Paranoia Agent is the best anime you’ve never seen. The twisted, psychological thriller was originally deemed too intense for both Japanese and American broadcast standards and was eventually aired in both markets in a heavily edited format. Luckily, the entire uncut series is available to stream on anime streaming service Crunchyroll.
Paranoia Agent is the brainchild of creator Satoshi Kon. Kon was initially a feature film director responsible for such anime classics as Perfect Blue and Tokyo Godfathers. During the production of his films, however, Kon found himself with an excess of story ideas and themes that didn’t fit with any of his projects but intrigued him nonetheless. As a result, the director decided to take these discarded concepts and weave them into a television series.
Paranoia Agent, initially banned from American and Japanese broadcast, is now streaming on Crunchyroll.
Prior to the creation of Paranoia Agent, the creator had spoken at length about the filmmaking process and its rigidity, how he would work for two years on the same project being in “the same mood” and using the same method over and over again.
The flexibility of television enticed Kon because he wanted the freedom to explore a variety of themes and topics rather than be confined to one particular concept for the runtime of a feature film. Kon was also drawn to the speed at which television animation is produced vs. movie animation because it allowed him to “Realize instantly what flashes across my mind.”
The result was 2004’s Paranoia Agent—a frightening mix of anxiety-inducing thrills and dark themes that made viewers question the sanity of the characters on screen as well as their own. Paranoia Agent revolves around a mysterious assailant known only as “Lil’ Slugger” who skates around on rollerblades attacking seemingly random victims with a dented golden baseball bat. Each episode focuses on a different victim and the detectives working to catch Lil’ Slugger.
Paranoia Agent Censored
The series features the usual adult anime tropes—plenty of nudity and profanity—but it’s Paranoia Agent‘s dark, taboo themes that got it temporarily banned in certain countries. Scenes like the one in episode 8, where a character commits suicide, caused the anime to be partially banned in Japan after being deemed “too harsh” by the Japanese government. This partial ban meant that the anime had to air on Wowwow, a Japanese satellite station, instead of the country’s regular broadcast channels.
Meanwhile, in North America, the series was initially banned from airing on TV and was only available via a DVD release in late 2004. The following year, a censored version of Paranoia Agent began airing during Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block of late-night programming.
Along with being scrubbed of any references to suicide, this watered-down version of the series also took great pains to remove any nudity and swearing that might offend sensitive US audiences. The suicide scene was also removed before the series aired in the UK.
Paranoia Agent has been compared to the works of David Lynch for its, at times, dreamlike, surreal quality, as well as Kon’s other psychological thrillers Paprika and Perfect Blue.
In 2020, Adult Swim again aired Paranoia Agent, this time in a form closer to its original vision. This new edit included the blurring of certain body parts during nude scenes instead of cutting the scenes out completely and an intact suicide episode, albeit with ads for suicide prevention airing before and after.
Satoshi Kon’s dementedly brilliant debut anime was unanimously showered with praise from critics and audiences alike—despite most of those audiences being unable to experience the series the way it was intended.
Paranoia Agent‘s Rotten Tomatoes score is as high as it possibly could be, at an impressive 100 percent critic approval rating. The site’s consensus praises “Anime auteur Satoshi Kon” for bringing his “feverish vision” to television and delivering a “disturbing meditation on individual and societal anxiety.”
Paranoia Agent has been compared to the works of David Lynch for its, at times, dreamlike, surreal quality, as well as Kon’s other psychological thrillers Paprika and Perfect Blue. The feeling among many fans is that Paranoia Agent isn’t something you turn on to zone out to but rather a deep experience that will stick with you for a long time—whether you want it to or not.
With spooky month almost upon us, there’s no better way to get into the Halloween spirit than by watching a creepy, messed-up anime. You can check out Paranoia Agent right now courtesy of Crunchyroll , where the anime is streaming in its original format.