5 The Holy Warrior
Detectives Ikari and Maniwa finally get their hands on Shonen Bat, or Makoto Kozuka (Daisuke Sakaguchi). He confesses to the attacks and when the cops press him on why he attacked them, Makoto begins to explain that he’s in a war with Gohma, a powerful being who has possessed his victims. It turns out Makoto is under some delusion that his entire life is a role playing game and that he’s a valiant knight vanquishing evil from the world.
First off, this episode becomes a fun romp where Satoshi Kon and company get to take the piss out of Japanese fantasy stories by playing up their absurdity. Maniwa plays along with Makoto, pretending to be part of his delusion, but Ikari thinks the whole thing is a joke. As the two detectives interrogate the kid, the entire thing is rendered as if they are actually traversing his psyche, venturing in this fantasy world Makoto has created for himself. It lends itself to some fun, crazy imagery that takes full advantage of the power of animation and it’s ability to render things from one’s imagination that could never exists in reality.
Makoto’s fantasy world also excellently demonstrates another one of the rich themes of Paranoia Agent. Each character in the show is trying to reinterprets reality in order to place themselves in a more favorable light. For some characters, it’s creating a reality in which they are the sympathetic victim. For Makoto, it’s putting himself in the role of a lone hero who is the only one who can detect the secret evil in the world. Of course, by trying to displace his or herself from the evil that they enact, each character suffers from a fragmentation of identity.
6 Fear of a Direct Hit
Makoto’s delusion does point Ikari and Maniwa to the Old Lady (Hisako Kyoda) who witnessed the attack on Tsukiko. The way the two detectives interact with the Old Lady contrasts their divergent approaches. Ikari is older and a bit cranky, and he wants to get to the point. As the old lady rambles, he gets angrier until he ends up shaking an answer out of her. Ikari, younger and more idealistic, is a bit slower and more sympathetic, trying to understand as much as get to the truth. The Old Lady reveals that there was no one else with Tsukiko. The detectives confront Tsukiko with this new evidence.
Running parallel to this story is the tale of Taeko, daughter of Masami, the crooked cop who brought down Shonen Bat. She discovers a horrible secret in the new house, one that shakes her to her core, and she wanders through the streets during a storm when she’s attacked by Shonen Bat. When she wakes up, she has no memory of the traumatic event or her father. This reinforces ideas of Shonen Bat as a dark angel and that his judgment becomes a way for characters to reinterpret his or her reality. In this instance, a character must forget herself entirely to cope with the world.
It’s interesting that the show suggest so quickly that Shonen Bat might not be responsible for all of the attacks. It’s the midway point of the show and it seems a bit too early for such a reveal, something that might be a good last arc. It also suggests that Makoto may not be behind all of the attacks since he’s in prison when this attack happens. Even though each episode shifts the main focus, it’s moving the overall plot quickly and I’m a bit worried that the show is moving towards resolving the core mystery too soon.
In light of the events of the previous episode, Maniwa begins investigating the connections between the victims, trying to reconcile the idea that there might be multiple Shonen Bats. When pressed again, Makoto confesses that he only attacked two of the victims. As Maniwa gets deeper and deeper into the case, he finds himself coming closer to the brink of desperation, realizing that the victims all felt cornered themselves before being attacked. Even the people investigating these incidents become yet another dimension of the psychological stress bearing down on these characters.
The last scene is worth talking about at length as it’s a game-changer. Once Maniwa makes the desperation connection, he realizes that Makoto is in danger. When he and Ikari go to find him, they discover Makoto has been brutally murdered and Shonen Bat appears, a chilling specter that simply slides his way through the jail walls. Shonen Bat is not a person, but some sort of supernatural being.
© 2014 James Blake Ewing