Paranoia Agent Vol. #3 (of 4) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, March 20, 2006
Release Date: Monday, April 10, 2006
What They Say
Lil' Slugger's violent legacy spreads rapidly throughout the city becoming a legend whose image warps with every different social circle. To those who want to die, he is a saviour; to housewives, stories of his exploits are the hot topic of the gossip circles.
However, to the distressed staff struggling to get the animated TV show "Maromi The Dog back on schedule, Lil' Slugger is the menace who has been striking them down, one at a time...
8. Happy Family Planning
10. Mellow Maromi
After an extensive seven-month break, Satoshi Kon's TV series returns to UK DVD for its penultimate volume, focussing more on the perception of Shonen Bat than anything else...
I listened to the English stereo track for my main review, and I thought the dub maintained the exceptional quality of the previous volumes. This is one of the best dubs I've heard in a long time, and captures the atmosphere of the original Japanese track perfectly. The cast manage to capture the nuances of their characters extremely well; everyone involved clearly made a great effort to get it right. From a technical standpoint, the track is pretty much your standard stereo track, though it manages to completely immerse you in the atmosphere. I noticed no dropouts or distortions on this track, or the Japanese track which I briefly sampled in places.
The transfer for this show is excellent. Presented in anamorphic widescreen, there's really nothing I could find to complain about. Colours are vibrant, cross-colouration and aliasing are non existent and I really didn't see any artifacting as I watched the show. This is a transfer that really helps you get lost in the atmosphere of the show.
Subtitles are in a clear to read yellow font, and I didn't notice any major grammatical or spelling errors.
No packaging was included as this was a check disc.
The menu begins with a brief introduction sequence featuring the show's tagline leading into the main menu. This has the show's logo at the top with an image of the two detectives (who don't appear in this volume) on the left side. A shadowy image of Shonen Bat looms in the background, while the disc's selections are on the bottom right. A piece of background music plays over this menu. Sub-menus are all static with no music playing, and while access times are very fast and the menus wholly functional, they do feel a bit bland and static in general.
There's not much in the way of extras on this volume, as all we get are the original Japanese DVD covers (both the rental and retail versions) and a small art gallery.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Please note: The version reviewed here is the original uncut version as it appeared on the check disc supplied for review. Just prior to the retail release of this volume, the BBFC imposed a mandatory cut to a scene involving a child attempting to hang herself, despite the 18 rating. The removal of the scene is not mentioned in the review as it was done some time after the review was written and we do not have the final retail release.
This volume of Paranoia Agent may initially seem like something of a "lull" for the series. Much like the last volume it focuses more on the themes and myth behind Shonen Bat rather than on the escapades of the little thug himself, and as such a couple of the episodes really don't seem to have much relation to his story at all. Yet he does appear in every episode and it's the themes of the episodes that Satoshi Kon seems to want us to focus on rather than Shonen Bat himself.
The first episode on the disc is actually one of the most interesting, with an old man (Fuyubachi) and a younger man (Zebra) meeting up with a little 11 year old girl called Kamome. They seem to have met on the net, and throughout the episode we see excerpts of their chat sessions. What's interesting here though is that they go from place to place thinking of ways to commit suicide. From jumping in front of a train, only to be beaten to it and realising it's a bit to messy, to trying to hang themselves, they just can't find the best way to do the deed.
What makes this episode so disturbing in many ways is just how nonchalant the three people are in looking for a way to die. They go from one place to the next in search, and talk about it as if they're discussing the best shop to buy something from. They're all so eager to die as well, and yet they all seem so happy and bubbly throughout the episode that you can only wonder what is driving them to want to off themselves. Suicide isn't a theme that's explored all that often in anime, especially when you consider how many manic depressives there are in different series, so it's really quite interesting to see how they take the idea of suicide here and run with it, exploring it in a way I've not really seen before, and perhaps that's what makes it all the more memorable.
As if the previous episode wasn't disturbing enough, the events at the end of the second episode show perhaps an even more disturbing side of human nature. The episode focuses on four women in a neighbourhood. Three of them have known each other for a while, and regularly meet up for gossip sessions, but the fourth is newer to the group and is struggling a little to fit in. This day is one such gossip day, as the four have gathered and, having heard about the events in the last episode, they all start sharing stories about Shonen Bat. Some are ridiculous and implausible, and others show just how much regular, every day occurrences are being blamed on the one with the golden bat.
This episode shows us, more than any other in the series so far, how much the whole story of Shonen Bat has infiltrated society, as every single thing the women discuss relates back to him. Every day crimes, things that happen all the time, they're all starting to come back to blame Shonen Bat and it's hilarious to see how the women constantly try and outdo each other with more grandiose and ridiculous tales of things he has done. Even more amusing is when they shout the new woman down saying how implausible the stories she tells are. So desperate is she for something to impress her neighbours that when Shonen Bat attacks her husband, she's more interested in finding out exactly how he attacked so she could go and gossip rather than calling an ambulance. That in itself tells a story, and caps off the episode in a rather sombre way. But it's certainly disturbing to see just how ingrained Shonen Bat has become in society.
For the final episode on the disc, we follow a producer at an animation studio working on a new anime series based on Maromi. As ever the narrative is presented in an unusual way. The producer is hurrying in his car to try and deliver a tape of the first episode to the network in time for it to go on air, but he keeps falling asleep at the wheel. Every time he does, we flash to events throughout his day, where he generally gets shouted at and abused by the other staff members because he's a bit of a slacker. The director is constantly on his case, as he's not fulfilling his tasks such as relaying production deadlines to one of the key animators. What becomes a little more suspect though is that after their run-ins with him, each member of the team is gradually being picked off by Shonen Bat. And it doesn't bode well when the producer himself starts seeing Shonen Bat in his rear-view mirror as he's driving.
In some ways this is the weakest episode on the disc, although that's not to say it's bad in the slightest. It's a very amusing look at the production of animation, and at times even seems to be coming through somewhat cynical eyes, and is actually quite weird and eerie in its own way, with the ever cute little Maromi skits scattered throughout an episode in which the creators of a cartoon about the little toy are each getting killed one by one. But the mix of dark comedy and serious murders didn't quite click with me as it should, possibly because of the stark contrast to the more myth building episodes that preceded it. Nevertheless, it's certainly another good instalment of a show that is willing to take risks in moving away from its original core cast to tell a story that is more a reflection of the world we live in today than any group of characters.
While this volume of Paranoia Agent wasn't quite up to the dizzy heights of the first two, it was nonetheless another great outing, where you can just get completely lost in the world and absorb the creepy atmosphere that runs throughout. Some will probably dismiss these episodes because they don't really move things forward in the standard way, but they do show just how deeply the phenomenon of Shonen Bat has penetrated society, and in doing so they also reflect on society as a whole. The series continues to captivate me completely, and I can't wait to see the final revelations on the concluding disc. Hopefully the wait for that volume won't be as long as the wait between the first three.
Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (2.0),English Subtitles,Original Japanese DVD Covers,Character Art
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Philips DVP5100 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: MVM Entertainment
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Paranoia Agent