Paranoia Agent Vol. 4: Sayonara Maromi

by Aaron H. Bynum

To begin: the Satoshi Kon directed series Paranoia Agent is anything but conventional. Up until this point in the television series, I have been limited to making vague inferences as to the original source of the Lil' Slugger, and even vaguer speculations as to just how in the world such a beast was to be dealt with. Now as Paranoia Agent has come to a close, I'm thankful for a somewhat convincing conclusion to a series as surreal and fantastic as this.

Here at the end of the anime series, characters such as character designer Miss Tsukiko Sagi, and the two policemen, Mitsuhiro Maniwa and Keiichi Ikari, return to the center of the story. Tokyo is far from being as seemingly normal as it had been before the street attacks; just as the public's fear of the Lil' Slugger crescendos, so does the strange interest in the pop culture icon Maromi the Dog. While Miss Sagi is unpleasantly forced to go through dozens of media interviews over the success of her cute creature, and a disillusioned Maniwa is wandering the city streets as Radar Man, while former police chief Ikari is working a boring new job as a security guard, the two areas of interest of the Lil' Slugger and Maromi are swirling within the public consciousness and building at a dangerously alarming rate.

There's a lot that I like about Satoshi Kon's works, such as the characters' behaviors and instincts, or the inherently emotional nature of the greater story at work. In Paranoia Agent, I see this in the distinct but interrelated personalities of those such as Tsukiko Sagi, Harumi Chono, the nearby district police chief Hirukawa, and even the three characters who attempt suicide in the eighth episode. Seeing as Paranoia Agent is about the troubling consciousness that people have difficulty quelling, regardless of how dangerous it happens to be, I am led to believe that it works in favor of the anime series, creating a small disjunction between the characters' physical and emotional realties. This makes the anime naturally complex without working too hard.

At the same time, there are a few things that I dislike about Kon's work, such as the often ambiguous and disjointed storytelling. Paranoia Agent, like most of Satoshi Kon's other works, leaves a lot of the story's interpretation to the audience's ability to infer and deduct a particular reality. This as opposed to coming straight out and telling (or showing) the audience what is actually going on. However, in the last three episodes of the anime, the story, while still being a little ambiguous, uses its characters to solve the mystery of social psychosis of Lil' Slugger.

Maniwa is forced to dig deep into the past of Miss Sagi in order to figure out just how and why she came up with the character Maromi the Dog. In doing so, he becomes key to the survival of Tokyo against emotional reliance and superficiality. Although he's been relatively absent since the seventh episode, Maniwa, regardless of how absurd of a character that he has become, is suddenly a guy that the show cannot do without. Whether it is his unrealistic conversation with a series of dolls, or his ability to use radio frequency to communicate between realities, Maniwa is a character that I wish I could have seen more of. If he appeared at least once more earlier in the series, I do not think that I would have taken his role as an understudy of Ikari for granted.

Ikari, by the way, is a guy that although not necessarily being the one gauged to finally take out the psychological anomaly that is Lil' Slugger, he is just as involved in the course of action. I really loved this character throughout , because he was given the most depth. In a series with a non-linear narration, and within a series that takes occasional dives into surrealism, it can become difficult to find characters that have multiple dimensions to their personality, such as Ikari. The tenth episode, "No Entry," features a monologue from Mrs. (Isae) Ikari, and how she has dealt with the emotional frustration of her husband's life. The result of which is the simple delivery of a very complex character. Since she delivers this story of her relationship with her husband face to face with Lil' Slugger, it's pretty dramatic.

Ikari himself slips in and out of a misapprehension concerning where he "belongs" in society, and as to whether or not an old-school and deliberately thinking person is needed in such a fast-paced and unreasonably paranoid city such as Tokyo. In the end, this speaks of his role as an unusually emotionally stable person, tagging him as an anomaly in a world of unreal expectations.

Paranoia Agent chiefly deals with the vehicle of psychological inconsistencies, which as audiences will find, can be a large number of emotional cruxes. However, Paranoia Agent also deals with the means of which humanity is capable of defending itself against such attacks. The answer to whether or not humankind has some inherent psychosomatic fragility interwoven into its disturbing necessity for salvation is carefully revealed in Paranoia Agent's final three episodes.

I think one has to be a patient viewer in order to enjoy Paranoia Agent in its entirety, because the anime television series forces one's interest in the story to rise and fall, just as the narrative complexity of the story does interweave itself in and out of the lives of the main cast of the anime.

The end of Paranoia Agent at times feels rather disorganized, confusing, and excessively complex. But what often seems like the superfluous complication of a relatively simple anxiety is in fact the piecing together of a puzzle. I'm a fan of Satoshi Kon's works, so I'm pretty much used to this approach to telling a story. But even in saying such, it is oftentimes the case where the story gives the impression of being aimless, while building up to some brilliant conclusion, as is the case with Paranoia Agent.

About This Item

  • Paranoia Agent Vol. 4: Sayonara Maromi

  • Format:
    Bilingual DVD / 75 min. / 3 eps.
  • Production:
    Geneon Entertainment / MADHOUSE
  • Rating:

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