Paranoia Agent, Season 1 Episode 13
The Final Episode
Little lies grow into big lies. Viral things spread. Madness spreads.
Released in the era of the flip phone, Paranoia Agents continues to have trenchant things to say about how events and memes go viral and how memory ties into identity. The opening credits, with their exploding nuclear weapons and the hysterically laughing forms of the main characters of the series start to make sense by way of explaining the show’s stakes- if left untreated this plague of madness could destroy the world.
As episode 13 opens, Ikari and Tsukiko are in Ikari’s dream world. Lil’ Slugger, in the form of a black ooze, grows exponentially across Tokoyo, consuming everything in its path. Maniwa manages to contact Ikari through a radio frequency, but Ikari doesn’t want anything to do with the world outside, throwing a rock at the TV carrying Maniwa’s message. Ikari is instantly rewarded for smashing the TV by the world around him, which grants him his old detective uniform back. And then he sees his wife.
Maromi, desperate to keep both Ikari and Tsukiko in the dreamworld, acts to get rid of Misae, brought there by the mysterious old man as Misae undergoes a life or death operation. As Tsukiko flees, she regresses in age back to how she was when Maromi was her beloved dog. Tsukiko calls Ikari ‘father’ and he recollects that he always wanted a daughter. His memories summon Misae again, and she has a chance to say goodbye as her surgery fails.
Ikari, having had enough of his fake dreamworld, takes a bat to the scenery, which explodes into hundreds of Maromi dolls as he and Tsukiko return to the real world, which lies in ruin. Maniwa confronts Tsukiko with how she let her dog, the original Maromi get run over, but Tsukiko’s denial calls the black ooze Lil’ Slugger in to attack.
“The whole world is about to end- because of a goddamn puppy!”
The black ooze flings Maniwa into another building and floods the streets, absorbing the main characters, all further along similar arcs to their narratives that Lil’ Slugger supposedly freed them from- Icchi from bullying, Harumi from her continuing personality disorder struggle. Absorbed by the ooze, Tsukiko sees herself at a younger age create the false narrative after a menstrual cramp leads her to accidentally let go of her dog Maromi’s leash and accepts the truth, causing the ooze to disappear and for the people it’s trapped to be released.
The destruction is city-wide. Two years later Tokyo is rebuilt and the buildup of anxiety in the texts and calls of commuters on trains and in traffic have returned to the same disquieting cacophony as seen in the first episode of the show. Ikari, still a security guard, watches over a street where Tsukiko and Akio have a chance encounter. The TV overhead shows, in place of the cartoon dog doll Maromi, a cute cat serving much the same, sporophoric effect. In a courtyard a white haired Maniwa is drawing equations in chalk on the ground like the mysterious old man did in earlier episodes. Just like him, Maniwa gets to the end, writes an equals sign, and gasps at the apparent result. This has happened before. This will all happen again.
As a series of semi-moralistic ghost stories, Paranoia Agent excels. After pulling the rug out from under the viewer’s feet many, many times over the course of the series, the show manages to (more or less) stick the landing and come out of the season making some kind of sense. The themes of how tamped down emotional distress can emerge stronger in later periods when least expected, and of the need to be emotionally honest with oneself to have some semblance of control run throughout each episode as an abiding theme. Concern for how increasing interconnectivity allows horrifying memes and passions to spread virally remain as pressing now as when the series originally aired.