Paranoia Agent
Volume 1 - Enter Lil' Slugger

Starring (voice): Mamiko Noto, Haniko Momoi and Mayumi Yamaguchi
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 04 July 2005

When a young, successful toy designer, suffering from creative stress, claims she has been attacked by a baseball bat wielding youth on rollerblades, her colleagues and the police suspect it may just be a desperate plea for attention. However, subsequent attacks on several more victims prove otherwise and soon Tokyo is gripped by a form of collective hysteria. As the mystery deepens, the police are forced to ask themselves if the so called Lil' Slugger is real or just an imagined figment brought on by the victims' paranoia...

Volume 1 of Paranoia Agent is a bizarre collection of tales set in Tokyo. Each episode centres on a different character and as the series progresses we see how their very different lives are intertwined.

The four episodes on this disc revolve around a toy designer who is suffering from a creative block, a young and popular schoolboy who suddenly sees his popularity take a dive over night, a woman with a dual personality (she works in the local school by day and is a high class prostitute by night) and a bent police officer who becomes a masked mugger in order to pay off his blackmailer.

Usually, where Japanese animation is concerned, I very rarely listen to the dubbed English soundtrack, preferring to listen to the original Japanese actors and read the English subtitles. This is usually because the English track has a reputation for being poorly acted. Not so with Paranoia Agent. In fact (and I hate to admit this) I found it much more enjoyable to listen to the English soundtrack.

Paranoia Agent is an extremely engaging collection of episodes and I really did get swept up in the story line. The opening titles and end credits are a little bizarre. The show opens with different characters (who all play pivotal roles in the show over time) laughing as a funky soundtrack (with very odd lyrics that lose something in translation) blasts out. The end credits see these same characters apparently asleep in a field as a haunting tune (which you'll find yourself humming for days afterwards) plays over the top.

Extras include a brief interview with the show's director Satoshi Kon, a multi-angle storyboard-to-screen comparison and some trailers for other releases.

If you're new to Japanese animation, then I can think of no better release to get you started than this.

Darren Rea

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