Management: While my opinion of the show is generally positive overall, this essay, by no means, is meant to serve as a comprehensive review, but rather, as an articulation and analysis of some of what I feel is this series’ most integral and interesting themes. This essay, in particular, is about Episode 11 of Paranoia Agent, “No Entry,” though it does contain some elements of Episode 13, “The Final Episode,” towards the end.
“Paranoia” is a term that could be described as seeing daggers in shadows where there are none. It’s a mental state where minor suspicion of the intentions of people and things, whether or not those people actually know who you are and whether or not those things are actually sentient, degrades to the point to a neurotic obsession. It becomes a plot against your life, a conspiracy where certain people, certain things, or all people and all things, are out to get you, to be cruel to you, to make you suffer.
“Agent” is a term could be described as something or someone being the perpetrator of something else.
The perpetrator of paranoia. The neurotically suspicious agent. For the first half plus of Paranoia Agent, the show plays around with who or what is beating everyone in the head with a bat. Or is there even someone out there like that? Is there a ‘lil Slugger? Is there a shounen bat? There wasn’t, and there is, and before where people were simply sent to the hospital, people are now being sent to the morgue. Shounen Bat has become the iconic equivalent to certain death in the show as the grim reaper is in pop culture (the bat’s bent in to parallel the bent nature of the scythe). It now kills everyone it ends up appearing to.
Episode 11, “No Entry” , pitches along, and it appears in the midst of this woman who you would think would be the easiest target to bludgeon into a crackly and pastey oblivion, at least compared to its previous victims. A woman with a fragile constitution and a weak heart, and yet alone she managed to survive, even when her house didn’t. It wasn’t luck though that she was able to make it out.
To explain why Misae Ikari managed to survive requires an explanation of who or what Shounen Bat is. There are actually three shounen bats in Paranoia Agent, one evolving from another until the she confronts the final version.
– The first is a figment of delusion by Tsukiko Sagi. It was originally self-constructed in her childhood as object of blame for a puppy she owned and loved who, in reality, she allowed to get run over by a car due to carelessness. Rather than confess to her strict father who she practically begged to get her a dog what happened, she victimized herself out of fear and called into existence Shounen Bat. Shounen Bat was called into service again as a popular plushie designer when the combined pressure of workplace deadlines and harassment brought her to victimize herself once more and blame Shounen Bat to avoid responsibility.
– The second is a copycat delusion. As news reports of the first Shounen Bat break into publications and broadcasts, a youth infatuated by the concept assumes the role of Shounen Bat for fun, transforming his fun into a fantastical gameframe where he, the good hero, saves those possessed by evil by exorcising them with his “sword” (whacking them with his bat). More times than not, he ends up assaulting people conflicted with psychical trauma brought about by them avoiding responsibility, and in the physical trauma that follows, these people seem to be magically relieved from their internal conflicts. The legend of Shounen Bat becomes more famously renowned, with Shounen Bat deified by some as an angel of mercy.
– The third is a surreal delusion turned into a deadly reality. The angel of death strikes the angel of mercy while locked up in a police cell, and soon after, everyone and anyone wishing death to themselves out of incredible mental stress are visited by the cleanup batter himself and beaten in their wish. Rather than bear the strain of the challenges they have to face, they end up admitting in their minds, at their weakest moments, a desire for the ultimate escape from the responsibility that is their lives.
The common thread of all the Shounen Bat manifestations is a refusal to confront reality and to face the consequences of people’s challenges. Instead, the Shounen Bat afflicted injure themselves, run away, blame and plot retaliation on others, stuff their problems into closets or throw them out into dumps, commit theft and attempt suicide, and, most of all, hope for something or someone that can figuratively and literally save them. Salvation came in the form of a boy with a bat.
So it is in a moment of weakness, when Misae receives news from her physician that she needs to undergo a costly operation in order to have any hope of sustaining her already frail body that she lets it slip. To let her beloved husband, Keiichi Ikari, the now ex-chief detective of the Shounen Bat case, who took her in as his wife despite her sickly condition, who stayed with her and comforted her when they discovered her infertility despite her husband really wanting a child, who had to work extra hours in multiple, more laborious and humiliating jobs to pay for her fees, and now is rarely, if ever, home early enough to even greet her, suffer any longer because of her sake was enough stress for her to admit privately to herself that she wanted to die.
And so Shounen Bat appears before her, more monstrous-looking than ever, ready to fulfill her red splattered desire a midst a scene laced of red spider lillies. She knows what it is from both her husband and the various rumors and reports circulating throughout the community, and rather than become troubled, she rebukes it. She calmly and collectively refuses it to permanently break her down, in both senses of the word.
Her beloved husband took her in as his wife despite her sickly condition. He stayed with her and comforted her when they discovered their infertility despite her husband really wanting a child. He worked extra hours in multiple laborious and humiliating jobs to pay for her medical fees. When she remarked to him that maybe, just maybe she wasn’t worth all the hardships he was taking on, he rebuked her for the thought and told her to live on.
And for his sake as well as her own, she has chosen to live, despite the fact that her husband has been staying out later and later, self-absorbed in his own escape from a reality that he can no longer understand. A dereliction of duty from the reality of a modern world where life and crimes are more complex to a fantasy of his youth, where crimes and life to him felt so much more simple.
She chooses to live despite the fact others before her, others of healthier builds and less sickly fates, succumbing to a fatal blow to the face. She receives an inconsequential blow, despite how otherwise eager Shounen Bat is to deliver the decisive one to her. It wrecks the walls and wrecks the furniture, but try as it may, it can’t touch her .
She rebukes Shounen Bat, rejects it in the clearest and most forceful way she can manage by declaring that she will undergo the operation. With an utterance to never underestimate her despite her inevitable reconsiderations. Never underestimate humanity despite our inevitable doubts, you monster. It disappears, and with its disappearance, the red spider lillies, poisonous that they are, fall out of sight as well.
She’s not physically ablest character, nor is she a character that recurs in the narrative very often. She gets one episode dedicated to her, however, and to me, out of all the characters in the show, she’s the most remarkable character in the series. She’s the only one that refuses to blame someone or something else for her misfortune, that doesn’t run away from the prospect of responsibility, talks death into submission and retreat…
…and saves her husband from his own escape from reality.
She has beaten the Paranoia Agent. She is Paranoia Agent’s strongest.