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Since its original airing in 2004, Satoshi Kon has continually enthralled audiences with subliminal messages in his groundbreaking series debut Paranoia Agent. Those who have experienced the first volume or indeed any of Kon’s masterpieces may think that they know what to expect. In reality, this filmmaker thrives on unpredictability, confusion and unadulterated surrealism. Following the events of the notorious rollerblading assailant, the second volume reveals episodes five to seven in this unbelievable thirteen part series.

Paranoia Agent Vol. 2

The Series


Two detectives begin to interrogate an arrested boy over the Lil’ Slugger incidents, where a serial attacker has been striking down victims with his golden baseball bat. In an unexpected turn, the detectives discover that the boy is lost in his own mind, living out a role playing fantasy where he calls himself the Holy Warrior. Dragging the detectives into his private sanctuary, the boy provides a colourful reconstruction of his recent quest and explains the motives behind his actions.

The next episode sees the introduction of a minor character from the first episode—the homeless old woman, desperately seeking her lost granddaughter. Incidentally, she also witnessed the first reported attack on Tsukiko and claims that her injuries were self inflicted. In a completely different timeline, flashbacks of a young girl reveal a family relationship that began so promisingly but ended in disaster. The lives of these multiple protagonists clash just as Tokyo faces one of the most ferocious tropical storms in recent years.

In the concluding episode, new evidence raises further questions behind the serial attacks. Firstly, the detectives discover that the boy in question is likely to be a disturbed impersonator—the real attacker is still at large. Detective Maniwa investigates deeper into the phenomenon; it would seem that the assailant only appears when his victims reach the lowest state of depression and desperately want to escape. Through abstract dreams and visions, Maniwa now knows exactly what he has to do.

Paranoia Agent Vol. 2
We have reached the show’s epicentre, where the fabrics of time have collided with the central characters to illustrate how integral everyone is to the tale. Kon continues to expand on his paranoia themes, revolving around delusions, panic and mass hysteria. His subjectively distorted narrative is effective in portraying the aforementioned ideas - that human beings are susceptible to petty arguments, which can evolve into enormous desolations if not treated correctly.

The director’s traditional traits are becoming more evident, as he leads the audience into a false sense of security. Within three episodes, Kon investigates contradicting styles that take a walk with your emotions. Rather abruptly he alters from a frolic tone to an unpleasant atmosphere, soaking the characters in shame and misery. The character studies are immensely thorough and far more effective than most live action productions. Kon is a unique visionary who can harness the power of animation to deliver precise examinations of social depressions. Ultimately, it is his love for storytelling over anime exploitation that is a prerequisite for success in all his titles.

The company responsible for the wonderful animation is Madhouse Studios, whose vast resume includes such titles as Ninja Scroll, Vampire Hunter D and Prefect Blue. The quality of animation is ravishing, a unique mix of blurry abstract shapes and rich blood-soaked details. Madhouse manage to seamlessly capture the torment of each character by focusing on the more subtle actions—lingering off-axis shots and unorthodox framing are far more persuasive than mere facial expressions.

Paranoia Agent Vol. 2
Whilst the series is superb so far, it is somewhat irritating the way that Paranoia Agent has been released on DVD. With only thirteen episodes lasting around twenty-five minutes each, the entire collection could have easily been crammed onto two discs. With six more episodes to go, it will be interesting to see how MVM handle the future releases. In general, anime has always been expensive and slow to collect and it is surprising that distributors do not just release the entire collection in one step, making it convenient for the viewer. If popular US shows such as Lost and Twenty Four are easily available in affordable season boxed sets, I do not see why the same cannot be applied to anime.

Video


Paranoia Agent is presented in an anamorphic widescreen format, maintaining an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Once again, the series has been subjected to an NTSC to PAL conversion. Subsequently, the screen is riddled with serious interlacing issues, namely extensive ghosting and combing but these are only evident during major body movements. Facial expressions and mouth formations are kept fluid enough. Primary details are marginally soft but perceptible nevertheless. The transfer’s greatest strength lies with its lovely handling of colours, as the series covers a wide spectrum of subtle shades and tones. Imagine a canvas with smoky browns splashed alongside florescent pinks and reds—the diverse pallet is reproduced with no confliction.

Paranoia Agent Vol. 2

Audio


The second volume includes two Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround tracks in either Japanese or English. Both are admirable efforts with clear distinct dialogue originating from the frontal array and keeping the remaining audio dynamically balanced. Episode five is perhaps the most active in the soundtrack department, constantly challenging the limits of 2.0 Surround technology. The rears exhibit a subtle reverb, which enhance an already hectic environment. Ambient noise is abundant and cleverly executed, especially when the score kicks in during the busier chapters.

The English dubbing is once again of a professional standard, keeping the lip movements synchronised in a timely manner and without compromising much of the translation. Moreover, the voice actors are well suited to their Japanese counterparts. For those who require subtitles, they can either be displayed during the Japanese signs or at all times, in a bright yellow font.

Extras


Everything is crammed on a DVD-5, so supplementary materials are minimal this time round. For purists, there are the original Japanese opening and closing credits. Other than that, there are a few trailers and DVD credits.

Paranoia Agent Vol. 2

Overall


Satoshi Kon once again submerges viewers in familiar territory, exploring the nature of extreme hysteria and its effect on delusional individuals. A compelling social commentary, Paranoia Agent wonderfully orchestrates comical elements during unpleasant situations, as events begin to spiral out of control. As disturbing as it is delightful, Kon’s latest has yet to display any signs of weakness or incompetence. Finally, a solid anime series for adults to enjoy.


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