“Happy Family Planning” Paranoia Agent S1E8

Paranoia Agent, Season 1 Episode 8
Happy Family Planning
Grade: A

Trigger Warning- Episode deals directly with suicide.

Episode 8 announces itself as the second half- almost a separate season of the show- with a terrifying farce far away from Tokyo in the so called Suicide Forest, Aokigahara. The narrative frame of the Detectives is gone, and the territory affected by the phenomenon of Lil’ Slugger expanded, just as supernatural themes are firmly established. Aokigahara is also known as a home to ghosts in Japanese mythology.

Under their usernames, the old man ‘Fuyubachi,’ the taciturn ‘Zebra,’ and a young girl ‘Kamome,’ in their Maromi backpacks, meet for the first time in a market. Members of an anonymous suicide pact, the older two are horrified at Kamome’s age and attempt to escape from her, set to jaunty music. Intercut with this narrative we see super-practical advice being exchanged on the online suicide pact forum about how to commit kill yourself and how to mitigate problems. The show lets the viewers know, by way of contrasting the two period of time, how quickly Fuyubachi’s and Zebra’s pretensions to seriousness and solemnity are rendered ridiculous by reality.

Attempting to reassure themselves about the dignity, of their undertaking Fuyubachi and Zebra attempt to use carbon monoxide to poison themselves while eating a number of sleeping pills. Fuyubachi tells Zebra not to worry about leaving Kamome behind, because they will simple come back as ghosts to apologize to her. Suddenly, Kamome interrupts them out of nowhere and nearly immediately afterwards the house’s roof is torn down

What follows is a series of physical comedy routines (echoed before by Fuyubachi and Zebra’s running away, or getting tracked down by Kamome) the first of which is their attempt to jump in front of a train (without involving Kamome), only to be beaten to killing themselves by someone else.  The three marvel at what it looks like for you to die that way. Zebra lags behind and sees a vision of the man who threw himself in front of the train exiting from it and walking away, saying that ‘that hurt more than I thought’ and that he’s ‘giving up.’ The three attempt to hang themselves but have their tree branch snap, and then fall down a mountain and get separated. After finding each other, the three seem on the verge of not wanting to die at all when Lil’ Slugger appears, and events take a turn.

Happy Family Planning is an episode that you need to watch twice to properly appreciate. Viewers taking their second swing at may have noticed that the three stopped casting shadows after, or just before the abandoned building they’d filled with carbon monoxide had been demolished, indicating that that’s where they all died. It’s here that the show known for pulling the rug out from under its viewer’s feet copies the ‘they’ve been dead all along’ concept. The hypothesis is horrifyingly and comedically confirmed as Lil’ Slugger appears to run from them, as if in the course of the expansion of his territory to near Aokigahara, he’d seen his first real ghost.

Beset by some crows, Fuyubachi notices the truth, that none of them have shadows and have been deluded into thinking that they’re still alive, and decides to take the other two far away on a bullet train. Overjoyed, the three skip to the station. pausing to pose behind a picture a number of young girls are taking and, as a terrifying coda, they scream in horror at what the photo looks like. The camera pans to a ‘Happy Family Planning’ condom vending machine, indicating that seeing a ghost child leering at them in a photo is an effective incentive for family planning.