2008 in anime – #3: Is that thing REALLY talking ?

by Grungi

I like dark and insane anime. Usually, I tend to love shows which begin by puzzling me, and wait a looong time before they start to make sense. It’s the same with games, actually, and that surely explains why Xenogears is my favourite game of all time (and why I usually like RPGs and Survival horror games, in fact). So when, during a chat about the weirdest anime openings on the VGM Central DirectConnect hub, I saw Paranoia Agent’s, I knew I would have to watch it. It was just too weird to pass. I mean, not only is the song completely crazy, how can you not be intrigued by an old homeless woman laughing while standing on a table in a fancy restaurant ? Or a conductor on the moon ? Or… well, you get it, I was eager to see what it was all about…
And I was not to be disappointed. Because Paranoia Agent is surely one of the most insane series I’ve ever watched. The beginning of the first episode seems harmless enough though, following the daily life of Tsukiko Sagi, a mascot designer whose previous design seemingly proved to be very popular. She’s now under a lot of stress, having to design the successor of her famous Maromi, which was some kind of pink “dog” (or so they want you to believe, because well it’s doesn’t really look like a dog to me). One night, while going back home, she gets attacked by a mysterious figure wielding a baseball bat and going around on roller blades.
As one could expect, the police starts an investigation to try the hit-and-run assailant, while she stays at home to recover from her injuries. And that’s when things start to go wrong. She sees on the internet that she’s being called a liar, that she made the whole thing up to avoid her deadline for the next mascot, and so on. She throws her little stuffed Maromi (which she always carry around) on the floor, and the thing, instead of staying on the floor like any normal stuffed animal would do, GETS UP AND SPEAK TO HER. It may sound kinda lame, but trust me, when you’re watching that episode for the first time, and don’t know what the show is about, you’re guaranteed to have a big “WTH” moment. At least I did.
And it all goes downhill from there, by the end of the first episode, you’re already wondering what is real and what is not in Tsukiko’s story. And further down the road, you’re introduced to many peculiar characters, such as a trio who wants to commit suicide but can’t really do it, a police detective playing the super-hero, and many others. Almost all have some hidden sides to them, and one of the show’s main strength is making you want to get to know them and their motivations better.

Actually, I had some troubles deciding exactly what to put on this list. First, there was the scene I described above, but on the other hand, the previews shown at the end of each episode were also worthy of praise. While many shows use those previews to make the audience laugh, the ones in Paranoia Agent were almost scary. Maybe it’s because of the music, or because of the old man’s voice used, or maybe is it because they’re some of the most cryptic around… I don’t know, but more than once, watching that old man speaking gave me goosebumps.

Well, anyway, there you have it. 3rd favourite nime moment of 2008 : Paranoia Agent’s speaking mascot.