As I have stated many times in the past, I have always had an appreciation for anime, and so recently, I've been trying to expand my horizons. I watched both Samurai Champloo and Fullmetal Alchemist in their entirety, and I also have been renting some of the more influential anime films. However, out of all of what I watched, none captured my attention like Satoshi Kon's Paranoia Agent. I fell in love with this thirteen episode series immediately, so much so that I bought the recently released complete series boxset. I do not regret the purchase at all.
Paranoia Agent is reminiscent of both FLCL for it's occasionally outlandish, always attractive art work and also David Lynch's Twin Peaks in how it has a cohesive, yet incredibly surreal narrative. The show revolves around various people affected by "Shonen Bat" (referred to as L'il Slugger in America), a figure who appears to be an elementary school kid with a gold baseball bat and rollerblades. Shonen Bat haunts those in their moments of greatest desperation, striking them down and creating paranoia for those around his victims, hence the title. The series initially seems to have a set formula, in which a character is introduced and throughout the episode, we are given a glimpse into his/her fears. Paranoia Agent quickly deviates from this pattern, and fortunately becomes something incredibly more ambitious. Along the way, we see the rise of a cartoon dog, Maromi, who quickly becomes part of the Japanese culture, but the true significance of the pink beast remains a mystery until the very end.
I cannot recall watching a television program that has created the same level of tension as Kon's latest work, with the only possible exception being Carnivale. I guarantee that you will be on edge throughout each episode, knowing that something dreadful is inevitable, but not having any clue as to how the show will reach this end. This anxiety is only possible through excellent direction, as those not accustomed to watching animation may still forget they are merely watching a "cartoon." Satoshi Kon does an incredible job of keeping the quick pacing, while making things clear enough that you can figure out what's going. You're left in the dark most of the time in terms of the whole picture, but the storytelling is top notch.