34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
By any standards, this is one of the most remarkable animated shows that has ever been produced. PARANOIA AGENT deals with a number of characters who are linked both in an odd chain of acquaintances and by being the victims of an attack by a juvenile on roller blades who unexpectedly strikes people with a bent metal baseball bat, called by the press Shouen Bat. The first disc introduces the viewer to five victims of Shouen Bat in four episodes entitled "Enter Li'l' Slugger," "The Golden Shoes," "Double Lips" and "A Man's Path." The opening credits of each episode, with an especially frenetic theme song (with the usual odd lyrics typical of anime) and dynamic animation, announces what a unique show this is.
The first episode deals with the first victim of Shouen Bat, a famous designer who has designed a pink dog that has brought her great fame and success. The trouble is that she is at a loss to repeat her success, and her boss is putting pressure on her to come up with a design that will be equally successful. Her story of a boy on roller blades who attacked her is greeted with some skepticism, until a seedy journalist who is harassing her for an interview is also attacked.
The second episode deals with a young boy who is an acquaintance with the designer. He fancies himself the coolest kid in school and the most popular, but one day he discovers that his popularity has plummeted because his roller blades and his skill in baseball have made many imagine that he is Shouen Bat. To make things worse, the overweight, brainy transfer student who is running against him for president of the student council (and who he imagines is behind the rumors) looks like he might win the election. Everyone except the young woman who works at the university and who serves as his tutor suspects him of being Shouen Bat. That is, they do until first his school nemesis and then he himself are both attacked.
The third episode is the best of the first four, an absolutely brilliant episode whose story would be worthy of Philip K. Dick. The tutor of the boy who is the fourth victim works during the day at the university, where a researcher has asked her to marry him, an offer she accepts. But at night her alter ego, Maria, emerges, and plies her trade as a prostitute. In Philip K. Dick's A SCANNER DARKLY, a police officer investigates a drug dealer who distributes an extraordinarily powerful drug whose primary side effect is to induce a profoundly split personality. Only gradually do we learn that the detective and the drug dealer are the same person. (A SCANNER DARKLY is currently being made into an animated film by Richard Linklater, who previously made the fascinating animated film WAKING LIFE, along with many live action films.) In the same way, the tutor and Maria are utterly disconnected from one another, though each is aware of the other's existence. In a succession of fascinating moments, the two leave messages for each other, throw away each other's clothes, and manage to undermine the other in various ways. She becomes the fifth victim of Shouen Bat.
The fourth episode follows the life of one of Maria's regular tricks, a crooked cop with a penchant for prostitutes, gambling, and drinking. A gangster in turns begins shaking him down, demanding more and more exorbitant amounts of cash from him, until the evening when he is attacked by Shouen Bat, but nonetheless manages to subdue and arrest him.
The creative force behind the show is Satoshi Kon, who was previously best known for PERFECT BLUE and MILLENIUM PRINCESS, but who in the future will probably be better known for PARANOIA AGENT. Those previous films were rightly considered significant innovations in anime, though I felt that both had some difficulties with narrative. The story here is much tighter and more coherently told than in either of those films, and represents a significant maturation of Kon as an artist. It is almost impossible to over praise the animation in this film. His characters possess little of the woodenness and derivativeness that afflicts so many anime characters, and he pays attention to foregrounds and backgrounds to an extreme fashion. For instance, you might have a shot over a cop's shoulder of a bar top, with an ashtray that is a perfect representation of just about any ashtray every seen. What is amazing, however, is that Kon does not allow the camera to linger over it. It is a perfect detail, marvelously drawn, but it exists to give the imagery depth. There are a host of marvelous touches in nearly every scene, many of them of shade and lighting, but many consisting merely in marvelously drawn images. He also achieves some superb framing of his shots. The tutor, for instance, might react with horror to see that the alter ego she has suppressed has reemerged. As she recoiled, the camera will jump from one angle to one shot from inside a recess looking out at her, with various make up and grooming items forming the foreground. In one superb shot, the crooked cop stands outside his station house, the camera moving at a turtle's pace behind his right shoulder. All in all, this is some of the best animation that one is ever likely to see.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 2005
If I had to describe this series in one sentence, it would be: think Twin Peaks as directed by Orson Welles. If I was asked to add a second sentence, it would be: I ordered the entire series before I had finished watching the first DVD.
Satoshi Kon's previous works Perfect Blue and Millenium Actress blur the distinctions between the real, the super-real, and the imaginary, often calling into question the meaning of the concept of what is truly "here" and truly "now." Paranoia Agent has a clearer narrative than his earlier cinematic works, but the question of what, if anything, is "real," remains unclear until the end of the series.
As cinema--and this series is of such caliber that it should be judged as, and discussed as, cinematic art--it is impeccable at every level. The "acting," if one can describe what the painted people do as "acting," is superb, and the life, hopes, fears, and private hells of each character are brought forth with an exquisite (and often heart-rending) truth. The layer upon layer of mise-en-scene'd nuance is mind-bogglingly complex upon analysis, but it is utterly invisible in the service of telling the story. It is expertly paced, with "comic relief" episodes appearing from time to time (which nonetheless still serve in the furtherance of the larger story arc), and the conclusion--nearly always the weakest moment in any anime series--may not be "satisfying" to all its viewers, but it is superbly crafted and expertly executed.
There are clear homages to Twin Peaks--an old man is alternately the Log Lady, the giant, and the dancing dwarf, and there are Badalamente-esque moments in the sound track--but it is far better thought through than Twin Peaks, and in many ways, more powerful.
I cannot recommend this series highly enough. The opening credits alone tell you that you're in for a very unusual ride. I would add the caution that this is for emotionally mature viewers only: not so much because of the alchohol and tobacco use (referenced in the Amazon review) and the occasional "adult situation," but because some of the central plot twists can be horrifyingly heartbreaking.
I predict that Paranoia Agent will be regarded as a genre-establishing masterwork. Just as "cyberpunk" is attached to works like Ghost in the Shell...I wonder what term will be attached to this new genre, which is at the same time fantastic yet immediate; surreal, yet utterly and poignantly human; unnerving, yet able to truly touch the heart?
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2004
Satoshi Kon's (Perfect Blue, Millenium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers) anime television series Paranoia Agent starts out sooooo well there ought to be a law to be this amazing. And really the biggest problem I had with it is that they didn't put enough episodes on the disc. Which brings me to another issue...WHY THE HECK NOT? I mean there is no reason whatsoever that a brilliant show like this (truly brilliant) should be stretched out till January for us to get the next installment. I mean come on Madhouse, Geneon, whoever it is putting this thing out...This is one of the most addictive films I have ever seen and I have to wait months to see more of it? But back to the praise - The first four episodes are a masterpiece of style and substance. The animation will thrill you and the story will astound and provoke thought. Why can't more anime be like this? I don't want to give too much away but basically there is this kid named Lil' Slugger running around with a "golden" baseball bat that is having a more than interesting effect on the people around him that he has either attacked or...Well, that's all you're going to get out of me. The rest is up to you. This is a must own item that will impress, disturb and delight. BUT you will be angry there aren't more episodes on the disc so proceed withn caution.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 2004
When I saw this show for the first time, my intial thoughts were 'My God, can Satoshi Kon release anything that ISN'T gold???' A wonderful mixture of crazy, weird, and above all else, SMART storytelling propels this series along. (not to mention a big heaping dose of 'reality vs fiction' that is Kon's trademark) I'll leave other reviewers to toil with a synopsis.
My question is: Why on earth did Geneon feel they needed to change the name of the series' #1 badguy batboy, Shounen Bat, to the trite and ridiculous title of 'Lil' Slugger?' If they had just done it in the English voice dub, that would have been fine, but even the subtitles have been changed, so while you're hearing 'Shounen BAT' you're seeing 'Lil' Slugger.' I have to wonder if they will even properly interpret the animal symbology in the names of the characters...
If you can live with this change, check it out. This series will amaze you, astound you, and make you think. (and jump at the sound of approaching rollerblades!)
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This is the best anime I've seen since Evangellion. Like Eva, it is difficult to talk about this anime without giving away spoilers. Sorry if my review is a little cryptic, but I don't want to spoil the show for anyone.
For anime fans out there, if you like Eva and Serial Experiments: Lain, then you should like Paranoia Agent. It reminds me a lot of Lain, except with a better thought out plot and conclusion. It reminds me of Eva because there is so much symbolism that this is a show that you'll be able to watch many times and still not catch everything.
On the surface, the show is about an inline skater who hits helpless people on the head with his crooked golden baseball bat. Soon Tokyo, and then Japan, become fearful and fascinated with the assailer. Beneath the surface, the show is about paranoia. It's about the pressure of modern life, and the mythologies we build for ourselves. It's about distinguishing between victimizing and being victimized. It's about the excuses we make for our actions. It's about being trapped when our fantasy and reality come into conflict with each other. That's about as much as I can say without spoiling the show for you.
Paranoia Agent is not a show for everyone. The themes and storylines are very adult. This is a heavy show. It can almost be excruciating at time, with the stress and paranoia it tries to instill in the viewer. Some episodes deal with issues like prostitution and suicide (in other words, this isn't a show for kids). At the same time, P.A. has its lighthearted and dark comedic moments. Still, Maromi, the big headed pink dog, is just plane creepy.
If you enjoy intelligent and challenging entertainment, then please watch this show. I only listened to the Japanese language track with subtitles, so I can't tell you if the English dub is any good. The animation is gorgeous.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2004
Satoshi Kon strikes again: watching this anime is a bit like getting hit with a golden bat; the viewer is left boggled. In his first-ever TV series, accomplished writer-director Satoshi Kon presents an anthology of linked stories. The wonderful opening credit sequence for the episodes clues us in to the fact that this will not be a regular story about regular folks -- this will be disturbing.
In each individual's story, a character stuggles with personal problems. Some of the characters' struggles are painful to watch. At times the lines of reality blur, leaving the viewer nearly as confused as the characters, but hugely entertained. There are some linkages between the main characters from one story to the next. There are minor or background characters who may prove to be more important as the series develops. The common thread between the stories, and the characters, is the mysterious assailant Shounen Bat (aka L'il Slugger), and the detectives trying to trace pattern of crimes.
Kon seems to be spinning a complex and sensitive story for mature viewers. This is a video that demands the viewer's full attention, and leaves us anxious for the next installment.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 2007
I've had a love/hate relationship with Satoshi Kon's movies. He created Perfect Blue and Millenium Actress, two thrilling and beautiful movies. But at the same time, I wanted a more complete story, and with this series, he finally had all the time he needed to show all his portrayals of Japanese society.
And this may be his most disturbing, but most amazing story yet. The series focuses on the victims of the Shonen Bat, who are disturbed in their own ways. The entire series critiques all the troubling qualities of anime--the show-off heros, the adorable mascots to hide behind, the dangerous culture of hentai and the nauseum of repetitive video games.
Even though the police are looking for the killer, the real killer is everywhere within Japanese commercialist culture. Much like the U.S. film "The Truman Show", this piece criticizes all things that are pop. It's about time that someone made a show like this. I don't know what I'd do without this series.
Of course...you don't have to buy it. It's just a DVD. However, it may be the most important anime yet.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2005
In an unnamed Japanese city, an elementary school student known only as Shonen Bat is attacking seemingly random citizens with a baseball bat. But the attacks aren't what they seem. Is Shonen Bat a messiah or a psycho? Are the victims really dependable or are they injuring themselves? And what is up with this talking plush toy? This gritty, surreal headtrip doesn't truly reveal what's going on. Just when you think you've figured out the twists, Kon throws in another mystery. A smart, -almost Lynchian- move which is a really refreshing break from formulaic modern slasher flicks and the boring twist-driven M. Night Shamalyn films. It's moderately-paced horror that merges the creepy `jigsaw puzzles' of David Lynch and the masterful suspense of Alfred Hitchock to create a show that depends on atmosphere and scripting instead of gore or predictable plot twists. It's even better than Kon's first film "Perfect Blue" and is the headiest television show since "Twin Peaks." If you're a fan of psychological thrillers, or just a curious viewer, give "Paranoia Agent" a spin.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2005
Intelligent and suspenseful anime, my favorite....what more could be said except that this is worth every penny....if your looking for mindless anime with lots of action(not to say some of that isn't good) go elsewhere. If you wanna see anime for adults that is well done and intelligent get this....
And it's even presented in letter box which is great for those of us with widescreen tv or tvs' with 16:9 enhanced mode(see if yours has it!).
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2006
I could be said that Naruto is the opiate of the anime loving masses--cheap,quick but ultimately forgettable. If so, Paranoia Agent would be a fine aged wine that has a taste you'll remember forever.
The events start off innocent enough in the office of a mascot production company fresh from a hit thanks to a pink dog named Maromi's sucess. Surrounded in a cubicle full of critters of which could find work in Hello Kitty, Maromi's creator Tsukiko Sagi promises another hit character.
But thats were it all the joy ends: Eventually the pressure it on as Tsukiko's boss urges her forward and her co-workers jealous gossip leaks forth. Just as it all seems ready to explode, Tsukiko is attacked by a mysterious even arguably supernatural Little Slugger.
The rest of the episodes pass the baton between the characters in the city who all are attacked by Little Slugger, all of which are seemingly calm after the attack...is there more to it all? Is Little Slugger a menace randomly hitting people with his bat or is he actually a savior--welding his instrument to spare his victims from various emotional, psychological and social problems?
Thats the just of the first DVD. If you're not into dialog or need something more action packed you might want to check this one out on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block (Plays Monday's, Tuesday's , Wednesday's and Saturday's at 1:30AM, please support this show!) before committing the 27 bucks, as it does often move slow. This isn't a bad thing if you're into suspense, drama and tension this is you're show but to many anime fans used to Dragonball Z levels of action this may prove inaccessible
The content here is of unquestionable quality, this show being one of the best to reach American shores in a while and my personal favorite. The only thing my review has left to knock on is the price--but when FCLC is going the same price for two episode one can't complain. While the DVD's are somewhat scant in the extras department, you're not here for the extras. You're here to ride along one huge mind trip, and in that respect Paranoia Agent delivers 10 fold. Having seen the whole show, it will keep you guessing till the last DVD.