Posted by Lenlo on 29 March 2019 with categories: Paranoia Agent, Throwback Thursday

Welcome everyone to the most enjoyable episode of Paranoia Agent in a while. This week we get a peek into the anime industry, Shounen Bat appears once more and our death count skyrockets. Lets jump in!

Starting off, I not only have to but want to talk about the animation. Paranoia Agent got very inventive this week, wowing me multiple times. It really embraced the focus on the animation industry to have some fun with its eldritch premise. There are two instances of this I specifically want to mention. The first comes right at the start, by cutting to the various stages of the animation process. Complete, to Genga, to Storyboard it was an interesting look and really set the focus for the episode early. The second, and much more impressive, was about mid-way through, as Saruta is basically reverse animated. Losing his color, his line-work getting rougher and rougher. It was simultaneously beautiful and horrifying, fitting Paranoia Agent’s unique brand of horror. This is exactly what I have wanted these past few episodes, so its good to see the series return to form.

Story wise, lets talk the obvious meta-narrative/theme of this episode, the animation industry. I feel like Kon as a bit of a bone to pick here, as he takes shots are most everyone over the course of the episode. From Production Leads to Assistants, no one escapes Kon- I mean, Shounen Bat’s wrath. Paranoia Agent, to me, seems to be lambasting the working conditions of the industry with this episode. From the terrible conditions of animators to the apparently draconian deadlines on episodes, with them being delivered last minute. It’s something that would later be explored more in a series like Shirobako, though with much less cynicism. What I liked about this presentation though was that no one was safe. The conditions effect everyone and it is no one person’s fault, but rather it all compounding to drive them all insane. What really helped this was the odd timescale.

It took me awhile to figure out, but Paranoia Agent went for a non-linear story this week. Progressing the same story over 2 different timelines that lead back into the other. At first it freaked me out, as I couldn’t tell if Saruta had crashed or not. But once I got through the first flashback, it all clicked with me, and it made for a very tense episode. Ramping up the tension in the car as the animation team fell one by one. It made for a very unique viewing experience, as piece by piece we figured out what was going on. I think it was brilliant. Kon has tried a lot of different directorial styles this series, and if nothing else I commend him for that. But I think this one is easily my favorite so far, as it just does everything a mystery needs right.

One big part of Paranoia Agent’s mystery this week is that we still have no idea on Shounen Bat. What I mean is, throughout this whole episode, there is no proof Shounen Bat exists. I have this paranoid conspiracy in my head that Saruta actually committed all of these acts, for this episode at least. What planted this thought was the ending shot of him, with a golden bat, over his producer. Most likely Paranoia Agent placed this here specifically to induce doubt, but it worked. I would not be surprised to learn that Shounen Bat never existed and it was always the character themself doing it. Tsurumi who hit the reporter and herself, etc etc. It would be different, but still brilliant, as the entire series would still work with this revelation. It fits in with the Eldritch Horror again as well.

Speaking of the Eldritch Horror aspect, I want to once again take this opportunity to gush about how unique Paranoia Agent is in its horror. If the past 2 episodes are anything to go by, its a difficult sort of theme to grasp. That the series has succeeded as much as it has is worthy of praise. This episode in particular is a highlight I feel. It’s so well made, I believe this episode would work as a standalone, none the less as part of a larger series. From beginning to end, it was packed with relevant details. In particular, I just want to call out how creepy that ending was. With the anime repeating “Your just tired, take a break” over and over, while a dead man lays on the table. It’s like an ending to a Stephen King novel, a good one.

The one question I have after this is, how does the episode fit with Paranoia Agent as a whole? We are 3 episodes away from the finale and I have absolutely no idea where this is going to go. There’s no final arc, the only real progress/through line we have is Maniwa, who hasn’t been seen in 3 episodes. There’s the doll, Marumi, which has been present from the start, but it’s only really relevant when Tsurumi is around. Afterall, its her doll. But every episode only introduces more questions. My fear is that, while the series itself is good fun and interesting, the finale won’t actually make use of it. I fear that the series will keep this episodic nature up until the end and putter out rather than go out with a bang. I suppose we will find out soon.

So all in all, how was the episode? Well it revitalized my interest and made me happy to have watched it. I have concerns for how the ending will go, but this episode alone? Fantastic. It managed just the right amount of cosmic horror, with interesting animation and cinematography. Paranoia Agent introduced all of the relevant details from the start, and just expanded on them bit by bit. So long as it can keep this up for 3 more episodes, even if the ending is a bit of a let down, I can’t say I won’t have enjoyed my time with the series.

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