Man, this was definitely a hard one to write a review for. I was excited to crack into Paranoia Agent because I’m a sucker for the psychological thriller genre. In general, if a show can get me thinking, I’m all on board. The first season of True Detective and Psycho Pass are two examples of shows that fully kept me on board all the way through. Paranoia Agent is definitely in that genre…but it doesn’t exactly check all the boxes I was hoping it would. Beautiful animation coupled with an extremely strange story make for an interesting start, but a terrible finish as the show loses all sense of where it’s going and just falls to pieces at the end.
Look, I walked into this with an open mind. When I first found out the main character was a little kid with a bat, I had to really, really keep my mind wide. I have to commend the show, though. Aside from the ridiculous villian, the first few episodes do something extremely remarkable. They tackle extremely dark subjects in a very light and borderline tasteful manner. You never truly understand what characters are talking about until you follow the string far enough. Things like being an outcast at work, extreme perversion and incest, suicide pacts, and the general dredges of humanity are brought to light in this series. The tone in which they’re tackled still haunts me, and that’s an absolutely great thing.
Here’s the unfortunate part: the show is WAY too long. About thirteen episodes in, the show completely loses its point. The main characters seem to drift out of view, and suddenly we’re handed an extremely strange and in cohesive piece of media that makes zero sense. I’ll admit, maybe I just didn’t get it. That’s definitely not a good thing. With all of the confusing media I’ve seen, I’d expect to at least have a small clue as to what the hell is going on, but Paranoia Agent managed to completely lose me at the end. The last few episodes are an absolute slog, and the show’s humorous tone only serves to its detriment in the long run.
Once the point is lost, it never finds it again. I truly found myself scratching my head at so many of the situations that were covered in the back half. I get that the show centers around people finding what they truly wanted in a monkey’s paw type situation, but when you never tie back the information to exactly what the hell is going on…there’s not a great story to be found. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted this show to be good. I was so utterly entranced by the first few episodes that I thought the show was going to reel me in, hook line and sinker. I thought I was going to walk away with some profound idea of what this was all about…but no, sadly I did not.
So, is Paranoia Agent good? Well…maybe. Honestly, I still have a hard time wrapping my brain around exactly what I consumed. While it never really found its sweet spot with me, I have to say that it tried, it definitely tried. I can’t even really recommend this to those that are fans of more avant garde types of media, because really, this is a Picasso painting that feels utterly half done. While the first few episodes are absolutely worth the watch, the unfortunate back half is enough to make me want to tell folks to stay away from this one, if only not to be disappointed in the end.