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Paranoia Agent: Box Set (UK) (DVD Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000087043
Added by: Matthew Smart
Added on: 3/10/2006 21:03
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    Review of Paranoia Agent: Box Set

    9 / 10


    Whether it`s from the pen of a clued-up critic, or one of those popular Amazon Listmania! things, If you seek out a top ten list of anime feature films, you`ll invariably find `Perfect Blue` floating around the top somewhere. A 1997 psychological thriller from the mind of Satoshi Kon, it`s a stark contrast to much of popular anime, and was once described as "Walt Disney meets Alfred Hitchcock", lauded for it`s prevalent adult themes and a biting social commentary. Kon would follow it up with 2001`s `Millennium Actress` and `Tokyo Godfathers` in 2003.

    Kon claims that after brainstorming for the making of his three movies, he had an abundance of left-over ideas that he decided would be best served as material to launch a TV show. The TV show he had in mind would become 2004`s `Paranoia Agent`.

    `Paranoia Agent` begins with a vicious attack on a young woman named Tsukiko Sagi. She claims her assailant was a youngster wearing gold in-line skates and wielding a golden baseball bat. With no witnesses and no evidence, the detectives handed the case feel justified in their opinion that she`s simply delusional and making the whole thing up. Opinions change, however, when a second victim comes forward, a reporter who had been staking out Tsukiko`s case, claiming to have been assaulted by the same phantom figure. As the detectives begin their investigation and yet more victims of the now notorious `Lil` Slugger` appear, they soon find they`re at beginning of a twisting tale that takes a hop, skip and a jump between the boundaries of fantasy and reality.

    Originally release in four separate volumes, the 13-part series is now released as a complete boxset containing the entire show:

    Disc 1: Enter Lil Slugger

    Episode 1: Enter Lil` Slugger
    Episode 2: Golden Shoes
    Episode 3: Double Lips
    Episode 4: A Man`s Path

    Disc 2: True Believers

    Episode 5: The Holy Warrior
    Episode 6: Fear of a Direct Hit
    Episode 7: MHz

    Disc 3: Serial Psychosis

    Episode 8: Happy Family Planning
    Episode 9: ETC
    Episode 10: Mellow Maromi

    Disc 4: Sayonara Maromi

    Episode 11: No Entry
    Episode 12: Radar Man
    Episode 13: The Final Episode


    An anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer, and `Paranoia Agent` looks clear and vibrant throughout the 4 discs. None of the small niggles that can affect animation - banding, compression artefacts, etc - appear to present.

    The subtitles are displayed in a typical yellow italic font, and perfectly fine for viewers who prefer the original language track and captions over an English dub.

    While almost all of the design is flawless, a special mention has to go to the fantastic character design from Ghibli regular Masashi Ando. They say that the most important part of anime is the face, and it shows here as characters wear their personalities on the outside, from world-weary detective, to slimy reporter and the innocence of pretty young things.


    A couple of strong Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mixes in both English and the native Japanese make good use of the front soundstage they`re limited to, with a good balance between effects and score, and crisp dialogue with good stereo separation. While the drama soaked `Paranoia Agent` is as far from an action-orientated anime as you could possibly go without being a big ol` perv, it does make good use of the sound for the pacier elements of the story, and a 5.1 mix is never really missed.

    The voice acting on the Japanese track has a real aplomb behind it, with some forceful delivery. The English dub sticks as closely to the original script as it can, with the exception of the odd change for the sake of a smooth transition from Japanese to English.

    `Paranoia Agent` has a great intro theme, too. Anthemic and catchy, it`s complemented by the melancholic outro theme which closes the show.


    Because what we have here is essentially the four previously released volumes of `Paranoia Agent` slotted into a sexy cardboard box, the extras for the box set are identical to the individual releases.

    On volume one there`s a short but sweet interview with creator Satoshi Kon and a selection of storyboards. On volume 2, there is the option to run a creditless opening and closing sequence. Volume 3 houses some cool cover and character art, while the final volume has a (subtitled) audio commentary for each of the three episodes. The creative team on talky duty (including Kon) tend to go off on a tangent but they`re certainly informative and worth a listen (or rather, read).

    Each volume has a trailer for other anime shows, including the popular `Full Metal Alchemist` and the minimalistic, `Texhnolyze `.


    With Satoshi Kon turning his visionary talents to episodic anime, here is proof that the true spirit of shows like `Twin Peaks`, `The X-Files` and `The Twilight Zone` continue to live on and inspire. Leftfield, yet definitely accessible, `Paranoia Agent` proves itself to be both clever and engaging from the off, with a mixture of new ideas and a consistent visual flair marking it out from the rather saturated anime market as a bit of a gem.

    Being sure to grab you attention and present itself as a slice of serious anime, the story begins by being told over a fractured narrative, with each episode forming part of an Altman-esque character study. Lil` Slugger (or Shonen Bat as he is referred to in Japanese) is presented as an almost supernatural phenom, and as each victim`s tale unfolds, new mysteries open up. As the hunt progresses to find him it`s up to some traditional investigative work, as the pair of detectives, believer and non-believer alike, hunt down this mysterious attacker who seems to be more than a mere human. This is our path, our insight into the lives of these inextricably linked characters that inhabit this little universe.

    Proving never afraid to shake things up, by volume two there`s a change of tact, and in an inventive move, the narrative is whisked away in a completely different direction. Refusing to run out of ideas to present the twisted story, the first episode of this volume has the detectives finding themselves drawn into the elaborate fantasy world of a suspect, a world that has genuine relevance on their real investigation. This is where the show really shines, as `Paranoia Agent` becomes a surreal, dreamlike homage to the weirdness of a typical Lynchian work. As this facet of the story comes to a resolution, the volume three episodes dispatch with our protagonists altogether and takes a much more peripheral look at what has now become the Lil` Slugger/Shonen Bat phenomenon. Through the stories of various onlookers, pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place. With the final volume, things are back on track as the truth about the Slugger and his mysterious origins come into focus, and everything builds to a furious crescendo.

    It`s the relish in switching it up constantly that acts as a testament to the creative skill of Satoshi Kon. By pushing the limits of the medium, he`s been able to merge all these ideas he`s had loitering around his head, and still maintain a coherent plot arc. Even when things don`t make the clearest of sense, such as with the prophetic messages that act as an epilogue to each episode, following what`s going on isn`t a chore. The introduction of some mercilessly black humour, particularly in the third volume, again shows how diverse the show can be in the space of a mere 13 episodes. In the hands of a lesser man, `Paranoia Agent would`ve been all over the place. It`s obvious from minute one that despite juggling so many themes, including comments on the crisis of identity, modern responsibility and estrangement, there`s going to be a clear path laid out from the humble beginnings to the eventual, and quite resounding, denouement. It`s often highly cryptic and arguably much of the final episodes are left open to viewer interpretation, but it`s a journey well worth taking even if, in the end, all the answers aren`t handed to you on a plate.

    Sadly, there`s a little BBFC editing on volume 3 from the episode `Happy Family Planning`, in which over a minute of footage of a suicide attempt is cut, but even this doesn`t impair what is a product of the highest quality. Like every good anime should be, `Paranoia Agent` was clearly made with the intent of rising above what`s expected of the genre at every turn, and it`s this which makes it one of anime`s most interesting works.

    Whole-heartedy recommended.

    {Also see Jitendar Canth`s reviews of the individual volumes}

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