Episode 12: Radar Man

PA12_shot1The irony is that this is the first episode to center around the younger detective, Maniwa,  after he is no longer a detective, but an insane vigilante, viewing himself as a variation on the Holy Warrior that was the basis of the first Shonen Bat suspect’s delusion. In his mind, he’s a Batman-style crusader, seeking to end the plague of Shonen Bat. There’s even a joke when he jumps off of one truck to travel with another  and the other is the Bat Express*.

*Bat Express may not be a Batman joke at all, since I have no idea how deeply Batman penetrates the psyche of Japanese anime fans of the early 00s. The pun may be entirely on the Shonen Bat side of the fence, but I like the thought of Maniwa thinking he’s Batman.

Maniwa (the titular Radar Man) has been monitoring communications, combing Tokyo for the place where Shonen Bat might strike next. It was, of course, at PA12_shot3Ikari’s house where Ikari’s wife gave Shonen Bat the tongue lashing that sent him away. The secret: she said he was just like the sleepy-eyed dog, Maromi – a fake obsession, an empty symbol meaning nothing.

Maniwa follows the clues, as Maromi obsession takes hold in Tokyo. Every station talks about Maromi. Huge balloons are everywhere. The TV show is a hit. As Maniwa watches Sugi interviewed on television, Sugi reveals the origin of Maromi (named after her childhood pet) in an old notebook, something she’s been drawing in since she was a kid. And there, in dark penciling, just below Maromi, is that outline of Shonen Bat.

PA12_shot4Paranoia Agent is so comfortable shifting between its various levels of reality that it isn’t even signaled now – there are no breaks in continuity, the action is just observed from each participant’s perspective, no matter how far out of sanity that takes the visuals. Sugi stills see her Maromi doll walk around and tell her what to do. Ikari is still in his 2D cut-out past and doesn’t want to leave. Maniwa’s video-game-inspired mania supplies him with a sword and a priestly costume, instead of the poncho and weird glasses he actually wears. Maniwa gets help from the dolls that Otaku from episode 3 has been hand-crafting (including dolls of all of Shonen Bat’s victims), and discovers that the first report of someone attacked by an assailant with a golden bat happened ten years before – to Tsukiko Sagi, when she was only 12.

Tsukiko faked an attack by a bat-wielding assailant twice in her life. Only this second time, the act of creating Shonen Bat piggy-backed on the phenomenal success of Maromi. They came at the same time, and both helped the people of Tokyo with their desperation – one with cuteness, the other with a bat. And seemingly all of Tokyo is connected through the twin phenoms, as if it was the only thing they all had in common: Everyone’s afraid of Shonen Bat, everyone’s in love with Maromi.

This is a rare episode of Paranoia Agent, full of revelation but not action – it clears small mysteries to set up the big one. How well it works is dependent, I think, on how invested one is in resolving Paranoia Agent – in having it make sense. That’s not why I love the show, and not what draws me toPA12_shot5 it (in fact, while I’ve seen the entire thing before when it first came out, I have no idea what happens in the last episode. No memory of it whatsoever).  The final mysterious thing to happen, at the very end of “Radar Man” – all of the Maromis disappear. Even the Maromis on people’s shirts are gone, leaving holes. Where did they go, what is the darkness that seems to be taking their place?

All will be revealed in the final installment… or not. Like I said, I don’t remember.

About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com