"Where will the golden shoes go? May tomorrow's weather be good. And then …"
And you thought the first volume of Paranoia Agent was a trip.
A detective story set in a creepy state of wide-spread psychosis, this show is a look at confused, everyday people and the boy who haunts them.
In a Tokyo suburb, people are being assaulted. The culprit is described as a young kid in golden roller skates, and his weapon of choice is a bent, golden baseball bat. His victims seem random, yet somehow they're connected. All were dealing with a personal crisis of some sort before their encounter with this so-called Lil' Slugger. And after the attacks, a sense of peace has overcome them.
Has the mystery of Lil' Slugger been solved? At the end of the first DVD volume, we're given an indication that our little assailant on skates is nothing more than a normal, middle school-aged punk. But just when our detectives think they've got this whole thing figured out, several outright shockers are thrown at them, and us.
Each of the first four episodes focused on a different victim, giving us a sad taste of the characters before their run-in with Lil' Slugger. The same theme is carried on throughout this second volume, except the first profile we get here is that of the little bat-wielding bastard himself.
The detectives wander into the mind of this smiling, strange boy, and find a fantasy world, where Lil' Slugger believes he's a chosen knight, a holy warrior, charged with slaying evil creatures. Instead of schoolchildren and prostitutes, he sees dragons and demons.
The opening episode of volume two is a hardcore break from the borderline reality of the Paranoia Agent world, as the detectives traverse a wild landscape, featuring fanciful colors, wild creatures and outrageous landscapes. Lil' Slugger sees himself as a brave hero, destroying the monsters of the world. The detectives suffer the boy's delusions ... at least until they discover he's only taking credit for two of the five attacks.
A typhoon ravages Tokyo in episode six, while the detectives interrogate the very first victim of Lil' Slugger. Now convinced she's made the whole thing up, they grill her and try to force an admission. But when she's battered before their very eyes, and another assault occurs on the streets during the storm (with a suspect in custody), the detectives realize they're back to square one.
The last episode on this volume sees one detective take an interest in a strange, injured old man, who's in the hospital with the victims. He can be spotted scrawling complicated math formulas with a piece of chalk in the parking lot from time to time. What's he got to do with all this? The detectives go back through the list of victims, pressing for more details, hoping someone saw more than they realize. But the investigation seems stalled.
Hey, if they don't get anything out of the witnesses, they can always question Lil' Slugger again. He's safely locked away.
Wonderful animation comes through on an excellent DVD, with a pretty much flawless picture. In 16X9 widescreen format, Paranoia Agent is a slick anime, with believable character design and sharp detail in the settings. This DVD looks great, with lovely colors, solid blacks, and nothing digitally upsetting.
Nothing special, or bad, to report here. I prefer the original Japanese 2.0 over the English 2.0, but that's just me. Believable ambient noises combine with sporadic use of background music.
"Raa-eee-yaa Ra-ra-e-yo-ra, A magnificent mushroom cloud in the sky." The opening animation music is too strange to describe, and nothing short of fantastic. After hearing it, you'll have it stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
Volume one had a great interview with Director Satoshi Kon (Tokyo Godfathers, Perfect Blue), but this second volume of Paranoia Agent has only a few standard items: three Geneon previews, opening and closing animation, and DVD credits. For such a great show, that's a little sad. With Paranoia Agent, I would have done what Bandai did expertly with Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, and package a special edition volume with a toy, soundtrack or T-shirt. At least give us some DVD storyboards, or English dub interviews, something more for us to sink our teeth into.
Consider me hooked. I replay Paranoia Agent DVDs for friends, Lil' Slugger greets me every time I turn on my computer, and I refuse to read any reviews of the fourth and final volume for fear I'll run across a spoiler. No anime intrigues me more than Paranoia Agent. Volume two opens strangely, for sure, but the tale of Shonen Bat becomes only more twisted and more shocking in subsequent episodes. Highly Recommended, and yes, you're right to feel ashamed if you haven't seen this show yet.