I know it’s kinda late to talk about this series but since I have just watched this recently and that I have dedicated February to be a month of anything but not shoujo (lol), I shall write my insights on this one.
It was recommended to me by my supervisor at work and I thought I’d give it a go since it’s only 13 episodes and each run shorter than most of the anime series that I have watched. On the surface, you’d say it’s boring and weird, considering that it’s episodic. Like the presentation of each character, the development of the individual episode and the coherence of each subplot. Perhaps some of you may even drop it on the first 4-5 episodes – which I would have done if not because of curiosity. Finishing the whole 13 rounds, I could say that this is not your average anime which you can show to your 10-year old brother (which I usually do every time I have a series on deck). This anime contains deep and mostly dark themes. You may have watched few movies with similar plot as Paranoia Agent, and yes, these days, it’s not unusual anymore.
The anime depicts how a one’s trauma can break or make a person. The death of Tsukiko’s pet dog Maromi and her fear for her disciplinarian father created a shadow of herself. Just like her, we may have been aware of these shadows or our ‘other’ selves but we just choose to brush them off like they’re something normal. Our act of dismissing their existence doesn’t mean that they’re gone. And without our knowledge, they may have been growing and growing into something monstrous. Thus, we’re nurturing our own versions of Shonen Bat. Although it annoyed me to some extent that Tsukiko tried so hard to deny her own shadow, I really couldn’t blame her. I kind of understood the situation she’s in. I may haven’t experienced the same thing she had in similar scale but I did have instances where I find it hard to expose what little mistake I have committed. Big or small, when you feel fear, you’ll feel fear.
While these Lil Sluggers are quietly taking their time to gather all our fear, our guilt, our hatred and all our negative emotions, we feel safe for the time being – enabling us to temporarily move forward into a place where reality is not harsh and where events adapt to how we want them to be. Unconsciously, Tsukiko created two shadows of her. While Shonen Bat violently reminds her of the bitter world, Maromi on the other side creates an extremely peaceful and favorable environment. Inescapable as it is, we also have this Maromi in us. We attain tentative success, sketchy happiness and sometimes, experimental security. Like Tsukiko, we fail to admit that both these existence are results of the wishes we weren’t supposed to ask.
And by the time a hideous Shonen Bat appears right in front of us, we try so hard not to see him, nor to acknowledge him. But before we know it, everything is already out of hand. Our comfort zones shatter gradually piece by piece. We know so well that this day would eventually come. It’s either we are too afraid to admit or too clingy to let go.
But what saves the day is not just recognizing that you have created this vicious Shonen Bat or this false Maromi, but recognizing that you have made various mistakes in your life and that you need not to correct nor cover them up nor run away from them. You have to admit defeat even if it costs you big. You have to know that no matter how hard you try to deceive yourself, there will be a downfall, a disaster. To err is to human. That’s inevitable. But that was how Misae was able to save Keiichi in his world of Maromi fantasy. Misae stood firm on her husband’s belief (which Keiichi gave up on first) –
A makeshift salvation is nothing but deception.
She reminded her husband that living in a world full of comforting lies would bring him no good, that it would only hurt him even more, that it wasn’t actually an escape but a temporary hideout – sooner or later he’d be busted and he’d have to get out. That was how Tsukiko also freed her past self from the trauma she had ten years ago. She needed to accept the fact that Maromi, her pet, was dead. And it died because she let it happened.
It might be easier said than done, but there’s no harm in trying to stand strong. Tell this cancerous paranoia that it’s dispensable. Easily disposable. That it can’t hold you back. That you are real and it is not.