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Paranoia Agent

If you have to see one Japanese Anime TV series this year (and you know you do) then let me recommend director / creator Satoshi Kon's curious audiovisual guilty pleasure, the cult Paranoia Agent (Vol. 1) - the rest of the series is out later this month.

"Paranoia" may be a bit of a 90s theory thing for those of us in the West (see Panic, and the X-Files as sub-sets) but it has naturally made a come-back thanks to events like September 11th, whose latest anniversary is fast approaching.

Kon's series, which is expertly animated, escalates, each episode building from the previous one, in terms of levels of violence, sexual perversion, and indeed menace, so that, in fact, the viewer participates in a spiralling level of unease, and paranoia.

It starts innocently enough - a kid's cartoon designer (pictured above) begins to crack under corporate-life pressure before being apparently hit on the head in a random attack by L'IL SLUGGER - a weird boy with golden in-line skates and a bent-like-it's-broken gleaming baseball bat.

Enter a duo of very laconic detectives, and a cast of alpha-students, schizoid sex workers, mafia types and bent cops... complete with knowing references to cult American TV of the 90s, like Twin Peaks from David Lynch.

Having very recently been in Japan (and having been the credited story editor for the last season of Sailor Moon) I can maybe attest to the intelligent and nuanced way in which the series deals with issues of urbanization, globalization, techno-media-mania, work-related stress, environmental destruction, loss of identity in an alienated post-industrial world, in the context of the Japanese experience - but, startlingly, in a universal way, too.

It may not be The Simpsons (often considered the pinnacle of animated TV product) but this surely sets new standards for serious-yet-hip, smart-yet-fun, adult Japanese Anime.
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