Paranoia Agent is one of the most unique series in the history of modern anime. Referred to on more than a few occasions as the Twin Peaks of anime, it should come as no surprise that it has behind it a cult phenomenon that is more present among film and television fans than among otaku and anime fans in general. Paranoia Agent is not your typical anime series. It’s not what you think of when we talk about anime. Or not the first thing you think of.
Created by Satoshi Kon, a renowned anime director of worldwide prestige who left us prematurely on August 24, 2010 -of which I also wrote a book-, the series condenses all the obsessions of its author. Metafiction. The difference between reality and what happens in people’s minds, if such a difference exists. The interest in the female characters. His warm, human look, always ready to make a deep portrait of the psychology of his characters.
So, because you shouldn’t miss Paranoia Agent now that it’s premiering on Amazon Prime Video, we’re going to give you five reasons why you should watch it. Five specific reasons why you should drop everything you’re doing and go running to see this masterpiece not only of anime, but of modern television in general. Because Paranoia Agent is the demonstration that Satoshi Kon was capable of embroidering the best audiovisual fiction.
Describes our society by telling us interconnected stories
If there is something undeniable about all of Satoshi Kon’s work, it is that he is very interested in the behavior of human beings. How we think, how we relate to reality and how that affects us and our environment. That’s something that in Paranoia Agent he took a step further, dedicating entire episodes, and the series itself, to how society’s ideas can end up shaping reality. Both in people’s private lives and in society itself.
This takes shape in different episodes in different ways. Although the whole plot revolves around this idea, it is best if we give examples of a few particular episodes so as not to gut the whole series. For example, in the second episode, a sixth-grade boy goes from being extremely popular to being absolutely marginalized by being associated with the boy with in-line skates and a golden baseball bat who assaults a woman in the first episode. Similarly, in the ninth episode a group of housewives share stories about that same boy, clearly made up, only to disbelieve the otherwise true stories of another housewife who does not belong to their clique.
All of this ends up connecting to the overall plot in different ways, threading it all together both narratively and philosophically. And that’s one of the most fascinating things about Paranoia Agent. How Satoshi Kon managed to make a series that manages to introduce us to unique conflicts in each episode that feel important in their own right and speak to us about social problems that we know and understand, but also form a larger picture of our problems as a society.
Shows his story (does not tell it) through his villain
Because the story of Paranoia Agent is the story of its villain. A guy always smiling, with golden roller skates, a bat bent in half equally golden, and homicidal ambitions with the protagonists of each particular episode. For what reason? That’s something the story never explicitly tells us. It doesn’t need to. It prefers to do something much better: it shows us.
Satoshi Kon took the maxim “don’t tell, show” to heart his whole life. That’s why the guy with the golden bat doesn’t give speeches. No one explains his behavior. And the only explanations for his behavior come from clearly delusional characters. His behavior is understood as soon as we think about who he assaults, what happens when those people are assaulted and what happens in the last episodes, when the other main characters manage to run away from him.
Paranoia Agent does not leave no stone unturned. Everything is connected. Nothing is explained, but the attentive viewer will know everything that has happened and why. Is it a difficult series? Not necessarily. But it’s not a series to watch in your sleep. That’s why the opening is thunderous and the ending is almost a lullaby: Satoshi Kon wanted to wake us up before it started and send us to sleep at the end of each episode. Because Paranoia Agent should be lived like that. Almost like a dream.
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