Cracking Classics: A Newbie’s Guide to Paranoia Agent, Episode 7- “MHz”
Mystery loves some greyscale.
Well, there’s no going back to base camp now. Our detectives have found themselves in the belly of this mystery’s beast, and both are lead to quite the impasse. So, like most great duos, they split up, taking different paths that have been set in place in some ways since the fifth episode that are respective to their skills, setting a precedence on not only how they crack the case but where. An explanation is to follow.
The show also takes another interesting turn in atmosphere for this particular episode. Tthe episode itself is barely colored (or animated) to begin with, opting for still-faced close ups that take forever instead of moving mouths in extended dialogue and a palate of dark browns combined with a weird sort of florescent lighting that cast faces in half shadow to the point where features and expressions are obscured. The same goes for when there’s dialogue and it’s too dark to see anything but muddled silhouettes. However, like many elements in this show, what seems like a setback is almost entirely backwritten appropriately; in this case (maybe) budgetary constraints are utilized to fit an episode where lines between reality and fiction, victim and perp, and paths to the truth are more blurred than ever.
With Tsukiko in a coma and the various victims post-attack lives becoming more tangential (with their most recent victim now mentally impaired while Ushiyama seems like a total outlier in more ways than one), the methods and MO of Lil’ Slugger grow more obscure by the day. This puts Maniwa in quite the thinker’s chair, and already he seems… different. During the beginning of the episode he’s seen meditating on a desk chair, keeping an ear to surrounding radio frequencies, almost as if to visualize his thought synapsis probe and analyze the surrounding din of seemingly conflicting information that only grows more inscrutable by the day.
While Maniwa’s mind is among FM particles, Ikari stays relatively grounded, distancing himself enough from the case to work with what he can understand (in this case, insistent that there’s one culprit). And here’s where things start to take a turn for the… Kubrikian for Maniwa when we get a lil’ peak into what might be going on in his thought processes.
They both go back to questioning Kozuka about the victims in hopes of “breaking the castle wall”, and of course our holy warrior sticks to his defenses, looking to Maniwa to validate his story, but no one’s biting. Hurt feelings aside, it’s soon found out that yeah, the kid has such a weird, misshapen sense of identity that he filled in by projected positive traits via lil’ slugger, and he had only attacked two people. There also comes a shift in paradigm here with just how the two detectives will be solving the case from now on, both relating to their framed architypes.
The catalyst to this is brought on by an epiphany given to Maniwa in the form of a transcendent experience that brings him to faux-sluggers imaginary kingdom, and the old man master (symbolic for things in the “real world” that transcend understanding) explains things via magic show. And so starts Maniwa’s path to becoming kind of an anti-slugger now, using the abstract to find the truth instead of blurring it.
Maniwa’s unbinding search takes him to question Hirukawa, who at this point is slipping in and out of lucidity, haunted by his daughters face during any brief moment of consciousness. Yikes. But these findings do let Maniwa know that Lil’ Slugger is indeed an entity that has to be called (interestingly enough, in the dub he calls him “kid” at this point). Realizing this, he and Ikari rush back to the police station to Kozuka only to find…
With this disaster under the agency’s belt, our detectives are officially off the grid as far as the case is concerned. It’s also soon obvious that this entire process and the subsequent frustrations and obsessions correlating to the case take a toll physically as well as psychologically on Maniwa. He’s rapidly losing weight, and as you see him shift between not only the abstract and concrete, and see this paralleled with the slow degradation of his cognitive functions, as is evidenced by his constant internal brooding on the case, which is occasionally visualized by him walking in an imagined location. It’s appropriate, because much like how the mystery shifts between the ghost and human attackers, Maniwa now exist between two realities in an attempt to pursue bat boy: the one where Kozuka is a wannabe ghost (“real” world) and the other- the land of holy warriors. Where the fun my stop now, no one knows.
Rachael’s a student at a Florida university that frolics regularly in Disney parks and has an entirely too extensive collection of stuffed animals. If you wanna follow her other random musings on cartoons (or just stop by to say hi) there’s her blog https://lotsofframes.wordpress.com/.
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