Paranoia memories: Kon/Ōtomo simulwatch II

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
Welcome to part two of the AUKN Satoshi Kon simulwatch, again with added Katsuhiro Ōtomo!

This time we're watching Kon's 13-episode psychological animated TV drama Paranoia Agent, alongside Memories, a three-part film anthology spearheaded by Ōtomo.

Details of these two titles can be found using the following links:

The table below shows which episode of Paranoia Agent or which segment of Memories we'll be tackling each day. There are gaps in the schedule to accommodate another simulwatch which will run concurrently with this one.

Episode/segment​
Date​
128 Jul
229 Jul
330 Jul
431 Jul
Magnetic Rose2 Aug
54 Aug
65 Aug
77 Aug
Stink Bomb8 Aug
810 Aug
911 Aug
Cannon Fodder13 Aug
1014 Aug
1116 Aug
1217 Aug
1318 Aug

Let's watch, discuss and be freaked out and confused! 😛
But above all, let's enjoy two outstanding animated works that are surely high water marks of anime as a medium.

Don't have nightmares, and please sleep well. 😉
 
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Neil.T

Chuunibyou
Paranoia Agent episode 1

"Don't let yourself get bothered by them. Everybody's just jealous of you, Tsukiko."

♪ Tsunami nado anzuru koto naku! ♪

If Satoshi Kon's opening title sequence for Paprika is the best opening title sequence in anything ever, then this show has one of the best openings of any TV anime. It's also very clearly the precursor to his final film's. I'm always happy to hear that song by regular Kon cohort Susumu Hirasawa, because it means I'm about to watch an episode of Paranoia Agent and get to enjoy something that the late great director left behind for us. God rest.

This first episode introduces us to put-upon popular mascot character designer Tsukiko Sagi (surely an intentional reference to Sailor Moon protagonist Tsukino Usagi). Things go from bad to worse for her here; she's in a creative slump, struggling with pressure and the expectation to deliver another smash-hit creation for her employer's next client. Then on the way home through the dark streets at night, she is taken by surprise by a mystery assailant zipping by on rollerblades and welding a golden baseball bat. Quizzed at the hospital by a pair of detectives after escaping with thankfully only a trivial leg injury, a sinister new fact emerges: the perpetrator was a boy of elementary school age!

While later reading an internet fan forum centered around her, the messages from well-wishers give way to a slew of posts accusing her of having made the entire incident up. She is quickly consoled, however, by her plushy of her much beloved mascot "Maromi the healer dog", who gets up off the floor and starts moving and talking. Surely this, though, is only a figment of a distressed imagination?

We also meet sleazy gossip mag journalist Kawazu, struggling to raise the money to pay for an old man's hospital bills and stave off impending legal action after apparently running him over while driving. Maybe he could rake in some extra cash doing impersonations on TV, because he's bloody good at the ones he did of Tsukiko's co-workers.

Masahiro Ando's character designs for this series are utterly fantastic, giving each cast member a distinctive and memorable look. Observant viewers may even have noticed a cameo appearance by Kiyoko, dropout hero Gin's estranged daughter in Tokyo Godfathers, whom he was reunited with in Kon's previous work while she was working as a nurse.

Also making a cameo appearance here are three of the gossip ladies from that same film. This time they're chattering about the latest urban legend to hit the neighborhood, the rumours of "Shounen Bat"*, the alleged serial attacker who recently claimed his second victim in the luckless Kawazu.


*Though I would normally use an English-translated term where one is available, I avoid the name "Li'l Slugger" because it's dropped from the subtitles part of the way through MVM's UK DVD volumes at least partly due to the fact that it would cause a Japanese pop culture reference in a later episode to fall flat. The name is replaced by the original Japanese one.
 
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Pokémon Master
Paranoia Agent 1

I love the OP for this show. Its upbeat nature weirdly offset by everyone laughing that's kind of creepy but only gets moreso as the song goes on and we get visuals of mushroom clouds and later what seems like multiple explosions happening on Earth as viewed from the moon.

Then we get the intro proper which is a wierd juxtapose of bright daylight with people living their normal lives. But everyone is communicating that they are unhappy in some way. They're late, cant do what they want etc. Its instantly sets an uncomfortable tone. It looks like a nice day but no one is happy. And as the episode continues the news reports make it more explicit saying there is a general malaise in society.

Man that reporter might be one of the most unlikable and slimy characters ever conceived. You feel dirty after almost every scene he's in!

Maybe he could rake in some extra cash doing impersonations on TV, because he's bloody good at the ones he did of Tsukiko's co-workers.
That part was hilarious. In the dub the impressions are done by the voice actresses of the characters hes impersonating which just made it funnier, especially the way he ends up with more and more make up on as the scene goes on. Was it done the same way in Japanese?

Tsukiku is a really interesting character. We see how put upon she is, so its understandable that some people done believe her. And when the plushy starts talking to her you think well if this is the scale of her imagination maybe she did make it up. Then at the end the reporter gets some comeuppance and were left wondering where is this gona go next?!
 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
I love the OP for this show. Its upbeat nature weirdly offset by everyone laughing that's kind of creepy
I started watching the director's commentary for Paprika (which I'll probably continue with in installments), and Satoshi Kon, in the presence of Susumu Hirasawa, the composer, says that his music is "so jubilant that it's disturbing"! 😆
They both laugh.

If I get the chance, I'll maybe drop some snippets from it into the Lain/Kon thread sometime soon.

In the dub the impressions are done by the voice actresses of the characters hes impersonating which just made it funnier, especially the way he ends up with more and more make up on as the scene goes on. Was it done the same way in Japanese?
It was, yeah. Exactly the same. 😆👍
I loved that bit.

Man that reporter might be one of the most unlikable and slimy characters ever conceived. You feel dirty after almost every scene he's in!
God, I laughed when I read that! 😆
It's so true; he makes your skin crawl.
 
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Pokémon Master
Masahiro Ando's character designs for this series are utterly fantastic, giving each cast member a distinctive and memorable look.
Yeah they really are very good. And for such a large cast they make everyone easily rememorable.

Observant viewers may even have noticed a cameo appearance by Kiyoko,
I didn't notice that. It's a nice touch.

I started watching the director's commentary for Paprika (which I'll probably continue with in installments), and Satoshi Kon, in the presence of Susumu Hirasawa, the composer, says that his music is "so jubilant that it's disturbing"! 😆
They both laugh.
Haha it is a mood.
 

Birdie Num Num

Dandy Guy, in Space
Paranoia Agent - Episode 1

I remember watching this show on Youtube many years ago. I am now watching it on DVD (region 1 ones)

Satoshi Kon and Susumu Hirasawa are always a great combination.

With memories of whats to come, I found myself looking at this episode from a different perspective. Noticing little details that I don't think I picked up on, or it could be the DVD quality :D

With subtitles, they called the attacker "Shounen Bat", with "Li'l Slugger" only used for the episode name.
 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
Paranoia Agent episode 2

I reckon my posts in the simulwatch from here on in are just gonna take the form of simple bullet-point lists with some quickfire thoughts. Writing full posts can get pretty time consuming, and I've still got my real job to go to on the side. 😛

So...
  • The opening scene is brilliant. It plays like it's the first episode of its own anime series, introducing its protagonist.
  • Kon's scene transitions continue to innovate and astound, using interesting techniques to visually emphasise key story elements, such as the clever cross-fade between the TV photofit and Yuichi.
  • The incremental defacement of Yuichi's student president campaign poster is another stroke of visual brilliance, as is the way it's soundtracked by malicious gossip.
  • The episode is soundtracked really well overall, using hip-hop DJ-ing for sequences where Yuichi is riding high.
  • Overall, the episode is an engaging and uncompromising take on how a young life is marred through the knock-on effect of something entirely unrelated to the individual himself, as well as taking an objective swipe at the fickle nature of popularity, especially within the school caste system. Kon is careful to make the victim's downfall palatable to the viewer by ensuring that he has an edge of deviousness and arrogance. Sheer genius.

Also...
Though I would normally use an English-translated term where one is available, I avoid the name "Li'l Slugger" because it's dropped from the subtitles part of the way through MVM's UK DVD volumes at least partly due to the fact that it would cause a Japanese pop culture reference in a later episode to fall flat.
I stand partially corrected. The reference was actually in this early episode. An uninformed neighborhood gossip amusingly refers to Shounen Bat as Ougon Bat:
 
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Pokémon Master
Paranoia Agent 2

So back to the OP, I didn't realise how dark so much of the visuals were in thos outside of the obvious bombing ones. Several of the initial backgrounds at the start include things like a trash heap, a battlefield and a destroyed house. With people just stood in them laughing it's all quite sinister

It was interesting that after episode 1 had a very despondant introduction of people being unhappy here we have a main character who is top of the world and the beat at everything. If course soon this comes crashing down. The reality is that his percieved rival probably didnt have anything to do with the rumours but for someone who has everything Ichi is remarkably jealous, petty and insecure. You get the feeling his classmates were waiting for the opportunity to take him down. And its ruthless.

As @Neil.T said the poster getting vandalised as we hear the gossip was a very well crafted bit of storytelling and actually quite similar in it's own way to the reporter doing the impressions last time.

The final sequence where Ichi has a complete breakdown is so well done. The animation becomes so childish and exaggerated just like he is.
 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
So back to the OP, I didn't realise how dark so much of the visuals were
It's genius, innit? You've got those backgrounds teamed with the upbeat music and the way that all the characters are laughing, and it just really screams that something's not right here! "There's something you're not telling us!" 😆
Like, the younger of the two detectives is even falling upside down out of the sky, hands in his pockets, for Christ sake! And the sound of birds chirping.

It's an opening I've never skipped past once. I mean, why would you?!

outside of the obvious bombing ones
♪ Raa-eee-ya ra-ra-e-yo-ra! A magnificent mushroom cloud in the sky ♪

The first shot, actually — of Tsukiko standing on the edge of a roof, shoes in hand — is actually a very blunt suicide reference. Good job the BBFC didn't clock it, or they'd probably have censored the opening sequence too. 😑

(More on that come episode 8. Possibly a lot more.)

The final sequence where Ichi has a complete breakdown is so well done. The animation becomes so childish and exaggerated just like he is.
It's a bit of a Yuasa moment, for sure. 😛

That's what came to mind watching it this time, anyway: last time, I wasn't even familiar with his bendy animation style yet. Crazy thought. 🤔
 
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Birdie Num Num

Dandy Guy, in Space
Paranoia Agent - Episode 2

I've just finished watching it, and you guys have pretty already said what I was thinking.

The transitions from day dream to reality, the poster basically showcasing the progression of the bullying, and possibly his state of mind.

The end scene where he steps outside reminded of paprika, where the detective is trying to run down the corridor, the floor/pavement.

I can't remember if it's answered later on, but hopefully it is.. why was Shogo carrying that palm tree..
 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
Paranoia Agent episode 3

Time to quickfire some bullet points again.

  • The opening scene with the fat otaku paints an unflinchingly disturbing picture of certain sections of anime fandom, some of whom may even be watching.
  • The content of this episode as a whole is kind of a callback to Perfect Blue's theme of duality.
  • I didn't clock it last episode, but Harumi and "Maria" are both voiced in Japanese by Kotono Mitsuishi (Misato in Evangelion).
  • Harumi and her fiancé have a very stiff and formal relationship. In Japanese, she uses polite speech forms towards him, and he uses the -san suffix after her name.
  • The "Prophetic vision" episode previews are an obvious precursor to an element of Kon's later Paprika, where characters affected by the "dream terrorism" deliver rambling, nonsensical monologues that, to the individuals themselves, seem to have some kind of profound point.
  • Kiyoko from Tokyo Godfathers makes another cameo near the end of the episode.
 

WMD

Pokémon Master
Paranoia Agent 3

It's interesting that the start has her lying like a doll for a bit before she suddenly gets up and goes to have a shower. You think the guy is being one type if creepy but it's a whole other type going on. But its a neat visual metaphor for is Maria real or not?

The way the phone messages reveal she is talking to herself and that we've actually met her in the last episode is very well done. It's actually very interesting to a character with multiple personalities that is fully aware she has them from both sides. Which is not something you often see, generally one or more are unaware they are sharing a body.

You can also sympathise with both if them. Both are trying to live this extreme version of life. One OTT party/crazy/live on a whim and the other OTT boring/mundane/everything in order. They've become the antithesis of each other so of course they cant agree. The truth being neither are really a way to live.

The final shot of her before Lil'Slugger gets her with exaggerated, clown like make up shows how ridiculous and cometragic her life has become. (If only she'd watched Avengers Endgame she'd know killing 50% is no way to find balance)
 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
It's interesting that the start has her lying like a doll for a bit before she suddenly gets up
Yeah, I'd registered that exact same thing but wasn't 100 percent sure whether it was the intent or not. Now I'm convinced it is.

It's actually very interesting to a character with multiple personalities that is fully aware she has them from both sides.
It really is. It's a really neat concept, and I like how the script pulls it off so successfully.

The final shot of her before Lil'Slugger gets her with exaggerated, clown like make up shows how ridiculous and cometragic her life has become.
Yeah, that's a real surprise shot, that. Clever and disturbing.

I like the part that leads up to it, too — the "external" shots, as it were, showing that the terrifying ordeal that Harumi is supposedly going through is actually no more than an embarrassing scene of a madwoman dragging herself around in the street.

There's that duality again. On two levels as well.
 
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Pokémon Master
It really is. It's a really neat concept, and I like how the script pulls it off so successfully.
Theres actually a great novella trilogy by Brandon Sanderson called Legion about a guy with multiple personalities and he manifests them as 'imaginary firends' and they work together to solve mysteries. It's really well done.

I like the part that leads up to it, too — the "external" shots, as it were, showing that the terrifying ordeal that Harumi is supposedly going through is actually no more than an embarrassing scene of a madwoman dragging herself around in the street.
Yeah that was very good. A lot like Gollum/Smeagol bits in Lord of the Rings actually.
 

Neil.T

Chuunibyou
Theres actually a great novella trilogy by Brandon Sanderson called Legion
Hahh, no way! At Scotland Loves Anime in Glasgow last year, I got talking to the two guys in the adjacent seats to mine, and one of them recommended a novel called Skyward by the same author.
 

HWR

CCG’s Reaper
AUKN Staff
Every time I read the newest posts in this thread all I can hear is the OP in my head. It’s so gloriously demented and may well be in my top 10 anime OPs (though that’s a thread for another day!).
 

WMD

Pokémon Master
Hahh, no way! At Scotland Loves Anime in Glasgow last year, I got talking to the two guys in the adjacent seats to mine, and one of them recommended a novel called Skyward by the same author.
Skyward is a lot a fun. It's one of his sci fi YA novels. But he also has harder sci fi and fantasy works as well as more YA geared stuff. Hes very good.

He has a really interesting way of world building where he will devise a magic system first- everything it can and cant do. Then do a thought experiment to see how our world would be different in light of that. Only then does he build the fictional world for it and come up with characters and stories. It makes his world building and plots super tight. As although theres magic its not a do anything, Harry Potter, kind of magic.
 

WMD

Pokémon Master
Every time I read the newest posts in this thread all I can hear is the OP in my head. It’s so gloriously demented and may well be in my top 10 anime OPs (though that’s a thread for another day!).
Haha. Somehow I'd forgotten all about it! Shameful I know.
 

Birdie Num Num

Dandy Guy, in Space
Paranoia Agent - Episode 3

I'm going to do bullet points as well. I don't write as much lol.
  • Again, excellent transitions.
  • I loved the scene of Harumi throwing away Maria's belongings in the dump. It was like she was dumping a body.
  • The phone acting as the middle man between the two personalities, until she breaks it and her psyche.
  • Definitely a lot of Perfect Blue vibes in this episode.
 
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