Cracking Classics: A Newbie’s Guide To Paranoia Agent, Episode One – “Enter Lil’ Slugger”
Hell is Other People. And In-Line Skating.
Peeps and geeks of all ages, mosey on down and make yourself comfortable for the first in a series of episodic breakdowns of well-known anime classics that I personally believe any aspiring otaku should take a gander at when surveying the medium for things to watch. We launch the series with Paranoia Agent, Satoshi Kon’s career baby made of thematic scraps and bits that, in the wrong hands could have been made into a tangential congealed mess. As abstract and gut wrenching as it is thrilling, we got ourselves a psychological mystery incorporating horror that is both abject and sympathetic about an anomalous phantom that pops out of one sad girls head, and decides to make a general mess of things round’ the minds of Tokyo.
Our ride through madness and its various methods starts off with a montage of mentally and emotionally strained everyday people avoiding daily responsibilities, all with various degrees of guilt or satisfaction on their actions, but always framing it as being someone else’s fault. We’re then introduced to the most thematically pertinent character in the show…
Yeah, there’s plenty to talk about when it comes to him.
It’s only after this buildup and thematic framing that we’re introduced proper to the brainy herself, Tsukiko Sagi. She was scouted as a character designer after creating the breakout success of Mellow Maromi, a bug eyed cartoon puppy with a flair for the eerie. His popularity can be attributed mainly to the shallow sense of escapism he sprinkles like chamomile fairy dust around anyone in his unstoppable path.
But yeah, back to Tsukiko. We’re introduced to her as a creatively strung-out girl, struggling in what’s supposed to be a promising career, unhappy in a harsh office environment where, on top of constantly feeling an unending pressure to produce something she can’t in an unforgiving industry, is constantly resented by peers who perceive her as unfairly successful and privileged.
After a harsh but all too common workday, during a long, trudging walk home she pleads for some kind of miracle – something to magically spirit her away from her fears and uncertainty, and let her throw consequences to the wind. The entire thing is an appropriately personal scene, showing her in a mental state where she’s incredibly vulnerable, hugging some merch of her precious Maromi for comfort. That is, of course, until she sees that she’s not quite alone in this moment of distress.
The day after the assault comes, and we’re introduced to detectives Ikari and his green gilled partner Maniwa, officially kicking things off with the mystery portion of our show by placing a simple bet: did our golden girl really get attacked? Ikari is perfectly skeptical, using is experience as an intuitive tool, bugged by Tsukiko’s apparent forgetfulness of the night and lack of detail, and Maniwa is an appropriately wide eyed but perceptive newcomer that trust our victim for the time being.
In the meantime, frog faced sensation journalist Kawazu happens to be in the same hospital as our detectives and gets the smell of a new case, starting on a trail all his own. He isn’t above much when it comes to getting money to pay off his ever increasing debt, and it shows in his slimier-then-the-average-bear tactics.
Soon enough, the media and public is in a tizzy, some blaming the carelessness of today’s youth, and others talking about the “vulnerable” and how an unnecessarily stringent and traditional society affects them, and a quick bit about learning the difference between “reality and fiction.” Hmm. Anyway, back in Tsukiko’s room we’re introduced to a new voice, that of Lil’ Maromi himself! Yup, after a stress inducing look at the backlash she’s received, Tsukiko projects a speech full of validation and self-justification onto her stuffed animal, with him saying that it’s just not her fault.
A quick revival of Frogface the next day transitions things to a somewhat uncomfortable scene where he uses further underhanded tactics to corner her. Sitting down at a café, he barrages her with discomfort in everything from the way he talks about the uncomfortable office environment and doing… well… this shit.
All of this sort of triggers a flashback for Tsukiko, and she gathers a new memory about Lil Slugger, namely that he uses golden in-line skates for all assaulting needs and brings this new version of our phantom to the detectives. Of course, this only plants even more seeds of evil in the public consciousness.
And then, after all of the speculation and mystery, and only ever hearing second hand anything about Lil’ Slugger, we see him shiny and full-formed in all of his calm, calculating glory in front of Tsukiko, with Kawazu in short pursuit. In the meantime, our detectives are hot on a strange, new beat.
Handy dandy things to look out for:
- Sheesh, what’s with all the weird symbolic interaction between Maromi and Tsukiko?
- Remember the old homeless lady brought up occasionally and hospitalized catatonic dude? They prove themselves to be rather important when the really weird stuff gets thrown down.
- Weirdly (or perhaps not), Tsukiko only comes to the police with the in line skate thing after seeing them stroll past her in a deliberately uncomfortable situation.
- That TV speech sure was weird, wasn’t it?
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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