Cracking Classics: A Newbie’s Guide to Paranoia Agent, Episode Two – “The Golden Shoes”
Golden boys like their toys …
Psychosis is often reflective of external environments. For example, the Truman Show delusion is a relatively modern psychological enigma where a patient, through some sort of disconnect in cognitive assessment ability devolves into a paranoid delusive state of believing that he/she is being watched by the entire world, the themes of such delusive states usually involving some sort of persecution framing, but with substantially less Jim Carrey.
Now, I won’t get into the complexities of the systems or perplexities that lead to something on that scale (as the episode doesn’t involve it) but we do get to the root of these extremely real and pertinent themes by looking into the perspective of someone who would be extremely vulnerable to those external factors—with an egocentric view of the world—and sees it crash before his eyes via sucky universe. That perspective, naturally, comes from a young kid who happens to have been raised as a bit of a golden child, so to speak. Now, one particularly interesting thing to note about this episode before we get to the grit and gristle is that its framing is unique, that being almost entirely in the mind of the main victim, allowing, amongst other things, for a litany of fascinating visuals that fit our protagonist’s mindset to a tee.
Unlike most middle schoolers, Yuichi Taira’s got it pretty much made. He’s admired among neighbors and peers for his athletic prowess and good grades that he gets to take to a stable home, and he’s generally considered to be a nice due to not being terribly ostentatious and being tactically relatable to his peers combined with a good ol’ boy grin. The only problem is *record scratch* golden skates complete his sporty ensemble. Thanks to Tsukiko, our golden boy here gets to be put under fire in a perfect maelstrom that gives a lovely little myopia of screwy childhood feelings and perspectives.
Yuichi’s not a bad kid per say. Sure, in his intro speech he reveals himself to be a bit of a typical arrogant prat, calling himself a hero and convincing himself that he can do no wrong. Like most kids, he’s egocentric and thinks that the entirety of the world revolves around him, assuming that everyone is just revving up to gaze at his amazing smile, but he’s sorta lived in a golden bubble his entire life. And, well, that’s about to be burst, for better or worse.
He notices times are a changin’ one morning when he seems strangely ignored by his peers. A news broadcast reveals that Yuichi shares a few physical similarities with Lil Slugger. Were this a better world, he would up the charm to prove himself to his classmates and take the win … But alas, Satoshi Kon be a cruel master.
Enter Shogo Ushiyama, a sixth grade transfer running alongside our hero for student body. Shogo unknowingly becomes an object of salience to our skater boy, due to the fact that they’re pretty much the opposite of each other, and Yuichi’s cognitive understanding processes crackle at the thought of someone “lower” than him becoming more popular or validated. Because of this weird disconnect between cognitive logic created by a sensationalist media and some fucked up personal parameters that were already established (see above), Ichi soon takes on any negative value he can to Shogo, calling him a poor pig and such. Soon enough, that leads him to thinking that the new weird kid would actively try and destroy his reputation so that he could be the big dog on campus.
After school, our protag is able to reassess his crazy day by sitting down with one Harumi Chono, Yuichi’s private tutor who he happens to keep around due to a soppy, gooey crush. Now more than ever, he seeks her guidance, but little does he know that will get him nowhere. His romanticizing and gushing helps to center and re-evaluate things, sure, but as we all know, adults are rarely, if ever, the bastions of wisdom kids make them out to be (which is, by the way, I think a pretty appropriate thematic choice in direction). And oh boy, is Harumi more than meets the eye.
Deciding to go forward without adult help, Yuichi takes all of these fucked up insecurities and cognitive parameters and downright physically intimidates Shogo by force … after which …
Naturally, Ichi’s situation and reputation can only take a graceless swan dive. But there’s a silver lining! Our detectives, trying to fish out suspects through anyone Tsukiko may have known, questions him, nay proving his innocence. Here, we get an interesting little visual of a hazy redemption fantasy of his, which primarily revolves around others begging for his forgives and hating Shogo. Unfortunately …
Resigned and hopeless, Ichi walks home next to his rival, insanely jealous and annoyed. He fantasizes about the poor kid getting attacked, and frames it around him catching the perp and redeeming himself, being a golden god once more. Yup. Doesn’t happen. Shogo gets attacked, and no one’s there to vouch for lil’ Ichi.
It’s only then in his delusive state when chasing after the phantom that he, quite literally, loses his entire perception of self until one is part of the other.
At school, he’s officially no longer himself. He’s Lil Slugger to others, and this causes him to avoid school, leaving him to spiral into thinking that the entire world is falling on top of him until he’s given a good hit goodnight.
Handy dandy things to look for:
*Oh, the visuals haven’t even begun to show their true wakadoodleness yet.
*I didn’t talk about it, but it’s clear though this episode that Tsukiko is only reinforcing her defenses, and that’s shown through childish banter with the detectives.
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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