Episode 5: Holy Warrior


Batboy. Looks like a little snot.

One of Satoshi Kon’s major concerns has always been point of view. Paprika, his final film, could be seen as depicting a world where point of view is shared like a schizophrenic virus. In Paranoia Agent, each episode shifts its storytelling strategy to encompass its subject’s point of view.

The entire fifth episode, “The Holy Warrior”, is a shared perspective, where the detectives delve deep into the world of Shonen Bat. That world happens to be a middling video game fable. Shonen Bat is a Holy Warrior, with his magic golden shoes and golden sword, freeing victims possessed by the monster Gohma. While he describes each of his attacks in video game terms, the detectives are drawn further and further into his perspective, Maniwa willingly, the older Ikari with growing confusion and anger. It’s a parallel to Kon’s Millennium Actress, where a filmmaker and his cameraman interview an actress who was a beauty queen in her youth, and who hadn’t been interviewed in decades. As they discuss her life and films, the interviewers directly interact with the scenes, sometimes as extras watching the action, sometimes right in the thick of it (though never as close as the filmmaker wants to be – he’s had an unrequited crush on the actress for most of his life, and would love to be her leading man – alas, not to be). In that film, as in this episode of Paranoia Agent, what is really happening and what is imagined become intertwined as the detectives look for the real-life clues hidden in the convoluted video game narrative.

The interrogation is interrupted throughout by the real-life victims of Shonen Bat, looking at him through the double glass, identifying him as their attacker.

Paranoia Agent or Dragon Worrier?

Paranoia Agent or Dragon Worrier?

But Golden Bat is not an attacker. He is the Holy Warrior of the title, freeing his victims from their possession.

How amusing this entire episode is would probably depend on your knowledge and tolerance of middling fantasy anime, often based on video games. The Holy Warrior’s story is told just like one of these anime, with characters declaiming motives and intentions, villains appearing out of nowhere, and actions sequences of very limited animation. The presence of the old detective is a palliative, remarking on the stupidity of the event when he does not act threatened by the fantasy sequence that envelops him. Even the old man from the hospital gets in on the act, prophesying where the Holy Warrior needs to go next in his quest.

Characters reconfigured into Holy Warrior's mindscan, and pointless anime cleavage.

Characters reconfigured into Holy Warrior’s mindscan, and pointless anime cleavage.

It is funnier than most episodes of Paranoia Agent (which usually gets its humor from oddity or absurdity, not from goofy sounds and animation). But funny generally isn’t the show’s goal or strong suit. Ultimately, the episode doesn’t do much besides solidify that this might actually be Shonen Bat (since he’s identified left and right by the victims), and it brings our detectives to the next clue, leading them to interview (in the next episode) the bag lady seen episodes earlier.

What they are looking for is not clear. The bad guy is in custody, he’s a teenager with an unhealthy fantasy life. It is, basically, what they expected. Shonen Bat isn’t a new god, isn’t a phantom. He’s just some kid. There was no greater meaning. He’s just a little crazy. The young detective can’t accept that, so he dives into the bat’s fantasy – something has to be found there.

Achievement Unlocked: World Weariness

Achievement Unlocked: World Weariness

Perhaps the key moment in the episode comes near the end, when Ikari talks along the same lines he did to Hirukawa in the previous episode – how they have to invent justice, just to keep on living, even if there isn’t any, really. Even if the meaning’s all made up, they still have to pretend it’s there for sanity’s sake. Maniwa, dressed in costume as one of the video game’s characters, fully absorbed in Shonen Bat’s fantasy, tells Ikari he’s speaking gibberish. Meaning has to be inherent, it can’t be added. It’s in here, not out there. The episode doesn’t let us know who’s right and who’s wrong. Maybe it can’t.

About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com