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Title:
  Paranoia Agent Complete Series Boxset

UK Distributor:  MVM (DVD Only)

BBFC Certificate:  18

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  39.99

Episodes:  1-13 (of 13)

Audio Options:  English 2.0, Japanese 2.0

Subtitles:  English

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)

 

The licensing of Paranoia Agent was a massive coup for MVM in 2005.  The first TV anime series from Satoshi Kon - the acclaimed director of Perfect Blue and Millennium Actress - was hugely anticipated by fans, many of which were interested to see if he could successfully bring his unique style to a TV series.

For those who missed the series the first time round, the story starts with an unprovoked attack on a stressed character designer.  The young woman describes her assailant as a rollerblading boy armed with a bent metal baseball bat, but did it actually happen?  She was under huge pressure to follow up her successful character 'Maromi', and the 'attack' actually comes a something of relief to her.  Nevertheless, news of the attack spreads and fear and paranoia begin to grip the city as similar attacks occur, and soon they begin to escalate.  However, is the mystery attacker, dubbed 'Lil' Slugger' by the press, really responsible?  He may be no more than a scapegoat in all but a handful of cases, a simple answer to unexplained crimes.  He may not even exist in the first place, the attacks could be the work of copycats, or even made up by the victims in their desperation to escape from their stress and fears.  For the detectives embroiled in the case the seedy underbelly of the city is being laid bare, and the the underlying helpless despair that the inhabitants feel is turning Lil' Slugger

  into some strange folk hero.  If things get too much he is there to save you from the monotony, to bring you blissful relief.  But with the attacks increasing and becoming more serious the detectives face a race against time if they are to get to the bottom of the case before it goes too far.

If there was any fear that Kon wouldn't be able to make the transition from film to TV it is dispelled almost as soon as you start watching.  Paranoia Agent sees him on top form, messing with your head and bringing sophistication and some truly fresh ideas to


Looks pretty real to me...

the table.  The story draws you in and scratches below the surface of both the characters and setting, laying bare the fears and delusions of ordinary people trapped in the dull monotony of their lives.  The series isn't afraid to delve into the seedy side of the city and at times is unsettling yet worryingly familiar, perfectly contrasting the surface normality with the darkness that seethes behind it.

The series assembles a large cast but spends the time to focus on them, rounding off every character perfectly.  Whether the schoolboy who finds himself ostracised simply because he matches Lil' Slugger's description or the old fashioned policeman who yearns for a halcyon simplicity that probably never existed, the characters are complex and all search for an escape from reality.  Each new target of Lil' Slugger is under pressure and is often involved with the previous victim in some way, and as the cast grows so does his legend.  The story starts off as a simple cautionary tale crossed with an urban legend but before long grows into something else entirely.  Mixing unusual animation, surreal situations and supernatural aspects into the psychological drama widens the series scope but it does cause it to become a completely different thing entirely by the end.  The direction it takes and the mindbending weirdness that begins to take over may not be to everyone's tastes but before this it is simply stunning.


Yes, it does get weird.


There are some intriguing stories and great situations throughout and the animation and music is superb, particularly the bizarre opening sequence.  Satoshi Kon succeeds in drawing you into the mind of each of his characters and keeps you guessing right until the end.  Despite the large number of attacks and sightings it still isn't clear whether Lil' Slugger exists until right at the end, and the ending itself would make Terry Gilliam proud.  There is little to fault the series on and many of the episodes, in particular the one which follows a group of people with a suicide pact,

are excellent.  The story twists and turns, taking the series into areas that few other anime titles try and tackle.  Despair, paranoia, fear, the darkness beneath the surface of the everyday, all of this and more is covered by this remarkable series.

People may moan about the cuts the BBFC imposed on the third DVD (they are too minor to worry about in my opinion), and there will be some annoyance about a cut-price boxset coming out so soon after the full price release ended, but on its own merits this is a great set.  Paranoia Agent has been one of the most thought-provoking, original and deep series of the last couple of years, and a boxset release for half the combined price of the standalone DVDs is not to be sniffed at.  If you have yet to pick up the series this is the best way to do so and trust me, you won't be disappointed.

Extras

The box contains the four original DVDs, so the extras re the same.  Spread over the four discs we get clean opening and ending sequences, trailers and galleries as well as a commentary from Satoshi Kon for the final disc.  On top of this you also get the excellent artbox, so it's a good selection overall.

Ratings

Feature:   Extras:
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