I’ll be straight with you guys. Paranoia Agent is really hard to talk about. On one hand, it’s smart. It’s well directed, has amazing animation, and has great social commentary. On the other, the first six episodes are slow and boring, the middle five are great but are fillers, and the last two are nonsense. Even so, it’s a fantastic show that delves into collective fear and psychosis where every action has consequences. On the contrary, the director, Satoshi Kon, said in an interview that he made the anime because he wanted to use ideas from his other movies that never made the final cut. As such, it feels pieced together. I love the show, and it deserves more people watching it, but I can’t for the life of me explain why.
Let’s start with the summary. Our story (until it veers of in episode 8 and doesn’t return until episode 12) is a detective mystery about a boy in golden skates with a bent golden bat who goes around bludgeoning people. He’s coined as Shonen Bat. For, what I have now dubbed section 1, the plot follows eight interconnecting characters, each episode devoted to one. These vignettes dive into their life and mind until, inevitably, they are attacked by Shonen Bat.
While each vignette is an excellent character study, they tend to be slow and quiet, the only action being the attack at the end. Frankly, I stopped watching at around episode 6 because I was bored. Little did I know that the real fun starts from episode 8 onward! I can’t talk about it, though, for fear of spoiling something. I probably already said too much! In my own perspective, though, what made the show was the ending. It was one of the few I’ve seen that actually satisfactorily wrapped up the plot in a way that kept true to the heart of the story. But, again, I can’t talk about it, as it is too good to ruin. I can say this, though: it is good enough that it’ll make you want to re-watch the anime to pick up all the pieces and clues you missed.
Since I can’t talk any more about the story, I’ll move on to some of the other reasons I love the show:
- First off, the creativity. While many of the characters were common archetypes seen all over anime (there was even a standard otaku character), the payoff to their arcs was ingenious and the story ideas were phenomenal. I can see why Kon didn’t want to just throw them away.
- In addition to a highly creative story, the animation pulls the creativity through by showing some truly inspired use of different styles! Each of the mindscapes we see are animated in a different way, each unique and distinctive.
- The opening theme and ending theme are amazing! After each vignette, the shots you see in the opening start to make more and more sense. By the end, the entire opening is like an epiphany. Similarly, the ending is rightfully unnerving and is excellent when binging, as it doesn’t jar you out of the mood that the episode set. I’ll embed both below so you can check them out.
- The ending. I can’t say anything… but… that ending!
In the end, I guess I am asking you to try this show out of blind faith. Paranoia Agent really is good, and worth its spot on so many “Best of Anime” lists. It grows on you as the story grows and leaves quite the impact when it’s done. It’s amazing. I just can’t say why.
If you have an idea for a Hidden Gems segment, put the name of the anime in a comment below. I only have so many underrated anime to show off here.