Paranoia Agent Series Review – When Alternate Facts Take On A Life of Their Own


Paranoia Agent Overview:

Paranoia Agent, or Mousou Dairinin, starts innocuously, if violently, enough. Tsukiko Sagi, a timid character designer, is the victim of a street assault. However, as the story is told again and again, the perpetrator takes on urban legend status as the gold roller-blade wearing Shounen Bat. As the story spreads and more victims are found, paranoia sets in and relationships are strained to breaking point.

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Paranoia Agent Review:

Paranoia Agent isn’t one of those anime that you just should watch if you want a straight forward story.

From the director who brought us the likes of Paprika and Perfect Blue, Satoshi Kon, you kind of have to expect that this anime is going to be a little on the more perplexing side or at the very least provide you with something you need to think about.

That said, I’m not particularly a fan of a lot of those particular anime so the appeal for me going into Paranoia Agent was the fact that this one was billed as a psychological, mystery with the supernatural tag thrown in. And I do love a good supernatural, psychological mystery.

The first time I watched this series I spent the majority of it wondering just what was happening and even when it became clear, the ending kind of makes no sense unless you suspend most of your logical thought processes (okay, that might be going a bit far because thematically it ends very well, it just doesn’t end in a way that could be considered realistic).

And that’s more or less what Paranoia Agent seems to be trying for. The building of its thematic core is pretty solid and you are left feeling as though there’s been a relatively profound exploration of society, urban legends, the way we deceive ourselves and allow ourselves to be deceived, as well as our basic desire for an easy scape-goat. Yet while thematically this anime is incredibly solid the actual narrative is a little messy.

Paranoia Agent - Image from title.

Then again, that should have been evident from the opening theme with its surreal visuals and juxtaposition of a range of characters laughing in settings that seem somewhat disastrous. You could almost write an entire post just on the opening alone by the time you pull apart the imagery thrown up by Paranoia Agent before you even dive into an episode.

With that said, it is basically impossible to review the plot of Paranoia Agent without giving away things that need to be kept in the dark in order for the story to work the way it is supposed to, so I’m going to keep this pretty vague.

Timid girl goes to hospital after an assault. Detectives try to figure out what happened. Meanwhile the rumour mill goes crazy. Soon everybody else is going a bit crazy. Everything else, you will just have to watch it to find out.

The plot isn’t ridiculously complicated, but they do deliberately keep the audience in  the dark and you can’t really trust a lot of what the characters are saying at times. In fact, it will become apparent fairly quickly that characters are either lying to others or to themselves most of the time.

Which makes a lot of what you see and hear ultimately lacking in a purpose because some scenes you see are actually just a particular character’s ‘version’ of what happened in a given situation and certain scenes ultimately just serve to muddy the waters rather than move things forward.

I also can’t really get into specifics of the characters of Paranoia Agent without telling you things that you really need to find out at the time when they are revealed.

I can say that the majority of these characters are mostly horrible human beings, but they are intriguing. Largely each character seems to serve as a representation of some societal defect or undesirable personality trait so a lot of the characters feel more like stand-ins for concepts and collections of people you have met rather than as an individual character.

Paranoia Agent - Tsukiko Sagi

There’s quite a bit of enjoyment to be found in getting to know the characters here, even if you hate them, largely because of how well they translate into society at large. And despite Paranoia Agent coming out in 2004, if anything these characters and the warnings they share are actually more relevant now than they were then.


What works even better is the way the characters are intricately connected through the events in the story. As you would see in the opening we have a diverse cast of characters from all walks of life in Japan and yet their lives and fates become intertwined through the snow-balling craziness that unfolds.

Visually, I wasn’t a fan of the character designs in this show finding them fairly ugly though I kind of understand that this adds into the overall development of the main themes. Honestly, I doubt this show could have worked with the usual moe anime designs that we see in the majority of titles.

The male characters are particularly ugly at times largely because the characters are repulsive and you are supposed to be repulsed by them so if you are looking for something pretty to look at Paranoia Agent isn’t likely to deliver. However, if you want something that where each visual serves a narrative purpose, this anime will definitely hit the mark.

Paranoia Agent - Pink Mascot Maromi

I probably wouldn’t recommend this one as a starter anime to anyone however if you are looking for an anime that isn’t yet another isekai and you want a story that has a bit of meat and social commentary to it, Paranoia Agent will probably hit the mark.

What are your thoughts on Paranoia Agent?

Images from: Paranoia Agent. Dir. S Kon. Madhouse. 2004.

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Karandi James

Death Note Series Review: Not Quite Cat and Mouse



I seriously can’t believe I hadn’t reviewed this anime already. I was probably holding it off for a special occasion and the lead up to Halloween works for me. Plus, having watched the Netflix movie recently the anime was on my mind so I rewatched the first half of it again so now seems a good time to write this. What is it about? Light, typical high school genius, finds a notebook that claims that if you write someone’s name in it that person will die. Of course he tries it and then he thinks he can change the world by wiping out all the criminals. Enter L, the detective who is going to hunt down the killer that leaves no evidence. I examined the relationship between Light and L in a feature on conflict a fair while back but here’s the link if you are interested.

By the way, this review has spoilers. Big ones. Just warning you.


Just have to say straight out that I love Death Note. This was one of the titles that really hooked me as an adult anime viewer and is part of the reason I became such a fan of anime. That isn’t to say the series is perfect or that I don’t have issues with it, but in terms of showing me that anime could be more than magical girls or giant robots, Death Note perfectly hit the spot and made me start looking further afield for shows to watch and I haven’t really looked back since.

I’ll start with the main criticism I have of the show and then I’ll get to gushing about how amazing it is.


The major criticism of Death Note is the story. It is incredibly juvenile when you sit back and actually look at the plot without the atmosphere and tone making it look far more sophisticated than it is. Teenage boy gets a book that can kill people and decides he wants to play god. Other teenage boy  wants to prove he’s the best detective in the world by solving the unsolvable. Fight, fight, fight (admittedly, this is a mental battle but it is on par with anything you would see in most shounen stories) and then one of the two is defeated.

And while that is pretty basic, it is incredibly rewarding to watch, only the story doesn’t finish there. They then introduce some new antagonists for the protagonist to face off against and mostly duplicate the steps from the first half, only with less enthusiasm and atmosphere, in what appears to be a desperate attempt to stretch content and not let the series rest.


For all that Death Note is quite clever in some of the things it does, the plot is not one of them. At its core it is an incredibly obvious make the audience question what they would do in a situation type story. And once we establish that Light is not a very stable person given he rationalises the deaths of thousands fairly quickly (which could be a statement about a lack of emotional intelligence in geniuses but mostly just comes off as unhinged), it is clear that despite being the protagonist, Light is the villain of the story, responsible for far more deaths than any of the criminals he consigns to death.

There are also issues with some of the twists in the story as they attempt to make it look like excellent planning and genius skill level on behalf of Light and L, but the anime continuously falls back on coincidence to keep things moving. What if Misa hadn’t visited Light at the university when L stole her phone and then she was arrested? What if Light hadn’t just run into Naomi on her way to the police station? What if Rem hadn’t acted to keep Misa safe? There are so many moments where things happen by chance but the characters act as if they were all factored in. Though that is a problem any time a character is supposed to be a genius. Most writers aren’t so even if they try to think about what a genius might do in a situation it usually comes off pretty contrived.

So now that I’m done tearing the plot apart, why do I love this show so much?


The challenge between Light and L is amazing. Okay, I know I said earlier it is pretty standard shounen affair with both declaring themselves to be the face of justice and becoming entirely fixated on defeating the other, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t great to watch. Despite the moments where these characters seem to slip up in their thinking, it is fun watching both characters try to find the tiniest chink in the other’s armour. Their natural attraction to one another, as someone who is thinking on their level, adds and extra dimension to the challenge, and even at the silliest moment (the fist fight while hand-cuffed still annoys me) these two characters are at their best when facing one another head on.


I also just love Light as a protagonist. He’s so much fun to pick at and analyse. Did the book and the power make him crazy or was he always that way and the book gave him opportunity? There are arguments you can make both ways and evidence for both. I particularly love the scene with Naomi as Light is genuinely forced to think on his feet to deal with an unforseen situation. This is not the overly confident, maniacal laughing Light from the latter part of the series, but is the student still finding his way and looking carefully at all the angles and trying to find the best solution to his ‘problem’. That Naomi pushes him nearly to the brink before he succeeds is wonderful and there’s a real sense of tension in the entire exchange. My heart honestly fell a little when I realised Light had come out on top. I’d kind of hoped Naomi would find a way to be the first step to Light’s demise.


Naturally Ryuk is another big draw to the show. His observations about humans and his general disinterest in the overall situation is quite entertaining. I would have liked him to have had a more active role at times given sometimes he seemed willing to help Light and other times he seemed obstinate for the sake of it. But still, as a Death God with no actual loyalty to Light, he was a pretty well done character.

I guess I should bring Misa up. She is kind of a necessary character for the plot to get going given without her mistakes they may never have gotten close to figuring out what was going on. Otherwise, most of her interactions in the story are pretty forgettable.

Death 3

The overall atmosphere and tone of the anime are wonderful. I love the use of symbolism and colour, even if it is in your face obvious most of the time (back to that idea of being a little juvenile). It just works beautifully at building tension and suspense. Also drama. How they manage to make a kid writing in a note book that intense is one of the absolute mysteries of the show.

The first opening theme is also fantastic. The second one however… well it isn’t a total train wreck is probably the nicest thing I’m going to say about that screaming drone with eye-hurting visuals. Of course, the second opening kind of coincides with where I usually stop watching because to be honest, after L leaves the story there is little real appeal in this show anymore. The end is worth watching the first time so you know how it ends, but rewatches allow you to just stop and not have to deal with the Mello and Near fiasco.

And that makes Death Note truly unique in that it is an anime I absolutely recommend even while admitting I don’t rewatch the end of it very often because it isn’t very good. That first half is pretty compelling and well worth trying if you’ve never given it a go.

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Karandi James.


Hamatora Season 1 Series Review



At the cafe Nowhere the detective agency Hamatora makes its base. Made up of a group of Minimum Holders (people with superpowers) they take on all kinds of jobs as long as they are interested. However somewhere in the city there’s a killer targeting Minimum Holders.


In case it sounds like the overview above is pretty derivative of a lot of other stories, you are absolutely right. As are the characters, the activations for powers, and the problems these characters face. We’ve seen pretty much everything here before, though maybe not in quite as many different colours (this show is bright). Despite that, Hamatora manages to be a fairly decent entry into the detectives with superpower line up. It isn’t going to blow you away but you should get a laugh or two out of it and as long as you aren’t going to question the physics of their powers and whether or not what they just explained actually made sense, you should get a reasonably decent story out of it.


Hamatora’s main characters are Nice and Murasaki. Murasaki is the glasses wearing and slightly more sensible of the team (also a bit more grounded in reality realising that they actually have to take jobs that earn money occasionally) and Nice is the airhead who is going about life at his own pace (except he isn’t that much of an airhead when it comes to some things). These two met at a school for Minimum Holders though it seems neither graduated and Murasaki (who has an awesome power the few times he gets to use it) was pretty much always in Nice’s shadow. As a side note Murasaki was on my top 5 list for male characters who wear glasses.


The other main pair that work for Hamatora (there’s another character as well as the staff of cafe nowhere but they are more important in season 2) are Birthday and Ratio, and already the names in this show are making you roll your eyes. While at first it seems like all four of these characters will play an important roll and we might get a team working together, the story chooses to focus almost exclusively on Nice (and Murasaki by default) with these two doing occasional filler stories and support roles. Which is a shame because their relationship and history are kind of cool.


Another ex-student of their school, one who doesn’t have a power but now works as a detective, is Art. He’s serious and down to earth and is responsible for a lot of the jobs Hamatora manages to get. However, for a large part of this season, Art tries to keep Nice away from the serial killer case that is foreshadowed right from the start so instead of following along with the main investigation the audience is sidelined to the kiddy table with Nice and he goes about investigating an array of ultimately fairly pointless cases before he finally crosses paths with the case that the story is actually about.


And remember what I said about the show being bright. While the normal character designs and clothes are enough to do your head in, the entire colour palette of this show is excessive in the sheer range of colours it throws at you and that’s before they start applying the effects for powers. The powers take an already incredibly bright show and make it nearly nauseating to look at.

That’s probably the show’s greatest weakness. It is trying impossibly hard to be cool. Cool soundtrack, bright colour scheme, characters who don’t have any real allegiances or ties so are free to make whatever call they like, and yet the story is so incredibly ordinary and while the characters are interesting enough they aren’t that different from anything we’ve seen before (though why Nice wears band aids on his face continuously is a mystery I’ll never solve).


Despite that, this show is fun to watch. It isn’t amazing and you’ll have figured out mostly where this is going from the start. There are some good fight sequences though there’s also a little bit of gore (not extreme but it is a story about a serial killer). As a standalone story this would have worked just fine if they’d had one more episode to tie up a few loose ends. Unfortunately we end more or less after a major twist and then the second season spends a lot of time undermining some of the better elements of the first season but I’ll save that complaint for when I get around to reviewing season 2.

This is worth a look at if you are looking for something actiony with a bit of comedy. There’s issues but nonetheless it remains entertaining.

Terror In Resonance Series Review – Why motive matters.

Terror in Resonance Overview:

Two terrorists who go by the name of Sphinx send menacing videos warning of impending attacks on Tokyo and then carry out acts of terrorism.

However something is strange as Terror in Resonance sets up its tale. In all the chaos and explosions no one is killed. For one detective, there is now a race against time to figure out what is going on and what is behind these attacks. For the duo known as Sphinx, it’s a race against time to get their message across.

For others, it’s a race against time to stop that message at any cost.

That said, it was my pick for favourite anime from the Summer 2014 season.

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Terror in Resonance Review:

We’ve seen a lot of these movies, series, books, etc of late that seem to look at the underlying causes of terrorism and what makes someone villainous. These stories look at motive and reason and also the injustices that exist in the fundamental structures inherent within society that so many people accept without question. They make us think for a moment and then we carry on with our lives with very little changing.

Or in some cases people just avoid them because they don’t want to see terrorists given a voice in their fiction. They’d prefer them just to be the faceless villains and leave it there. And you can understand that if a story is glorifying the act of terrorism.

Terror in Resonance - the building falls.

Terror In Resonance (or Zankyou no Terror) follows Nine and Twelve, our teenage terrorists as they plan and act on their terrorist plots. However, what it doesn’t do is glorify their actions or make the audience feel these characters are the modern day Robin Hood’s. Their actions are acts of terrorism and destruction and while the characters themselves are cast in sympathetic lights at times, their actions are not.

That I think is what made me pay attention.

This isn’t the V for Vendetta story where we set off fireworks and have an orchestra playing while demolish a building. This is serious and the actions and their consequences are serious and playing it that way, it makes me actually want to know more about the two responsible and why they are acting the way they are. Not to excuse their actions, but just to understand.

And the picture that is painted as this series goes on is bleak even if it is a little predictable. Government experimentation on children and the ongoing consequences for those involved (who survived) sits at the heart but it is more the cover-ups and the way power is abused that drive our characters. And not just the would-be terrorists.

Even our detective in Terror in Resonance has been at the mercy of power battles within the government and department and while he still continues to try to do his job, it is obvious that he frustrated with the corruption surrounding him.


Then we have Lisa. A normal school girl who has been swept up in events (or so we would say if we didn’t take a closer look). Lisa allows herself to be swept away by events and she does so at first with reckless abandon because she has given up on the society presented in Terror in Resonance.

Bullying, emotional insecurities and an unstable family life have pushed her to the edge. She is already ready to break but has no means of escape from this life. Her encounter with Nine and Twelve give her a slim ray of hope and she jumps on it.

Despite the fictional nature of so much of the plot so many of the themes are ones a modern audience will connect with.

If Nine and Twelve were actually blood-thirsty murderers this would be a truly terrible development but in this instance what we see instead is a girl learning the bigger picture of injustice in the world and slowly finding who she is and what she needs to stand for.

That isn’t to say that Lisa undergoes some amazing character transformation and comes out the other side a shining example of morality. Lisa simply has to put herself back together again and learn how to live in the world.

She very easily could have become a random victim of the violence or cover up, she could have become crazed with the idea of revenge of murder or direct action, and she could have simply been pushed far enough that she would end her own life. Instead, she faces the tragedy around her head on and learns to deal with it.

This is an ongoing mission and we end Terror in Resonance with Lisa’s journey only just beginning but the events of the story have left a lasting impression on her being.

Lisa in Terror in Resonance

Alright, I’ll admit the plot kind of flails at times. Too many coincidences, lucky guess and random events hold together what is meant to be a masterminded series of events. If you think about any of the encounters between Nine, Twelve, Five and the police you will find plot holes and be able to point excitedly and say, ‘see!’. 


Certainly, by mid-way the plot is questionable but the ending of Terror in Resonance at least offers a clarity that is rarely found in anime.

And far be it from me to criticise anyone for criticising. I’ll admit plot holes are a problem, particularly in a piece that is built around mind games and the like.

However, I’ll defend Terror In Resonance on this point. I feel the themes and characters are by far the strength of the series and they shine. The plot is simply there to hold it all together and move us from one question to the next and to push the characters to the next part of their journey. That may be a terrible justification but it’s the one I’m going to stick to for the time being. And I’ll certainly accept that others don’t see it that way.


The music and atmosphere of this show are perfectly matched. It sucks you right in and doesn’t let go. I find this series absolutely binge worthy.

In terms of a recommendation, I really feel this is a great story for discussion. There are so many views on the issues raised and as a conversation started it works very well. That said, it is dark and violent and at times distressing, so people who aren’t big on that should probably avoid. Also, it isn’t quite as clever as it would like to be at times (the airport scene being a great example of this).

If you’ve watched Terror In Resonance, let us know what you thought.

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Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James