Paranoia Agent – Episode 10

Dear lord did Paranoia Agent ever rally back. After tossing off what was easily its weakest episode so far, Paranoia Agent apparently decided it was time to throw out a trump card, and so tossed off an episode that skewered the fuck out of anime production while simultaneously working as a self-contained/beautifully composed horror story and also indulging in some lovely new visual tricks besides. This was an episode I’d heard of – given the current existence of Shirobako, it was probably impossible for someone as weirdly embedded in the western anime subculture as me to avoid having heard of “the Paranoia Agent anime episode.” But even for all the unfortunate baggage I’d carried to this episode courtesy of smug old-school fans shitting on Shirobako (which is a goddamn masterpiece, and will easily outlive the scorn of naysayers), I was pretty blindsided by this episode’s unimpeachable quality. Great visuals, fantastic use of classic Kon-isms, and a biting, passionate take on the anime industry. Couple that with a larger frame that actually fits well into Paranoia Agent’s structure, and you’ve got an episode that easily earned its sterling reputation. Paranoia Agent does not fuck around.

You can check out my full review over at ANN (and I go kinda deep on this one, getting pretty specific in my praising of its various aesthetics tricks), or run down my episode notes below!

Paranoia Agent

A completely new, almost crayon-styled children’s cartoon aesthetic. A boy with a bat walking, and then the mascot appears

This art style’s wonderful. Pastels, soft lines, exaggerated horizon lines to make the whole world seem small

He reminisces on missing a pitch, the mascot walks up to him

And the art style switches to uncolored key frames for his reaction shot. Cute

More uncolored key frames scattered throughout, complete with notes on motion

“Take a rest.”

And then it switches to the director storyboards for a moment, and then we’re out in the animation studio

They’re doing the VA sessions for “Mellow Maromi,” a new show based on the mascot

Cute cutaway explanation of what a production manager is, courtesy of Maromi-chan

Apparently the original director ran away, so the production’s behind schedule, so they barely have the materials they need to properly dub to

Kon’s favorite trick – the production manager nods off in the studio, wakes up driving his car

Heavy rains and flood warnings

Nice direction of this car sequence, really grounds us here

Saruta is his name

Again, great use of incidental sound to set the atmosphere – the humming of the car, the regular sweep of the windshield wipers. It lulls us like it lulls Saruta

The writer is hospitalized, paralyzed from the arms down. The whole studio’s grumbling about it

Shirobako this ain’t – the whole studio’s a sagging, depressed-seeming place. Of course it is – this is Kon

And we meet another production manager, Nobunaga Oda. The audio refers to this guy as “desk,” so he’s gotta be the Miyamori-role one

The guy from H&M, the mascot company, comes over with plushies

Oh man, Shounen Bat skating silently along behind him on the highway. Real horror again

More hyper closeups to create uncomfortable spaces

Our viewpoint character is basically Tarou

Another staff member has an accident

Wild animation of Saruta taking out his frustration on old key frames

The rainy car ride is a framing device for the whole episode. Nodding in and out

And he sees Shonen Bat approaching in the rear view. The untrustworthy mirror, another classic horror device

He misses the air time. “It’s not my fault!” he repeats – and then sees his own arm is no longer colored

He’s being undrawn… but it was all a dream, and now he’s back in the car

Constant repetition of that shot of the fuel and time. Another classic Kon trick

Episode director Wanibuchi was attacked by Shonen Bat

The animation director also got hit by Shonen Bat

Saruta immediately folds up the art director’s background work. Wow

And the radio starts blaring the opening song, lol

GREAT match cut of a slap from the director transitioning to him skidding against the highway wall

Everyone either quits or gets hit by Shonen Bat. Kon not pulling punches – in the anime industry, everyone’s stuck in a corner

So it was Saruta himself with the bat. Wonderful shot as the phone rings

Yep, a condemnation of the whole industry. The next in line yanking completed work from the prior’s cold, dead hands

“Take a rest. Take a rest.” And then the tv shuts off. Brilliant episode

5 thoughts on “Paranoia Agent – Episode 10

  1. Shirobako (which is a goddamn masterpiece)

    Actually, it’s merely pretty good. I enjoyed it, but wow am I ever sick of the K-On levels of “it’s a masterpiece” vs “it’s the worst anime evar”. It’s hardly a cohesive narrative, it’s repetitive to a fault (the second half is basically a repeat of the first), the characters are barely given any depth compared to the length of the anime, and it’s pretty sad how little bite it actually has compared to how self-congratulatory it is for its industry.

    If we’re lucky then it (along with Uchouten Kazoku) will have at least started a trend in PA Works to make better anime, but given Charlotte and their other upcoming project, I can’t yet see whether they’re aiming any higher than before.

    • “the second half is basically a repeat of the first”
      Umm no it isn’t?

      New characters and dynamics
      Continuation of ongoing character arcs
      Emphasis on what goes into adapting somebody else’s material as opposed to making an original work
      Yeah there was enough going on the 2nd half to retain the show’s freshness.

      • The differences are really much slighter than you’d think given your synopsis. In fact they’re downright superficial for the most part. There was one character from the first half who got substantial development, which was nice. The new characters didn’t really add much, though. They didn’t really even spend much time showing how different it is making an adaptation, except to keep bringing up the comical jackass editor. They still made a goofy anime and treated themselves like heroes for what amounts to just doing their jobs. There were a couple of episodes that made the second half worthwhile, but not so many of them that I’d consider it “fresh” and not mostly repetitive compared to the first half.

        Again, it was still fun and entertaining. But it’s only a masterpiece if you ignore all of its flaws, and don’t think the guys who made it will ever be able to top it. Which saddens me. I’d like to think that this is just the start of PA Works making actually noteworthy anime.

    • Agree with this. Shirobako is no doubt a good and entertaining series, but it’s hardly a masterpiece. I don’t think it will stand the test of time.

  2. (About Shirobako) “a goddamn masterpiece, and will easily outlive the scorn of naysayers
    That is a brilliantly eloquent way of saying “haters gon hate”. Hats off to you, sir.

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