Satoshi Kon was stuck in a cycle. Spending years working on a handful of movies, he felt trapped, unable to explore new ideas that didn’t fit with his current project (something I sympathize with). As an outlet, he created Paranoia Agent, utilizing many of these ideas. Watching the show, it seems as though he put them all in here, whether they fight or not.
The show’s story is a simple with the potential spin out of control, least it’s kept it checked. Tsukiko Sagi is under pressure, needing to deliver a new character design after her last creation, Maromi (a pink dog), took Japan by storm. Before cracking, she’s assaulted by a kid with golden inline skates, a red hat, and a bent gold baseball bat. She’s questioned by two detectives who think she’s lying, until another attack occurs, and another.
Spoilers! Maybe, if you don’t want to know anything, even the premise. It’s revealed in short order that the attacker, dubbed Lil’ Slugger, is the manifestation of Tsukiko’s guilt for letting her dog die in her youth. Rather than accepting responsibility, she invented the Lil’ Slugger attacker, blaming him. Years later, she created Maromi based on her dog, and Lil’ Slugger was subsequently given life due to Maromi’s popularity. In the end, Tokyo blows up. It’s a thing. That happens. A lot.
I know, sounds complicated, but the show does a wonderful job communicating this interesting premise in short order. Only, that’s the problem, short order. The show runs for 13 episodes, which is about 6 too long. The entire concept runs out of steam around episode 6, meandering for the next handful until wrapping up in the final 2 episodes. While the derailment isn’t poor quality by any means, it doesn’t fit with what came before, seemingly losing the initial thread. Everything comes back around by the end, but this would have been better with some editing.
When reading that creator Satoshi Kon (Millennium Actress, Perfect Blue) was looking for a way to express is numerous ideas beyond his movies, the meandering made more sense. He wanted to explore these other concepts, jamming them into this story, whether they fit or not. If the focus remained on Lil’ Slugger and Tsukiko, and the ripple effect that had from the outset, it would have made for a better story. The debris this picked up along the way just muddied the waters.
Paranoia Agent is a fun, quick burn if you’re looking for something to do. A few elements in the middle might slow the story down for you, but not so much that it becomes a time waster.
Like the concept? Think it should have been shorter? Comment below!