Tuesday, 19 August 2014

This Show Aired A Decade Ago: Paranoia Agent

If you're a first year film student who's just heard the word "Auteur", Satoshi Kon is a man whose works you can have a ton of fun with. His films and single TV show he directed ooze with recurring visuals, techniques and storytelling. He often hired certain actors, and in some cases gave them similar relationships. It could be easy to describe the man as simply being a director of dark satire, but let's take a quick rundown of what the stories he told were:
Perfect Blue - Girl goes crazy
Millenium Actress - Guys interview old actress while filming a documentary about the studio she worked for.
Tokyo Godfathers - Homeless people looking for an abandoned baby's mother.
Paranoia Agent - Serial attacks by a kid with roller blades and a baseball bat.
Paprika - Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

Having watched the show again recently, I feel that Paranoia Agent is the middle ground of his works. Perfect Blue and Paprika sit on the pessimistic extreme of his ideas and stories. Millenium Actress and Tokyo Godfathers sit on the lighthearted optimistic end. Paranoia Agent is right in the middle.

Back when the show aired all I can recall people talking about is how strange, creepy and confusing the show seemed. Looking back, it's the most satirical, and possibly the most... flamboyant work he did. There's questions of the supernatural and the looming sense of inevitability to each attack by the kid doing the thumping, but it's used to create comedy as much as suspense. The irony of people using serious injury to resolve their own faults is a joke. The way that people poke fun of the attacks over time as they get more frequent is a joke. Suicidal people chase the attacker through towns trying to get him to kill them. Old housewives run competitions to see who best weave him into their daily gossip. People ignore murders if it means they can get a thrilling story or a completed cartoon production on time. Sometimes the joke will be delivered through straightforward visuals and an ironic situation. Sometimes a serious explanation will have goofy designs and silly palette choices. Sometimes the show becomes a videogame. It takes serious subject matter and makes fun it in whatever way will entertain best. It does what good satire should do.

The show's an excellent example of how to pace a weekly broadcast with a fixed episode count that is expected to have a beginning, middle and end. It establishes a formula. It runs with the formula long enough that it can make fun of it. It introduces new perspectives that change how you view the content. Then it rebuilds the formula from there, only to trash it another couple of episodes down the line again. The next episode previews are entertaining in their shameless obscurity.

There's a lot of things I could say about this show. There's a great deal of ways I could say it as well. I could talk about its shot composition and character designs that range from average attractiveness to ugly. I could talk about its themes. I could talk about its themes in relation to Kon's feature films. I could talk about its sound design. Its recurring images. I could do all that because all of those things are interesting aspects of the show. That's what it means for a text to actually have depth. It means there's ways to dive in and explore what's being presented for longer than 200 words.

In other words, the show is still great. Go watch it and enjoy a fun cartoon.

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