Posted by Lenlo on 15 February 2019 with categories: Paranoia Agent, Throwback Thursday

This week, once again, Paranoia Agent takes another interesting turn. This time we follow the cop who caught Shounen Bat, see a bit into organized crime and watch a man fall apart at the seams. Lets go!

So in general, while this episode was interesting and explored some more aspects of society, I wasn’t big on it. The issue is, I can’t really tell you why either. It just didn’t… click with me? All of the pieces were there. Kon’s unique animation style, societal commentary, interesting direction. Maybe it was Hirukara as a character whom I did not enjoy? However I would find that to be odd, as all of his scenes succeeded at what they set out to do. I was incredibly nervous anytime he was onscreen in the latter half. Objectively, he succeeded at his role in the story. So why didn’t I enjoy it as much as the previous episodes? Well, let’s get into the details, and hopefully by the end I will have figured out an answer.

To start off, lets hit on Hirukawa, the corrupt cop. I will admit, it took me awhile to figure out this was a flashback of sorts, starting prior to episode 3. I thought that this would be a follow up to him having captured Shounen Bat, but that appears to be next week. Instead, this episode is all the build up to it. We see another character falling apart in their life, begging for help or a way out, and Shounen Bat comes to “help” them. Only this time, whether it be because of the drugs or his own constitution, the victim doesn’t go down. But perhaps that last part is my issue with the episode. Maybe having Shounen Bat get caught, be a real kid, feels cheap to me. I fully expect Kon to flip the script and have it be something else, but right now? I’m slightly disappointed.

As far as Hirukawa’s story goes, it was… whew, it was a thing. The idea of a crooked cop taking money to give his family a better life is an interesting one. As is him getting in deep with the Yakuza and having to earn it back. Both of those compounding, as he abuses his position of authority to get away with his crimes. However, there came a point where, as it all piled on, that it started to feel like to much. I think that moment was the drug. That was where Paranoia Agent jumped the shark for me. As at that drug, however forced, took the agency out of Hirukawa’s hands. Now, his creepy “daddy” comment to a little girl as he robber her parents becomes an over the top line from a drugged out maniac, instead of a purposeful descent into darkness from a once good man.

Because of this break away with the drug, I also couldn’t really figure out the message of this episode. Is it about toxic masculinity? The abuse of police power? How you can’t trust the establishment because you don’t know who they are in bed with? Perhaps how far is to far to be redeemed, as he catches Shounen Bat at the end? I have all of these questions and none of them are answered. Perhaps this, and not how Paranoia Agent handled Hirukawa’s story progression, is why this episode didn’t resonate with me. That this episode failed to get a consistent narrative throughline like the previous. Thus making it difficult to parse some of the events on screen. If you know have an interpretation that works, please let me know below. I want to understand, to get this and appreciate this episode. Because Kon clearly had a plan behind it.

As confusing as the thematic message may have been, there is one aspect of it I loved. The manga panel cutaways, which Paranoia Agent shows us Hirukara reading, were fantastic. It made it clear what Hirukawa was thinking in each of those scenes. That he still thinks of himself as the hero of a manga, saving the day. Busting down doors and being a manly man, providing for his family and saving the day. Even the name of this week’s episode, A Man’s Path, gives us a hint of what this episode is about. In that sense, I think they are a brilliant inclusion. However, when combined with my confusion on what the actual central theme is, they feel let down by the episode as a whole. I think once I understand what the theme is, I will appreciate them more. But until then, I can only say they fit.

The last bit I want to talk about though, and the most concerning to me, is Shounen Bat’s capture. This throws a wrench in every theory I had. Shounen Bat is now a real, living child, who can actually get caught instead of some cosmic force. Which now brings up the question of, how does he choose his victims? Are they actually chosen because they need help, or is it all just coincidence? Personally, I refuse to believe its coincidence. Kon is to purposeful in his stories to do that the through lines with the old man and woman make no sense this way. Which means, something is up with this kid. Perhaps he won’t be there when they go to interrogate him? Or he will just be a fake? I suppose we will have to wait to find out until next week.

So all in all, for all that I love Kon and his stuff, I am very meh on this episode. However, I don’t blame Kon or Paranoia Agent for this. Not yet. I blame these issues on my own inability to understand the point of this episode. Normally I wouldn’t make this allowance, a series should be able to get its themes across clearly. But Paranoia Agent has managed just that with the previous 3 episodes, and Kon has done it before in pieces such as Tokyo Godfathers. Similar to how I give Shiwon Miura the benefit of the doubt because of my love for her novels, I want to extend the same courtesy to Kon.

So please, tell me what this episode was about. Help me get it. Or, if that isn’t possible, tell me so I can stop searching for meaning where there is none. Either one would make judging this series so much easier. Thank you, and see you next week!

2 Responses

  1. Avatar Tayo Jones says:

    The point of the episode was to show the contrast between our main character and the hero from the manga. In the manga, the MC is brave, fearless and does not give up. He is a man of honour. Our main character of the episode is the complete opposite. He is a cowardly, selfish and perverted, yet he deludes himself into thinking he is a great warrior. Yes, he is doing it for his dream home, but he is willing to steal from other to make his dream come true. And yet, in the end, he becomes the “hero” he always envisioned himself as when he inadvertently caught Shonen bat. He became a “hero” in the eyes of the public, even though they do not know the real person he truly is. And just a warning, episode six will reveal how disgusting he truly is and reveal a huge about the identity of shonen bat.

    • Avatar Lenlo says:

      I… am not sure how he can get more disgusting, but I look forward to seeing it. I was sure it would be another episodic sort of one, with a new character. Nice to know!

      As for the “hero” aspect, I think I noticed that to an extent. The contrast between the manga panels and what occured onscreen. For some reason I assumed it part of a larger point about society though. Like “What does it mean to be a man” or something. Some greater jab. I have that idea in my head because the previous episodes critiqued and commented on aspects such as bullying or who you are based on your surroundings and such.

      Perhaps, because as you said he continues in the next episode, one of the the issues was I don’t have the full picture. If he is next weeks focus, that makes Hirukara a sort of two parter. In which case, if this is setup for a continuation of his story, than I am all for it.

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