Paranoia Agent Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: A+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Paranoia Agent

Paranoia Agent Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     January 07, 2005
Release Date: January 18, 2005


Paranoia Agent Vol. #2
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
The detectives interrogate the boy arrested for the Lil' Slugger attacks, he claims to be a "Holy Warrior" who has only begun to help those waiting to be saved. However, he also only claims two of the five attacks! Just as the detectives begin to find witnesses and think they are uncovering the truth, a rash of attacks fuel the hysteria - especially the two inside the police station! As the police begin to doubt their own beliefs, even suicidal citizens begin to believe a golden bat can solve their problems.

The Review!
After a very engaging first volume, Paranoia Agent settles into expanding the mystery and messing with your head.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix for the show is quite well done and has ample use of the ambient effect sounds and incidental music to really push a scene and create a sense of sound around you through the forward soundstage. The show is very dialogue heavy at times and it's all clear and free of problems such as dropouts or distortions. We sampled the English language track while writing this and didn't notice any issues there either.

Video:
Originally airing in early 2004, the transfer for this show is presented here in its original 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Much of this show has such a theatrical and film like feel that it's easy to forget you're watching a TV series, particularly if you've been a fan of the films by Kon. Many of the techniques he employs there are used throughout here and it gives it such a sense of life and movement at the right times but also a real sense of stillness during a lot of the creepier times. The colors for the show are definitely a varied mix, mostly done real world style, but there are some scattered moments where the colors are just so rich and vibrant they stand out against everything else. Cross coloration and aliasing are both pretty much non-existent throughout this and the colors maintained a good solid feel to them, particularly good since there are so many darks and other earth tones throughout.

Packaging:
Giving the creepy feeling a bit more weight than the first cover but still using similar imagery, the shadowed image of Shonen Bat is set against the stairwell here where the dark green utilitarian look and feel of the building adds to that creepy feel. The back cover takes the blood splattering style and lays that over one of the main images and then has a few shots from the show on top of there. The summary is very minimal so as to not spoil much and we get a listing of the discs episode titles and numbers, features and a small round of production information. The insert uses some great imagery on one side to list the chapter stops with a lined filter over the villain again set against dusk while the reverse side gives us the creepy old guy with the chalk writing more and more. In addition to all of this, the cover is reversible. The main cover uses a great fearful shot of Taeko bracing herself while the back side uses the artwork from the insert but with the basic specs listed instead of chapter stops.

Menu:
The menu layout is decent but it uses one of the methods that I don't care much for where the actual menu selections are generally obscured and hard to see or simply invisible. The large block letter text fades in and out as the animation clips from the show plays to a brief loop of music. Moving the cursor does highlight the selection piece with a static color but I've just never liked having a menu come up and you having to wonder what the selections are until you highlight all of them. Access times are nice and fast and while it selected the right language from our preset list, it grabbed the wrong subtitle track as the sign/song track was labeled as the first English subtitle track.

Extras:
The extras drop off on this volume and go really minimal with just the opening and closing sequences provided in both textless form and in original Japanese form.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the first volume of Paranoia Agent basically had us captivated from the opening sequence to the very end credits of its last episode, we were definitely eager to get into the second volume to see how well they could keep things up. While some of it has what are almost becoming trademark styles for director Satoshi Kon, he continues to do them with such great style and ease that it's almost easy to forgive him for it.

The attacks by Shonen Bat in the first episodes had come across a wide range of people but all with some sort of similarity that was hard to pin down. As he moved across his targets, we got to see a part of their lives that led them to being attacked and could feel the fear that was ruling over them as Bat found his way to them. Watching the detectives trying to figure out where this all hangs together and dealing with the aftermath of each of the attacks was fascinating to watch, particularly as many of the victims find themselves much happier and almost feeling a sense of freedom to their lives once it's all over. This is a stark contrast to most similar cases where the victims often spend years of therapy trying to work through the fear and pain caused by such things.

What we see in this volume is the characters from the first four being weaved into a deeper story as we see more from their lives being introduced to the plot via the detectives questioning. The biggest revelations and the most amusing set of visuals comes in the first episode as the detectives question young Kozuka, the suspect that they've arrested as being Shonen Bat after his attack on Ushiyamada. With his look being exactly that we've seen in all the other attacks and having a bloody bat and his golden skates, it's easy to see how he fits the profile. But Kozuka is a strange kid and all he talks about is his quest and goals he has to accomplish. While talking to the detectives about some of his victims, he gives them a book that serves as his manual in his mission. While the older detective is fairly clueless about it, Maniwa knows what he sees and realizes that the kid is living out a dream world based on a video game role playing guide. He's interpreted parts of that into reality and feels that he's on a quest to free villagers from monsters, monsters that show up in reality as people with a red glow around them.

What is well done, but feels repetitious, is that when Kozuka really gets into talking about his tale and recreating the attacks on his victims, we see it through his world-distorted eyes with the detectives along for the ride. This worked out beautifully when Kon did it in Millennium Actress and it's very easy to see why he did it here, but it just feels like he's using a trick that he likes a bit too often. Some of the gags along the way are used in a similar fashion, still to great effect, but I had wished he found a different way to recreate this instead of leaning on one of his theatrical properties to do it. It's well told though and seeing the world shift back and forth as Kozuka tells his tale and Maniwa gets into it is fascinating.

With things unraveling from what we learn from Kozuka, the detectives take the time to go back to other victims and to start questioning them along different lines. While they end up hitting up most of the people involved, the most fascinating one comes from Taeko who is dealing with serious family issues to the point where she can't seem to go home. The things she's learned about her family, which are told at the same time that a similar story is being told to the detectives by the old woman in her shanty in the park, are pretty disturbing and are told in such a way as to really elicit a reaction out of you, particularly if you're a parent yourself. Taeko's tale, which is tied into a lot of things we saw in the first volume but couldn't piece together at the time, adds an immense amount of replay value to the series.

My favorite material in this volume though is watching the evolution of Detective Maniwa. From the way he's initially giving in to Kozuka and playing along in his world so that he can understand him to the way he thinks he's finally found the common link between all the victims and tries to expand on that. The case is getting to him more and more and the pressure to discover who the real Shonen Bat is causes him to start losing his own grip on reality. The third episode here is a beautiful piece that plays a few tricks before its great revelations at the end with Maniwa.

In Summary:
With much of this show still really shrouded in mystery, it's difficult to talk about a lot of it in detail and what makes it so fascinating to watch since it reveals too much information. These episodes manage to carry on much of what made the first volume so exciting and intriguing to watch and it's only failing is that it's one episode less of material than we had before. Right from the opening sequence which can be interpreted in interesting ways, it hooks you in with being a bit different and offbeat and then its atmospheric mood just takes over. The series maintains the same high near-theatrical quality of the first set of episodes and just looks amazing here with its richly detailed animation and characters. Series like these are rare.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean and Original Opening and Closing Sequence

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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