Paranoia Agent Vol. #3 - Mania.com



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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. #3

By Chris Beveridge     March 09, 2005
Release Date: March 08, 2005


Paranoia Agent Vol. #3
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
The continuing attacks leave a bloody mark upon society that reflects each social circle’s inherent desires. Suicidal people see the Lil’ Slugger as a savior to deliver them from life; bored housewives see him as the hot topic in the gossip circles. Unfortunately, to the distressed staff struggling to finish the animated TV show, Maromi the Dog, Lil’ Slugger is the menace who has been striking them down, one at a time...

The Review!
Skirting further away from the original cast, Paranoia Agent tries to build up the way Shonen Bat has become a part of pop culture.

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:
Using the Japanese artwork again, the cover for this round has a close up of Shonen Bat as he makes his strike while the background has the dark green/blue sky with lots of power lines behind it. The mixture of the two pieces works well, even more so when taken in context of it being in Japan really, and how closely linked everything is. 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 an alley 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 the home video cover that has the two detectives on it.

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 are really minimal in this volume with an art gallery and a gallery of the Japanese cover art, which presents both the home video and rental versions. I wish they would provide these kinds of galleries with all their releases.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
At first glance, pretty much all three episodes of this volume of Paranoia Agent can be written off as pure filler. Nothing to see here, move along, get the last volume and hope for an actual conclusion to the series. However, you could also look at these three episodes as a way of seeing just how much the Shonen Bat mythos has permeated into this society and the way people are reacting to it. With a pair of straightforward stories at each end and a central episode that provides numerous stories in short form, it excels in expanding what was originally an isolated incident.

The opening episode is one that's actually going to be rather creepy depending on your views on death. It takes three people meeting in person for the first time after talking in a chat room for some time about different ways to kill ones self. Others in the room had previously gone on to kill themselves but these three had decided that they'd meet for the first time in person and then get on with killing themselves. Their one recognizable feature would be that they'd all wear oversized Maromi backpacks. The elderly gentleman shows first and is followed soon by the gentleman in his twenties. Both are light on words but pleased to see each other while they wait on their third, a woman named Kamome. Their shock is apparent though when it turns out that Kamome is a middle-school girl.

While the two men try to escape at first and lose her, she proves to be capable enough in keeping up with them and eventually forces them into accepting her. To try and keep things above the board for a bit, they opt to follow up on an idea of hers to go on a train ride and go far far away. Nobody tells each other the reasons for their wanting to die, but for all of them it's easy enough to draw upon the realities of life and make some assumptions. The two men don't want her to be involved in this though since they feel she's too young to make this decision and each of their attempts to off themselves results in a way of ensuring she lives, which in turn ensures they live. Their only hope as things look more and more grim is that they become desperate enough that Shonen Bat enters their lives and helps them out. By far, I think this encounter is one of the best of the series since it really throws off the dynamic of what Shonen Bat is all about and reverses the tables in an amusing way.

The third episode on this disc is something of a send-up of the world of animation creation as it follows a small studio that's gotten the contract to do the Maromi cartoon. They go through some comical bits of introducing each of the main players and what their jobs are in the studio while focusing on the one manager who is completely incompetent and is a source of great trouble for the rest of them. As the importance of each player is brought to the forefront, things get even worse for the lead manager whose fears seem to bring about the arrival of Shonen Bat as one by one, each of the key players in the studio are killed off. It's like a weird game of Ten Little Indians surrounded by creepy Maromi toys and the like. There are a number of snarky little bits in there about anime production in general that made an episode like this even more humorous to those that really follow these things.

What I really liked the best in this volume is the second episode which takes the focus of Shonen Bat and distills it down to a number of instances as told by four gossiping women inside an apartment complex. Each of them have a number of tales to tell and they're all told in just the right manner and with the proper nods and looks before actually telling the tale. If it wasn't for the simple nature of this being so common, you can imagine the animators/writers just sitting a few feet away from this happening in any complex like this and just animating it exactly how they motion and shush and prod each other on. The idea behind all of this, at least to me, is how the Shonen Bat myth has shifted into every day crimes and problems that show up in newspapers and on TV as well as the imaginations of daydreaming housewives. There are a number of subtle pokes and prods going on here but overall it plays out very well and allows for Shonen Bat to add to his considerable kill count very easily. Imagine this going on repeatedly at every complex like this in a city like Tokyo and the tall tales of Shonen Bat are massive.

In Summary:
Though this volume is essentially easy to skip, I think it has some of the more fascinating material on it since the first volume when all of this started to unfold. The number of stories that get told here, some in just the space of ten minutes, provide a lot of different angles and possibilities about the Shonen Bat myth while the bookend episodes do a good job of bringing more detailed stories about his involvement with reality. This series still continues to fascinate me for the same reasons it did at first and the way the show reveals itself and plays with its characters and settings are just great fun to watch. The way it's veered with this volume may turn off some folks but I found it to be a really interesting way to expand on everything without bringing in the regulars that would only add more complications to it.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery,Japanese Cover Art

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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