Paranoia Agent (2004) –
Paranoia Agent is a psychological thriller depicting fear, repression, and mental illness. It was the only TV series that Kon directed, with 13 episodes. The animation was done by Madhouse studio, who he has worked with since Perfect Blue. The story of Paranoia Agent was created from recycled ideas that hadn’t fit into his other works.
Kon stated, “I wanted to do something that allows me to be more flexible, to realize instantly what flashes across my mind.” The series, therefore, follows a large cast of characters, with no real protagonist. Instead, you follow different characters, learning their stories and finding links between them. The only constantly reoccurring characters are a dog mascot called Maromi, who represents denial, and the antagonistic figure, shonen bat.
The colours used in the anime series tend to be more muted and dull which helps portray the constant feeling of unease. The dark colour palette is pushed to the extreme in scenes of emotional duress. However, the colours used in the delusional visions of the characters are bright, along with the backgrounds appearing surreal and fake to highlight it’s not reality. This plays into the motif of reality vs delusion which is a key theme. You are shown what the character is seeing, delving into delusion as well as seeing reality.
Each character is dealing with a different overwhelming problem, the looming sense of fear, stress, and paranoia begins to greatly impact them, fraying their sense of reality and causing a mental breakdown, resulting in Shonen bat appearing and attacking them. The style of the animation changes in some of these scenes where they are unable to cope, using exaggerated facial expressions and different art styles on occasion.
For example, one of the characters, Yuichi, happens to resemble the description of the antagonist and begins to lose his popularity. As he is bullied he becomes so paranoid and desperate that he wishes he were to be attacked so everyone would know it wasn’t him. The style becomes wavy and unrealistic to portray his loss of clarity as he becomes overwhelmed by his own paranoia. This contrast to the detail shown in the normal style highlights the psychological theme, by showing the difference between reality and delusion or paranoia.
Satoshi Kon was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in May 2010, and he chose to spend his remaining time in his house. He died on the 24th of August 2010 at the age of 46. The news of his death was a surprise to the public as he had chosen not to release any news about it until a blog post he wrote was published by his family once he had died.
Before Kon’s death, he had been working on another film called Dreaming Machine. It was to be aimed at a younger audience, and had a cast of robots, with no human character to be featured in the movie. During the months that Kon battled with cancer, he had spoken to Masao Maruyama, a co-founder of Madhouse Studio and a friend to Kon, about his fear and regret that the movie wouldn’t be finished. After his death Maruyama made it his personal mission to get the movie finished, however, he eventually decided not to finish the movie due to his concern over finding a director that was as talented as Kon.
Kon left a lasting impression on Japanese Animation and played a key role in creating interest for animated movies and series in the west. His interest in blurring the lines between reality and fantasy is seen throughout all of his works and portrayed with clarity. He was featured in the Time’s people of the year 2010, along with having many documentaries and books about his animations published. He received the Winsor Mckay Award on January 25th, 2020, putting him up there with other Animation legends like Walt Disney.
References – Paranoia Agent
Paranoia Agent | ENG SUB FULL // 妄想代理人. 2021.
Directed by S. Kon. Musashino, Tokyo: Madhouse Studio.
May, A., 2014. Paranoia Agent: A Case-Study of Fear and Repression. [online] The-artifice.com. Available at: <https://the-artifice.com/paranoia-agent-a-case-study-of-fear-and-repression/> [Accessed 6 November 2021].
En.wikipedia.org. 2021. Paranoia Agent – Wikipedia. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paranoia_Agent> [Accessed 5 November 2021].
- Paranoia Agent Explained – It’s All In Your Head.Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDjt4YZyuUE> [Accessed 8 November 2021].
25YL. 2018. Paranoia Agent: Waking up from the Modern Nightmare. [online] Available at: <https://25yearslatersite.com/2019/04/24/paranoia-agent-waking-up-from-the-modern-nightmare/#comments> [Accessed 7 November 2021].
- Satoshi Kon Interview – Paranoia Agent (2004).Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-R4r2vG6_s> [Accessed 6 November 2021].
Schindel, D., 2020. A Mind-Bending Cultural Critique From One of Anime’s Most Influential Directors. [online] Hyperallergic. Available at: <https://hyperallergic.com/564335/paranoia-agent-satoshi-kon/> [Accessed 6 November 2021].
Hana Ga Saita Yo. 2020. [Analysis] Paranoia Agent. [online] Available at: <https://hanagasaitayo.wordpress.com/2020/03/22/analysis-paranoia-agent/> [Accessed 4 November 2021].
References – outro
Dreaming Machine. n.d. [film].
En.wikipedia.org. 2021. Dreaming Machine – Wikipedia. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreaming_Machine> [Accessed 5 November 2021].
Little White Lies. 2020. Inside Satoshi Kon’s unfinished meta-nightmares. [online] Available at: <https://lwlies.com/articles/satoshi-kon-dreaming-machine-unfinished-meta-nightmares/> [Accessed 5 November 2021].
Rundle, J., 2021. Fantasy, Reality, and Interpretation: The Life, Work, and Legacy of Satoshi Kon | Oglesby Union. [online] Oglesby Union. Available at: <https://union.fsu.edu/movies/blog/SatoshiKon> [Accessed 6 November 2021].
En.wikipedia.org. 2021. Satoshi Kon – Wikipedia. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satoshi_Kon> [Accessed 6 November 2021].
- The Life and Works of Satoshi Kon.Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4qZauV-wYA> [Accessed 7 November 2021].