol of what’s wrong with our youth in the 21st century, and is intent on tracking him down. Maniwa is much younger – an impressionable dreamer, but still very serious about his job. He provides the viewer with a different, more abstract take on who Lil’ Slugger really is. But, even with their clashing personalities and different opinions of the serial street attacks, they work perfectly together. I give it an A+ in the character design department, as it’s some of the best I’ve ever seen.
The moment I saw the first episode of Satoshi Kon’s Paranoia Agent, I knew the series as a whole would be a masterpiece. I was totally right. Out of all the movies and series I’ve seen (anime or otherwise), PA – in my honest opinion – reigns supreme as one of the most intelligent, inspiring, and flawless pieces of visual entertainment ever.