25 Days of Anime - #12: Paranoia Agent

A dark look into the inner workings of the human mind, Paranoia Agent is set in a localized area of Tokyo. It focuses on a small circle of individuals and the way in which they interact with one another, whether consciously or not. The story kicks off with an incident involving a young woman being attacked by a roller skating assailant wielding a bent golden baseball bat. As word of this curious case spreads throughout the immediate community, people begin to come up with their own impressions of the roller skating kid, and dub him "Lil' Slugger".

The cast of Paranoia Agent is an unusual one, to be sure. A split-personality prostitute, a duo of detectives, a sleazy journalist, and a popular middle school student are just a few of the faces that get wrapped up in the rumors surrounding Lil' Slugger. As more people come to hear about the initial attack, they begin to weave tales of their own, claiming he was spotted as such and such place and has odd behavioral tendencies. The more time these characters spend fixating on who the real Lil' Slugger is, the more their perception of reality is altered in accordance with it. One of the detectives chooses to view the case as a battle of might and monsters, while others are less extreme but may lead them to uncover dark truths about themselves or their friends and family.

Because the presentations of all these different visions of Lil' Slugger lack much in the way of concrete evidence, the series does as much to mess with the minds of the characters as it does to mess with the minds of viewers. Each episode ends with more and more possibilities presented to the audience as to the nature of the case, making absolute truth less and less certain. It's a dark and methodical series, despite the aforementioned descent into near-chaos. There are false leads and subplots abound, making the entire viewing experience a most unusual, yet thoroughly satisfying modern detective tale.

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