Review: Paranoia Agent (2004)

You slide a disk into the tray. The laser bites and the disk whirs in appreciation. You select the first episode from the main menu and the chiming theme kicks in — man, I love anime.

Though, as much as I enjoy anime my brain won’t disconnect completely to the experience. I still think about the, ‘1:32 scale model of the Pisa Tower constructed out of dirty dishes’ or, ‘when am I going to deal with a refrigerator that is pathologically intent on encasing everything in ice as some kind of frontline defence against global warming’. Give me anything by Satoshi Kon however and you have my full attention.

Satoshi Kon’s work explores the inner life of people and how that informs their perception of reality. In his second feature, Millennium Actress, two reporters interviewing an aging star of Japanese screen are literally incorporated into her reminiscences.

Paranoia Agent has more in common with his first film, Perfect Blue, where the mental state of the lead is a lot more fractured. Each episode of presents a story of a different character, each is undergoing a crisis. These emotionally charged, internal dramas have little outward manifestation. Kon uses a realistic and clean animation style that presents all the minutiae of day-to-day life. It is this base of ‘everydayness’ that allows the viewer to accept a character’s perspective on reality is acceptable even if they may actually be quite disturbed. In the final episode, the viewer completely accepts the lead character’s delusion that his actions are those of a manga hero, when the reality is anything but.

What is fascinating about Kon’s work is that it taps into a very twenty-first century illness: that people are living more within themselves, and as a result their illnesses are also driven by internal pressures of fears and repressed anger. The older investigating detective assigned to the case is certain that if he can establish the cause and effect he will solve the case. But what if the cause is internal? Where is the external evidence then? And then there’s the final manifestation of these states…

Look, I’m going on a bit but I reckon Satoshi Kon is bit of a genius. His grasp of the medium is such that he effortlessly presents internal and external states so as to explore people’s states of mind. Like all great work it transcends national borders to become universal. Okay, that’s enough. I’d better go now. I’ve got dishes to do.

10 demented smiles out of 10.
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