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February 10, 2019 7:12 PM   Subscribe

Why you should watch Paranoia Agent (some mild spoilers within - major spoilers with a warning half-way through): "There's a quote from Satoshi Kon that I really like, in which he states, 'A world that a person perceives is filtered by their own fantasy and paranoia,' and you can see this same quote reflected in every character of Paranoia Agent. Rather than the show telling us how we should perceive each of its characters, the series is instead more focused on how they perceive themselves, and the reality around them, and all of the delusion and fantasy that comes with that." From the late director Satoshi Kon (previously), 2003’s Paranoia Agent (spoiler-free MyAnimeList description and reviews) is a limited anime series that starts with a seemingly simple crime: a string of physical assaults all perpetrated by the same mysterious figure, known as Lil' Slugger / Shonen Bat. Content warning: discussions of assault, sexual violence, and racism.

Some other writing worth reading about Paranoia Agent (spoilers throughout):
BlackNerdProblems, "Paranoia Agent Is An Ironic Social Commentary On Our 'Great' America" - 'Make America Great Again' as it has been spoken throughout Trump’s campaign—and now his presidency—has transformed from a vague slogan into a threat, and while paranoid voters across the country bought into this threat to anyone outside of this vision of a 'great America,' now the rest of us are paying the price.

The Metric Furlong, "Paranoia Agent – The lie we would rather believe" - One could justifiably write several essays on the series and the themes and topics it touches on, from its swipes at the animation industry to its depiction of societal pressures, particularly those faced by women. However ... for the purposes of this post, which I have attempted to keep under the two-and-a-half thousand words mark, I will instead focus on one of the more central questions of the series: Who, or more precisely what, is Shounen Bat?

The Artifice, "Satoshi Kon’s Otaku: The Dangers of Technological Fantasy" - [SPOILERS ACROSS ALL OF SATOSHI KON'S FILMS!] Particularly, Kon associates his otaku characters with technology, which aids them in their obsessive tendencies and offers them a way to further themselves from a reality they do not wish to face. This technology can be anything from computers to video cameras. Satoshi Kon represents the otaku as a negative presence that becomes even more malicious, sometimes to the point of violence, when paired with technology.

Previously on MetaFilter, Tony Zhou's video essay on Satoshi Kon's unrivaled power as a visual storyteller.
posted by codacorolla (18 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
i first saw this show on adult swim in the mid 2000s and it made a lifelong impression on me. probably my second favorite anime after FLCL. i haven't seen it in at least a decade, seems like it's time to revisit. anyone know if it's streaming anywhere?

it took American culture so so long to realize that fandom is inherently toxic, something that i think really came to light for a lot of us only with gamergate and which we're still reckoning with a society. japan was at least fifteen years ahead of us there (the fan reactions to the end of evangelion come to mind, though i'm not knowledgeable enough to know if there were similar events before that) but i'm not sure coming to that realization earlier has actually changed things much.

and now of course in the age of social media fandom is a fungus consuming all of our discourse, from cartoons and comics to politics. the tragedy of fandom (and, if i'm recalling correctly, most of the characters in the show) is that people are just trying to find meaning in their lives in a world that feels more and more meaningless as time goes on. i think kon partially blames this meaninglessness on technology and i suspect he would find our current era entirely horrifying. but the isolation comes from somewhere deeper and more insidious and technology is just an easier way to fill the hole. say it with me kids: this is just life under late capitalism, where neither your dollar or your vote really matters in the grand scheme of things. so people buy into delusions and distractions to explain why the world is broken.

little slugger is only as real as people allowed him to be. fundamentally his rule of terror is built on a lie. the only way out is to acknowledge that lie for what it is, together, and build something truthful where it once stood.
posted by JimBennett at 10:05 PM on February 10 [6 favorites]

Is there a way to watch this in the US without resorting to torrents?
posted by sideshow at 10:07 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]

An all time great series, with an all-time great intro. I got the DVD's through Netflix but it's impossible to search their catalog without signing up again, it seems. Or maybe they still have it.

I really need to see it again.
posted by five toed sloth at 10:28 PM on February 10 [5 favorites]

Only watched the series once forever ago, a friend *cough cough* lent me a copy and I found it a bit inconsistent but ultimately interesting and rewarding. I definitely gravitate more to Satoshi Kon's stuff when I'm in the anime mood. I need to rewatch.

The opening theme song/laughing people combo is amazing and somehow captures the mood completely!
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 10:29 PM on February 10 [4 favorites]

Haha! Jinx!
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 10:30 PM on February 10

Netflix DVD has them, but it seem disk 1 and 3 are 'Save' vs 'Queue'. So they may not still have the complete thing.
posted by zengargoyle at 10:41 PM on February 10

Paranoia Agent was our introduction to Satoshi Kon's work (via Adult Swim), and it made an indelible impression on me.
Click for spoiler of THAT scene. I think of how shocking the jumper scene was every time I hear of a train delay because of a "medical emergency"'.

I think Paranoia Agent was also the anime that made me realize how we had fucked up the Japanese psyche with the atomic bomb- that they were still processing as a society the aspect of utter annihilation of a community in a rolling, vaporizing cloud.
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 12:36 AM on February 11 [2 favorites]

Shonen-batto has become something I mutter to myself late at night on dark streets or exploring an unfamiliar place when gaming.
posted by humuhumu at 1:17 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]

Excellent series and fine choices of articles/videos for going into why it's so good. Each comes at it from a slightly different direction, but all seem to hold to the same basic ideas just emphasize them in their own ways.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:52 AM on February 11

OMG thank you thank you thank you. This was my favourite psychological/surreal horror anime, and it led me to Perfect Blue, as well. I have alllll the time in the world to read/listen to nerds beanplating this series.
posted by LMGM at 2:15 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]

I remember stumbling across it by chance on Adult Swim, no idea what it was, instantly pulled in. It was episode 8, "Happy Family Planning". It chilled me and intrigued me. I watched all the episodes from then on, and then caught up when the series was re-run.

Thanks for the reminder I need to give this a rewatch. I've definitely got it on DVD somewhere.
posted by Gordafarin at 2:52 AM on February 11

The opening theme is perhaps the most perfect in all of television, only Malcom in the Middle comes close for prescience and theme and mood (and the full song is even better in the late '90s brass-punk post-ska aesthetic of the ever adaptable TMBG).

Even muted, I can hear the tenor belting it out while synthetic bird-songs twitter in the background and the orchestra rises. Somewhere in Gotham, the Joker is going, "Oh, look! It's my favorite show! Lil' Slugger! Such an adorable scamp! Come watch this with me, Harley, we might learn a thing or two!"
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:14 AM on February 11 [4 favorites]

Awesome post. Even though it kinda kills me, since AFAIK Paranoia Agent is out of print where I am (US). Geneon had the DVD license, and they went out of business a couple of years after its release. There was the Adult Swim broadcast, but I don't think anyone has streamed it yet. The US anime licensing industry semi-collapse came at a weird time in relation to the rise of streaming. New stuff is really easy to get, and some older licensed stuff is just dumped legally on YouTube by its licensors - but there's a swath of stuff like this that fell between the cracks. It's a shame.

Clinging to our copy, then. And yeah, the opening theme will be in my head all day...
posted by cage and aquarium at 7:21 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]

And from the link above, I totally forgot that we bought a Maromi plushie! I haven't seen it in years, so I wonder where it scuttled off to....
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 7:26 AM on February 11

Paranoia Agent is such a great series. Last I looked the DVDs were out of print (and still seem to be, not even Blu-Ray), and sadly I only have the first three. It's long overdue for a reissue.

(And yeah, the opening is amazing.)
posted by Gelatin at 7:34 AM on February 11

I watched Paranoia Agent a couple years after it came out, and it's straight up one of the best things I've ever seen, but it is psychologically taxing to watch. I'm not sure I could watch it now as a 35 year old with too much on my plate in the Trump era.
posted by Caduceus at 8:31 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]

you can watch it here
posted by womb of things to be and tomb of things that were at 4:24 PM on February 11

I am extremely picky about anime, and this series is one of my favorites of all time. Satoshi Kon was taken from us far too soon.

The opening theme, and everything else, was composed by Susumu Hirasawa, who is incredibly prolific. Seek out his other works if you like the music for this series.
posted by subocoyne at 5:28 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]

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