katmic (Level 10)

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A certain episode in the second half this series opens with three individuals communicating via an internet chat room about their intentions of committing suicide and how they could best go about achieving their goals. Finally deciding to meet to execute their wishes, the individuals are somewhat pleasantly surprised and horrified

The young man and elderly fellow pleasantly surprised to meet each other; both gentlemen horrified to meet the third member of their little suicide group, a little girl no older than 13, cheerfully anticipating death at her own hands.

Three individuals representing the major stages of human life, all seeking to commit suicide, a task they spend the day trying to accomplish, following an attempt by the two men to dissuade the young girl from the position she has taken (mind you she convinces them to allow her to tag along by making some silly argument about feeling left out); an episode that, while disturbing, is also quite funny.

This episode, I believe, best exemplifies the anime that is Paranoia Agent, a psychologically disturbing yet none the less thrilling ride, as confusing in its narrative as it is entertaining.

A must watch? Most definitely, if you are one anime fan searching for something…different, that will leave you pondering on its mysteries for several days on end.

THE PLOT:>

An elementary school kid dubbed "shounen bat" has been going around attacking people with his bent, golden baseball bat. When two detectives are put on the case, charged with putting his shenanigans to rest, they quickly learn that what might have seemed like mere juvenile behavior could be something so much more sinister.

MY REVIEW:>

I will admit that this was a rather anticipated experience for me; listen to enough opinions and thoughts and comments about any given element and it is only rational that you will seek to explore it, to understand whether it holds the water imputed to it.

And I have heard a TON of praise heaped upon Satoshi Kon without ever having watched any of his material. One might say that it is fitting that the first of works I am exposed to is his very first TV series, a foray out of the more complex field of movies, because that then allows me access to several hours of material to analyze in my attempts to truly judge Kon’s abilities.

I read a recent Miyazaki interview in which he had no positive comments to make about anime in today’s age; and a lot of that criticism (actually applicable to anime within the past decade) seemed particularly aimed towards the animation techniques utilized, most of which, he posited, failed to bring a sense of realism to their virtual world and its characters.

Watching Paranoia Agent one would be hard pressed to ignore the rather unique animation style utilized; I say unique only in comparison with today’s average anime series; there was a weightiness in each scene, each character generating a sense of realism in the way they moved, bringing to the fro Miyazaki’s comments and allowing me to appreciate the sense of realism that animation from older series brought to the table, but which has all but disappeared-and that doesn’t even take into account the fact that the characters where drawn with more than a few straight lines.

I emphasize the animation style because it was crucial in allowing the story to impact the way it did. I avoid mentioning the story because of how intimately intertwined it is with its characters; and how do you speak about an anime without mentioning its characters?

Because that is the one subject I find myself avoiding in this review. Paranoia Agent isn’t merely filled with a enormously intriguing cast; but rather each character is a story of its own, one more or less independent yet just as important in the final narrative.

And what makes Paranoia Agent work so well are the various revelations that litter its episodes, those events that aren’t necessary sudden twists and turns, but illuminating points that improve one’s overall enjoyment of the story. And it would be a shame to deprive anyone of the opportunity to experience these moments by spoiling them.

+So what was my first Satoshi Kon outing like? Well, I am still a little way off from calling him a legend. Yet I can see the appeal, as this anime spins quite the thriller. The series is brutal, not in any physical means or amounts of gore, but rather the psychological destruction it unleashes upon its various characters.

The series thrives on its various mysteries and delusions, and keeps you guessing with its numerous questions. Certainly the concept seems rather straight forward, a boy on roller blades going about murdering these innocent men, women and children.

But why? Who is Shonen bat and who are these various victims to him? How can the name of one little boy shake the lives of so many people, most of whom have never even encountered his wrath. And what is his wrath? What is shonen bat?

Does shonen bat even exist? Yes, that question rocks the series most of all, the idea of the insanity and delusion driving what might be truth and what could just as well be myth.

+VERDICT:> A simple appeal. Watch this show. Whatever your thoughts on its rather odd ending or rather confusing narrative –especially in the middle, where the show seems like it might have veered off at a tangent-you will not regret what should be a unique experience in anime.

+RATING:>7/10, a few glitches in the middle there that I thought the series could have dealt with better; certainly I understand the role they played. Butwatching the members of an anime studio literally kill themselves in an attempt to complete the production of an episode on time (which was not only intriguing on its own but very educational about the anime production process) seemed somewhat detached from a story that might or might have not wrapped up a few episodes earlier.

Not that I could call that an egregious failure; Paranoia Agent is still quite brilliant.

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