Monday, April 21, 2008


Paranoia Agent
TV Series - 13 episodes

Final Verdict: Riddled with symbolisms, this animé mini-series is not for people who don't like thinking.

Don't forget to read Nichi Bei Times article "Entertainment Re-oriented: Atomic Pop Pt. II: Hello Kitty and the Rape of Nanking" for more explanations on the symbolisms.

I think the most well thought-out stories are episodes 2 and 3 (The Golden Shoes, and Double Lips): fear of getting wrongly accused, and fear of losing self-control.

Taeko's story on the other hand, I would say the creation of her story was hurried up, or the presentation of it was summarized too much. Nevertheless, its depiction was just as dramatic as the other stories/episodes. She is presented as a victim of the events around her. Unlike other characters, she does not have any apparent flaw in her nature (Yuichi had delsuions of fame, Harumi had a split personality, Hirukawa was a hypocite, and so on..). But I like how when she wished to become nothing (something far-fetched, how can a person become "nothing"?), it resulted in her getting amnesia (ahh, makes more sense now).

Shonen Bat is a tulpa (synonymous to thoughtform), a tangible manifestation of mental energy, albeit in this case, he was created from the overall repressed negative feelings of the city's populace.

The first half of the story depicts him being a hero whose actions were misinterpreted by the people: saving individuals suffering from extreme emotional/mental breakdowns by hospitalizing them, lolz.

But really, there is some truth to that. It could be said that death grants a person the final, ultimate peace: since the worst thing that could possibly happen to you already happened (i.e. you died), then what's more to be worried about (with regards to yourself)?

That way of thinking, that feeling, was what Shonen Bat's victims experienced. Its as if God "pressed the reset button" for your whole life; you get a second chance (although you don't know its your second one).

In the later half of the story though, Shonen Bat's role turns into something more sadistic.

Since he is a tulpa, he is given form by what people perceive him to be. Rumors of Shonen Bat's indiscriminate assaults on whoever left people thinking "Would I be next?".

Rumors exagerate facts: "I heard he's not human.", turns into "I heard he's inhuman, like some monster.", which turns into "I heard he's a monster." And, well, since the word monster is simple enough to understand, it is also very ambiguous. People are left to their imagination as to how he really looks like, given the words "baseball bat", "inline skates", and "monster" as clues.

So people saw him as a monster, and since he is a tulpa, what people perceive him to be is what he becomes. And so, rather humorously, his appearance turned into something reminiscent of a run-of-the-mill Role-paying Game monster, which is what more or less people think him to be (typical of teenagers, since they play video games).

IMO I liked his original form better: a mad grinning boy who prefers to speak only on a monthly-basis and lets the baseball bat do the communication. It depicts more sadism than an RPG monster

Why did the storywriter shift the story this way? My guess is that, they want to resolve the story in a climactic struggle. They needed an obviously apparent antagonist.

Some may be perplexed why Mitsuhiro (the younger detective) suddenly turned into a weirdo who thinks he's a RPG hero. It makes sense, Shonen Bat, being what people perceive him to be, turned into a monster. What better way to fight him in equal terms than to step into that perception too? In fact, I think it was really the only way that had a fighting chance to defeat him (other than if his creator chose to uncreate him).

"The populace became angry and the society turned into anarchy because.. they ran out of stock for plushie toys?" I could remember that scene, a man in a business suit was pounding the door to the store screaming for that Maromi doll. I don't think this was another symbolism, it was really happening in the real world in that story. It supposedly represents the populace's dependency on dolls. I don't buy that. Lots of people don't care about Hello Kitty, nor even heard of it. I know Japan has dependencies on kawaii stuff (Nichi Bei Times article "Entertainment Re-oriented: Atomic Pop Pt. II: Hello Kitty and the Rape of Nanking" and The Escapist article "Hail to the Kitty"). But for people to turn into raving lunatics for it? I mean, I'd doubt you'd find a Japanese street gang sporting Hello Kitty keychains or a Hello Kitty AR-15 Rifle.

In western philosophy, growing up means "throwing away your old toys", a sort of rite-of-passage if you will, from young teenager to adulthood. On the other end, in Japanese culture, growing up means keeping what you have and simply adding more to them. Personally, I go somewhere in between, choosing to continually screen the old stuff through a filter: "Ok, this one, do I keep it?"

The storywriter should have made up a more reasonable cause for the anarchism (my guess is that they needed the setting of the world to be in anarchy for the final part of the story, as emphasis to the gravity of the situation).

The black ooze overrunning the whole city is fine (I think its the tulpa in an extremely unstable and saturated state), just.. they should have a better reason than out of stock plushie toys, or perhaps some other thing in conjunction with it.

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