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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Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Feature – Comparing Apples and Oranges

Erased Title Image

With the new season of anime starting, I’ve found myself doing a lot of episode 1 impressions and trying to write a basic overview of a lot of different shows. The number of times I found myself falling back on the “it’s like …. with a bit of ….” in order to describe a show kind of got me thinking. Is it fair to compare one show to another?

In honesty, when I write a review of a full series, I generally avoid comparing one anime to another. Occasionally it seems necessary to make a point about one particularly aspect. Whether it be a character, a bit of music, or a particular plot point, sometimes drawing a comparison can be really helpful in order to explain where you are coming from. However, I avoid falling back on this as my main form of review for the simple reason that I feel things should be taken for what they are and not what other things are that might be better.

Are you comparing apples to other apples or apples with oranges?


Erased is a good anime to look at when we think about whether or not we should compare anime. If we look at Erased as a mystery, even taken by itself you can see that the mystery itself is flawed due to the lack of viable suspects. This makes the guessing who the culprit is pretty easy and takes away any dramatic reveal that might occur later in the series.

So even without a comparison Erased isn’t going to stand up very well as a mystery. But if we then played it against a mystery (something like Blood C or Paranoia Agent which leave you guessing until the reveal) Erased starts looking even worse.


Is that fair? Admittedly, if I were doing a Top 5 list of best mystery anime, Erased wouldn’t be on it, but when I reviewed Erased I was looking at more than just the mystery component. So comparing it to something else only as a mystery takes away from what Erased actually is as an anime.

My review of Erased focussed very much on the characters within Erased and their reactions to the situations. I looked at the characters I liked and didn’t and the events that shaped them. Are the characters perfect? Not really. If I compared Erased to other character driven dramas would Erased be the best? Probably not.

But Erased is a character driven drama with mystery and supernatural elements thrown in. It is the combination of all of these things (working together) that make watching Erased a reasonably entertaining experience.


But if we start classifying things like that I may as well say that Taboo Tattoo was the most interesting anime about princesses trying to rewrite the world via the power of sentient tattoos. I’d be right (at least I hope there aren’t any others), but that doesn’t make it a good anime either.


Another anime that I really liked recently was Alderamin on the Sky. I really enjoyed each episode and getting to know the characters, however I found myself regularly pointing out that this anime wasn’t trying to be the most exciting thing in the world. Looking back at my weekly thoughts, I said this a lot.

Why? Because when you do a surface comparison of Alderamin to any of the big anime, Alderamin is going to come off second best. Not because it isn’t a good story with good characters but because it just doesn’t have any of the flash of some of the big names. Any kind of comparison is going to go badly for Alderamin but I would still say you should watch Alderamin.

I also remember a lot of people comparing Shirayuki (from Snow White with the Red Hair) to Yona (Akatsuki no Yona). Yeah they were both red-haired heroines who appeared at around the same time and both ended up being quite independent, female leads. It seems natural to compare them. Except that does it matter if Yona is more active than Shirayuki and learns to shoot a bow?

Does that make Shirayuki any less of a positive, female character in an anime? Does it matter that Shirayuki has far more self-determination right from the start of the series than Yona does in hers? Does that make Yona less of a heroine because her direction was chosen for her by destiny at first?

I’m not actually criticising comparisons. They do work well at highlighting similarities and differences and make you really consider stories and characters. I just wonder what the purpose of some comparisons are and whether there has to be a better or a worse option when things are compared?

What is your view on using comparisons as part of a review?

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James