Paranoia Agent
Volume 4 - Sayonara Maromi

Starring (voice): Mamiko Noto, Haniko Momoi and Mayumi Yamaguchi
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 22 May 2006

From the genius mind of Satoshi Kon, the visionary and award-winning director responsible for the anime features
Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers and Millennium Actress, comes Paranoia Agent, a 13-episode series which reaches its final volume with this release. Kon has brilliantly translated the stunning cinematic style and quality of his earlier features to this truly innovative anime series. The show's intricately plotted storyline and strong characterisations bear more relation to the works of David Lynch than to the usual anime fare...

In Entry Forbidden, Keiichi Ikari has started work as a guard at a construction site. He recognises one of his new colleagues as a man he put in prison years before. Later Ikari starts to reminisce about how great the world was when he was younger, and before he knows it he has entered a strange two-dimensional world where everything is perfect. Meanwhile Keiichi's wife, Misae, returns home to find Lil' Slugger waiting for her. As he is about to attack her she starts to unburden her past troubles, as well as her incurable illness. It soon becomes apparent that Lil' Slugger can only attack those that are weak and have given up all hope. Any signs of a strong personality and he starts to get weak - he feeds off people's weaknesses and their paranoia. Misae realises that Lil' Slugger's doesn't really exist and that he is merely an illusion. Furious that he has been rumbled, Lil' Slugger vanishes.

Radar Man: After an encounter with Lil' Slugger, Mitsuhiro Maniwa asks the strange old man for advice. The old man dies after mentioning something about a rabbit. Maniwa turns up at the Ikari house to find that Lil' Slugger and Maromi (the cute little dog creation that is sweeping Japan by storm) are one and the same. Digging around, he discovers that an incident that is very similar to the recent spate of Lil' Slugger attacks occurred ten years previously. What's stranger is that the victim was Tsukiko Sagi, the creator of Maromi. Maniwa tracks down Sagi's father and discovers the truth behind the attack.

In Final Episode, Keiichi is still living in the strange two-dimensional world. He realises that this world is a product of his imagination and starts to destroy it. Meanwhile a huge formless cloud starts to engulf Tokyo. The cloud is the new manifestation of Lil' Slugger. Maniwa is all that stands in the way of Lil' Slugger's plans - as he believes he has a weapon that should destroy Lil' Slugger once and for all.

I concluded my review of Volume 3 by saying: "I hope that everything will be resolved in a way that won't have us scratching our heads and asking 'Eh?'" Sadly, for the most part, this is exactly what happens. The ending doesn't clear that much up, and it doesn't make that much sense either - almost as thought the writer ran out of ideas and thought: "I know. I'll end it without explaining everything and then I'll look like a genius." You may come to this conclusion, or you may feel cheated.

Extras are a little healthier than the previous volumes in this collection. This time we get audio commentaries with Satoshi Kon (creator and director), Seishi Minakami (script writer), and Satoki Toyoda (producer) on all episodes, as well as trailers for other releases.

The audio commentaries are interesting. They reveal that the opening credits are not supposed to mean anything at all - despite the fact that there are Internet chatrooms filled with theories on what all the segments mean. It was also interesting to discover that this show was originally broadcast late at night and the reason why the opening title music is so manic and the closing sequence music is so mellow is down to the fact that they wanted the opening sequence to wake the audience up and the closing titles to prepare them for going to sleep.

At the end of the day this is going to divide those that have sat through the entire series. Some will believe it to be a stroke of genius to leave everything so unresolved, while others will feel cheated. Personally I did feel slightly short changed, but then I also thought that the reveal of how Lil' Slugger was originally created was a little unoriginal. I also couldn't help thinking of Akira in the scenes in Final Episode where Lil' Slugger is engulfing Tokyo.

However, now that the whole series is completed, I do feel compelled to go back and watch all of the episodes again so that I can pick up any subtle references that I will have missed the first time around. And surely that's a good thing - that a show that ends so oddly still invites a second viewing.

Darren Rea

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