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Title:
  Paranoia Agent vol 4 - Sayonara Maromi

UK Distributor:  MVM (DVD Only)

BBFC Certificate:  12

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  19.99

Episodes:  11-13 (of 13)

Audio Options:  English 2.0, Japanese 2.0

Subtitles:  English

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)

 

It has been quite a while since any anime has given me that special sense of utter confusion.  You know the one, it's the one you got when you first watched Akira, that feeling that makes you sit bolt upright and shout 'why the hell is there a giant fleshy baby trashing the Olympic Stadium!!!'.  Paranoia Agent vol 4 is one of those shows that brings back that special feeling.

Let's recap.

In the first volume a stressed and pressurised woman with a fragile mental state gets attacked by a mysterious bat wielding assailant.  Or did she?  Possibly she made it up, but the attacker comes back and attacks more stressed people, who also may be making it up, but nonetheless fear and paranoia spreads through the streets and the attacks increase.

On this last volume Tokyo is being destroyed by black goo, sentient stuffed toys are roaming the streets, a policeman has started to dress as a superhero called Radar Man and talk to plastic figures and another policeman has retreated into a strange dreamworld made of cardboard cutouts.

Does that make any sense to you?  No?  Well it probably won't after watching this DVD either.  I must admit to spending large segments of the three episodes on this disc staring nonplussed at the screen, wondering whether even the creators knew where they were going as the story became increasingly bizarre.

Whilst the series up to this point had been pretty surreal and had flirted with the paranormal, pretty much all sense of reality is completely drained away this time round.  If I had to draw a parallel I would say that it is slightly reminiscent of the Terry Gilliam classic The Fisher King, especially the 'Radar Man' character, is he just delusional?  Or is he fighting a battle that only he can?  As with all of the previous volumes the animation and music is excellent and it is gloriously inventive, but it's again in the stranger moments where it wins out.  The bizarre 2D fantasy world is a great metaphor for the policeman's idealised memory of a halcyon past, and the sheer imagination throughout glues you to the screen, even if your brain will most likely be feeling like Swiss cheese by episode 13.

There is a lot left unexplained at the ending and it will certainly leave you thinking long after the final credits have rolled, but you are left feeling slightly unsatisfied.  To be honest you want there to be something a bit more concrete, especially after the way the series started, but instead it goes off on it's own bizarre tangent and detaches itself further and further from normality.  Whether you like this or not will be down to your own preferences.  The series takes a uniquely unusual direction and backs it up with some superb surrealist imagery and some really thought provoking story elements.  The ending is ambiguous, and in turn the ambiguity bleeds into the rest of the series, is it a metaphor?  A cautionary tale?  A dream?  A visualisation of a mental patient's complex mathematical formula?  Or maybe it isn't as deep as it seems.  If you like to think about the meaning and challenge your assumptions about the series then you'll love it.

For others though the ending to this series may be a bit too arty and bizarre, in places looking like it was being made up as the creators went along.  However, it is just stunning to watch, the visuals ooze innovation and imagination and it is packed with intriguing ideas.  It is one of those series you would have to watch again to really get the full benefit of, but it won't be a chore to do so.  Paranoia Agent volume 4 is a strange ending and won't please everyone, but it does have a lot going for it and it'll certainly make you think.  Challenging but spectacular.

Extras

Whilst two extras seem very little at first glance, when the usual trailers are accompanied by an audio commentary by director Satoshi Kon, screenwriter Seishi Minakami and producer Satoki Toyoda, you know it's something special.  Or so you would think.  The commentary is really dry and pretty dull, as it's almost entirely focused on the technical side of the production rather than the story itself.  If you think there will be any big revelations which will make sense of everything, then you will be disappointed, although there are some interesting points raised at the end of episode 13's commentary that you may otherwise have missed.

Ratings

Feature:   Extras:
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