Paranoia Agent, Season 1 Episode 4
A Man’s Path
Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault
The dark sarcasm drips off the title of Episode 4. There’s no letup in the increasingly dark themes of the previous episode as the show continues to explore the dark side of its fictionalized Musashino (a bedroom community for central Tokyo).
Taking place in the space between Harumi’s attack and Lil’ Slugger’s shocking and unexplained capture at the end of E3, “A Man’s Path” opens with the media and police cottoning on to a connecting narrative linking all of Lil’ Slugger’s attacks. But while the viewer can tell that the attacks are linked by the need of those being assaulted for some sort of intervention, the main characters remain clueless as to how they relate to each other.
And no one is more clueless than Masami, a local cop and former client of Harumi. A self-described ‘family man,’ Masami is introduced making enemies with a local Yakuza outfit. By the time Masami realizes the depths of his mistake it is too late.
Called upon by extenuating circumstances (threats, his ever-increasing debt) to rise to the occasion, in his own mind Masami increasingly begins to identify with a the kind of hyper-masculine hero he read about in an manga and saw on a billboard. High on stimulants when he is interrupted during a home invasion, the camera cuts away right before a sexual assault, the act removing any vestiges of sympathy the viewer might have for Masami’s increasingly untenable position.
Giddy over his success, Masami runs into Detective Ikari, who is obsessing over finding a connection between Lil’ Slugger’s victims and despairing over the seemingly motiveless, yet interrelated crimes. Later, drunk and disoriented, Masami stumbles down a desolate street, screaming for someone to stop him.
In a scenario that’s played out on the show many times before, in Masami’s moment of extreme crisis, Lil’ Slugger appears, and strikes Masami on the head with his bat.
Only, Masami isn’t really sorry for what he’s done. And he’s not going to stop. Masami’s assault only reinforces his acute sense of victimization. And no one is more surprised than Lil’ Slugger when he becomes the one who is chased down and beaten.