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Paranoia Agent- volume three:
Serial Psychosis

director: Satoshi Kon

73 minutes (18) 2005
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
MVM DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 10/10
reviewed by Paul Higson
If Paranoia Agent is the work of creative leftovers then volume three: Serial Psychosis is occasionally reduced to the tastiest of crumbs. Satoshi Kon's portmanteau of brain sherbet resumes at episode seven, your reviewer sans the information from the three previous episodes. I departed volume one assuming that the terrific troupe of characters introduced from episode to episode would meet, annexe, tangle, entangle, and the great adventure ensue. Instead, the series becomes yet further removed from the norm, delving eventually into the postmodern.

Story eight; Happy Family Planning (episode director, Satoru Utsonomiya) opens recklessly by making a sweet and quirky comedy of errors of the Japanese Internet suicide club phenomenon. This didn't go down well with the BBFC who cut the episode by 80 seconds, compulsorily, on the grounds of potential harmfulness. The BBFC have a 'before' cut of 76 minutes, 47 seconds and an 'after' of 75 minutes, 26 seconds, though I make it a combined-episodes running time of 73 minutes and, even then, question if the cuts have been made. The sequence in question in which the child happily tries to hang herself from a tree limb is lengthy and imagining another 80 seconds on the scene makes it impossibly long for a series as quickfire as Paranoia Agent. I suspect that the preview copy is intact though that suggests that the classified running time must be shorter still at under 73 minutes. Three suicidal chat roomers arrange to meet. The old man, Fuyubachi, and the thickset younger man, Zebra, are startled to discover the third, Chtose Candy, is a chipper young schoolgirl and determine to lose her in the crowd and get on with the business of self-destruction as a double act. She won't let them go though and they eventually accept her in the pact. Killing themselves, however, does not prove that easy and their failure to die repeatedly rests on the fact that there are three of them, not two. It is an appalling scenario that Kons gets away with. The old man sighs at their lack of success, "These are hard times and the grim reaper is so busy he doesn't seem to have time to come for us." Fielding suggestions for the end, drowning is unacceptable, as Chtose Candy doesn't want to get her clothes wet. Li'l Slugger is by now a famed supernatural serial bludgeoner who it is theorised targets the 'emotionally cornered'. If so, they wonder, why hasn't he come for them? When he does appear they scare him off with their eagerness for a good swing from his bat.

Story nine, ETC, is another bin of cut-offs as four housewives meet in a square and gossip the latest urban myths around Li'l Slugger. No matter how impossible the stories are the three old hands defend their stories and attack those told by the youngest, a new housewife on the block. Her husband is a television scriptwriter and his work is used against her; surely the wife of a scriptwriter could do better than that if she was going to resort to making stories up. The vignettes become shorter and shorter, fabulously shifting slightly in animation styles as they are split up amongst the regular series directors (the episode is the overall responsibility of Atsisjo Takahashi, while chippers in for the nine snap tales as 'segment directors' are Michiyo Suzuki, Masashi Ando and Endo Takuji). The story ends with the young housewife arriving home to find that she won't have to make her next story up. If this episode can be said to have taken an adventurous approach, then the following episode is full on postmodern.

Story ten, Mellow Maroni, takes us behind the scenes at the animation studio bringing to life Tsukiko Sagi's popular creation as introduced in episode one. We begin with the character, Mellow Maroni, in an embarrassingly basic animation style. Throughout the remainder of the story, Maroni will the roles of each member of the animation team in turn with bizarre little actions and utilising the oddest of props. Meanwhile, the animation company is running behind schedule due to one clumsy and inept member of staff. The frustrated team are picked off one by one by Li'l Slugger. It is a fast tale cleverly told. The story seems set to implode or disappear up itself but it concludes both satisfactorily and horribly. Endo Takuji directs the episode and the scriptwriting on all three episodes is by Seishi Minakami, who has done a remarkable job on this astonishing series. As the announcer foretells, "An ant rubs its eyes in disbelief." I don't doubt it and follow suit.

For extras the disc gives you 12 Japanese cover art DVD sleeves (retail and rental versions), a gallery of 40 character artwork images (going back to the first four episodes) and trailers for other MVM anime titles.

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