Date DVD #5: Paranoia Agent
Sometimes, it’s best to stop hiding your inner
geek and flaunt it instead. Face it, if you’re an anime lover, your date’s
going to find your stash eventually: it’s as hard to hide as porn. So skip the
dismal, more-depressing-than-titillating A Home at
the End of the World (also out this week) and treat your date to the utterly
unromantic but brilliant Paranoia Agent instead. You know you want it.
Creator Satoshi Kon is a kind of golden god of Japanese anime, adored for Perfect
Blue, and rightly admired for expanding into the increasingly mature narratives
(no, not porn) of his last two features. In his glitzy spectacle Millennium
Actress, Kon composed a stylized riff on the future of celebrity, and in
his Almodovar-esque melodrama Tokyo Godfathers, he tracked a homeless
transvestite and her runaway pals as they took care of an abandoned baby on Christmas
Eve. The first four episodes of new series Paranoia Agent, collected on
a new DVD, are just as confounding. The series operates with a kind of Six
Feet Under structure: In each episode, a character gets whacked.
In this case, each one gets bumped by the dented baseball bat of Lil’ Slugger, a maybe-mythical kid who glides on golden in-line skates and thunks people on the head. The episodes begin with the most absurd theme song imaginable, then settle into eerie tales about a prostitute, a corrupt businessman, a tutor, and a goodie-goodie kid. Each character is missing something — they’re either jealous or angry or sick or hopeless — so it’s impossible to tell if Lil’ Slugger is a serial thumper or just a magical, masochistic figment of the collective imagination. Either way, the animation is so stunning, the tales so odd, and the mood so strangely muted, that the series is a minor marvel. It’s so unusual, your date might even forget about anime’s stereotypical, big-boobed, robotic sex machines — you can slip those in later.