Review: Mousou Dairinin (Paranoia Agent)

[Synopsis]: After achieving commercial success with her latest character design Maromi, Tsukiko Sagi (Noto Mamiko), an introverted artist, becomes pressured to repeat her accomplishment. On the way home one night, she is attacked by a young boy wearing golden, inline skates and wielding a bent baseball bat. The detectives that sign on to her case initially dismiss the story however soon afterward a second attack is reported. The assailant, dubbed Shounen Bat because of his iconic weapon of choice, becomes linked to numerous attacks across the city and out of these occurrences is born a legend – of an uncatchable, mysterious boy who appears before you in the moments of your greatest, emotional crisis.

[Characters]: 

The first thing to understand about Mousou Dairinin is that, like Kon’s other works, it is rather unconventional. This abnormality manifests in a number of ways from the style of the storytelling, to the visuals, to of course the cast of characters. While there are a few people that show up more often than others such as Tsukiko Sagi and the detectives Ikari and Maniwa, the show explores its grander story through a series of interpersonal vignettes under the umbrella of a larger, ongoing narrative. This gives the cast a lot of diversity and range, featuring schoolboys, corrupt policemen, prostitutes, journalists, and more. Mousou Dairinin is as much about the society of these characters and our world as it is about them individually – perhaps even more so.

So how are these people connected? The answer is twofold and therein lies the mass appeal of the characters and the clever way in which they are each implemented. The mystery of Shounen Bat binds these characters together. He appears in each of their stories when the characters feel pressured or cornered by their personal circumstances and assaults them. Though they are victims in this way, they are also liberated by his assault – thereafter bereft of the struggles that plagued them and pushed them to the emotional brink.

Shounen Bat is a phenomenally interesting character. The show is of course concerned with his crimes and the endeavors of the detectives to apprehend him but the themes that surround him and the narrative context within which he appears makes him fascinating. There is a mythologizing that happens as the show transforms him from criminal into transcendent legend. He’s so interesting because it’s not just about what he means as a character but what he means to other people – who Shounen Bat is and what he represents to each of the characters in the show. Is he a demon who assaults others when they are at their most vulnerable or an angel delivering salvation by means of a crooked bat to the side of the head?

What makes the cast of Mousou Dairinin so compelling is that they are just as interesting and well-written within the scope of their own lives as they are within the context of the greater story. These people are hauntingly authentic and their lives are littered with the most minute of details that coalesce to form wonderfully complicated and tragic stories. It’s in the interplay between the themes of their own intimate narratives and the mystery of Shounen Bat that these people begin to possess such immense meaning and life.

[Art/Animation]: 

Those familiar with Kon’s directing style should know what to expect when it comes to his work and his technique certainly shows up in full here. The directing is infinitely inventive, full of clever match cuts, surreal visuals, clever use of shadows, indirect imagery, and perspective. The show has a wide variety of methods through which it tells its story, from the impressively realistic and grounded setting of the show’s early episodes to the strange and bizarre environments of the later episodes, to the show’s most outlandish, pop-culture, homage-heavy settings.

Ever a staple of Kon’s work, the character designs are incredible. The diversity of body types, facial expressions, hair, and character movement is just as impressive as it is in his each of his movies. While Mousou Dairinin can’t match the fluidity of the animation present in his other works, the realistic and expressive style of character animation is none the less present. Mousou Dairinin’s breathtaking verisimilitude allows for a very believable setting and series of stories but also plays well off of the show’s penchant for the surreal. The authenticity of the characters and their world is put to great use as it makes the bizarre and dreamlike developments and visuals seem all the more strange and out of place.

[Story]: 

Perhaps more than anything, Mousou Dairinin possesses a great sense of storytelling and mystery. It’s full of compelling character stories that come to life within the flare of Kon’s directing style and become all the more engaging because of the many themes present in each of them. While the overarching story details the various incidents involving Shounen Bat and his affect on society, the stories that take place within that larger narrative are the meat of the show.

Individually, Mousou Dairinin is about a young, respected school boy who feels the world has turned against him. It’s about a woman battling for control of her life while she suffers from multiple personality disorder. It’s about a sleazy, freelance journalist desperate to find his next big story in order to pay off his debts. It’s about a crooked policeman doing anything he has to in order to fulfill his fantasies. It’s about three online friends who meet each other for the first time in order to commit suicide. Each story is as engaging as the last and what were already compelling narratives are given even greater intrigue when juxtaposed to what they mean for the main, ongoing mystery.

More so than even Shounen Bat, what links these characters and stories together are the themes present in each of them. Themes of running away from your problems, of coming to terms with reality, and persevering through turmoil permeate each episode of the show. They invigorate already captivating character vignettes with additional meaning that plays wonderfully into Mousou Dairinin’s sense of society and coping. The idea that stories are a product of perception blends incredibly well into the show’s use of surrealism where it quickly becomes hard to distinguish between what is real and what isn’t. This amalgamation of reality and fantasy is where the show becomes most provocative and where Kon’s methods of storytelling are allowed the most room to flourish. It can become very strange and even esoteric at times but the essence of the show imbues even the most outlandish of scenes with insightful meaning.

[Sound]: 

As expected of Hirasawa Susumu, the soundtrack is great. In a way that only Kon and Susumu have been able to accomplish, the music near-perfectly supports the mystery and the apprehension of each story while simultaneously encapsulating the surrealism of the presentation. If you’ve enjoyed the soundtracks of Kon’s other works, then you’ll find this show just as enjoyable.

[Final Thoughts and Rating]: 

I think the ending of the show does a lot for it. Not only does it wrap up the overarching mysteries of the show well but it ties together a lot of the themes at play into a very nice conclusion. The ending justifies a lot of the earlier lunacy that takes place and legitimizes a few episodes or scenes that might have otherwise felt like outliers.

Rating: 9

I gave Mousou Dairinin a 9 because its presentation was incredibly captivating, its various societal messages and themes formed a great backdrop to each of the stories, and the great cast of characters were interesting on two fronts. They were well-written but also played into one another phenomenally well despite only occasionally interacting with each other. It was very thoughtful and inventive in what it wanted to say and do and succeeded in following through on those things without losing sight of the underlying purpose of each of its scenes.

[Recommendations]: 

I would recommend Mousou Dairinin to anyone looking for a great psychological drama. The adult themes and grounded setting set the show up for a more mature audience looking for something provocative. If the unconventional style of storytelling or the twisted subject matter of the show sound appealing, then it’s well worth checking out. If you are already a Kon fan then this is a must-watch.

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8 thoughts on “Review: Mousou Dairinin (Paranoia Agent)

  1. This show is definitely one that doesn’t come together until the end. You really need to stick it out and the pay off in this instance is worth the wait. However, I do understand why some people might drop this earlier on given how strange it seems at times. I found the show and characters fascinating and I’m glad I watched it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have started an dropped this show several times over the years… I dunno what it is about the show, but I can never seem to get past the third episode! But, if like tou say, the ending is worth it, I might just have to pick this show up again!

    Like

  3. Pingback: In Case You Missed It | 100WordAnime

  4. I haven’t watched this show yet. I’ll put it on my to-watch list, and I’ll watch it eventually. Anything of Kon Satoshi is bound to be intriguing…albeit confusing at times. But that’s one of the charms of his shows. Anyway, thank you very much for submitting this review to my blog carnival. Keep on watching anime and blogging. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. One of my favorite animes, for all the reasons you listed. Smart, clever, insightful, and real. My girlfriend and I were lucky enough to happen on this one night on Adult Swim, and fell in love with it.

    In particular was a scene in the final episode, where Ikari accepts reality. Such a powerful scene. Beautiful, painful, poignant and heartbreaking all at once. Powerful writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Even being familiar with Kon’s other works I still went in unsuspecting. There’s just so much meaning that perforates each level of the story that keeps it so entertaining. I agree, that scene was great. Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

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