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Why is it that this show, which is pretty much an uncompromisingly merciless attack on sensationalism and escapism from beginning to end, played the medically dubious Split Personality and Hollywood Amnesia cards absolutely dead straight? Aside from these two characters, each story hammers home the point that every tiny bit of responsibility for self-delusion and buying into boneheaded moral panic lies squarely in MY hands, but thenů These two blatantly unrealistic characters came along, totally counter to the whole message of the series without the slightest hint of irony or snark, and absolutely just stuck in my craw as the only imperfections in this masterpiece.
Did they escape? Are they Happy? No and No.
But that's the thing, it wasn't their fault, and their psychological conditions were utterly implausible.
I think it was supposed to be artistic use of those particular tropes to establish the underlying themes about being torn between two extremes, neither which is satisfying or wholesome. (like the contrast between Maromi and Lil'Slugger.)
Multiple personality being medically dubious was a plot point, I think. Harumi & Taeko redressed her issues as a clinical condition, therefore freeing her from having to cope and overcome them.
The point of Harumi's problem was that she didn't want to tell her husband about it and just thought that if she ignored her problem, it would go away. That's exactly the same thing Tsukiko had been doing. Split personality in this case is just a plot device. Taeko, on the other hand, doesn't even have amnesia. Yes, they say she does, but look at her. She never moves an inch or says anything. She just sits there grinning. She's basically catatonic. In essence, she's dead. That says that the only way to escape her problem (instead of facing it) is to die.
The trick of it is, while the cases themselves are medically dubious the characters have motivations to adopt them as defence mechanisms. The clearest case is Taeko; she discovered something that tore her from her father who she was very devoted to and led her to run away. She gets hit and when she wakes up, she denies knowing anything. It's not like it's really shown in full as amnesia, she's semi-catatonic and clearly not tied into reality. Considering the role Lil' Slugger plays as a sort of paranormal phantom, this seems plausible. Harumi is harder to argue for but it's pretty clear that Maria is an escape for her and a coping mechanism in some ways; it fits the theme if you follow the idea that Harumi is "the fake" and has adopted the identity of "Maria" to rebel against it (even if she isn't concious of it). It's dubious medically, but it fits the theme and doesn't excuse Harumi of responsibility but shows her as having perhaps the most divided self and elaborate fantasy (fantasies?) of all the cast.
The palm tree
In episode 2, why was Ushiyama carrying that palm tree? Yuichi even pondered why he had it, but, to the best of my recollection, it remained unexplained. Was he going to a party with a South Pacific Island theme? Does a palm tree carry symbolism that Japanese viewers would understand but that I'm missing?
It's a Visual Pun. In spoken Japanese the word "Ki" means both "spirit" and "tree". As a result the idiomatic phrase "ki o motsu", which means to keep your spirits up or to think positively, can also mean "carry a tree".
The title sequence cast
Why do the opening and ending credits sequences contain no characters from episodes 8-10? It seems odd that they'd exclude that group, yet include the homeless lady and Hirukawa's daughter, neither of whom receive the depth of exploration or attention applied to the other characters in the opening sequence. Were the character models for 8-10 unfinished when they did the opening sequence or what?
This is only a guess, but maybe the characters featured all appear in multiple episodes.
Shounen Bat's simultaneous attack
Why was it necessary, story-wise, to have Shounen Bat strike Sagi and Hirukawa's daughter at the same time? Maniwa would come to believe in Shounen Bat's supernatural quality whether or not this happened, so his observation about the simultaneous attack seems quite unnecessary. In fact, it appears that S.B. needs to take on a physical presence whenever he strikes (even when he's a giant, powerful blob, he has to physically reach people before he can hit them), so it's strange that he would be invisible while striking Sagi—can he attack invisibly only for Sagi? Was she collapsing due to her inner, personal demons rather than the "real," physical S.B.? If that's the case, the simultaneous strike would be a mere coincidence and, again, unnecessary. If we had further evidence that it was only coincidental, Maniwa's observation would hint that he's becoming obsessed and seeing things that aren't there; but without said evidence, it doesn't add anything significant.
It may have been a hint of how Sagi was the original "source" of Shounen Bat. Or it may have symbolised the point when Shounen Bat's power grew or changed - after all, before that, he didn't kill anyone, just "fixed" them. After that moment, he started his killing spree, so as Shounen Bat's creator, Sagi reacted to the change, maybe?
It's possible that it was to give two clues, the first that Shounen Bat wasn't a real person, and to give a hint that it was Sagi that created him. As for Maniwa's observation, well he is going crazy. He's grasping at straws as to what Shounen Bat is and what just happened with Sagi, he has no concrete evidence for anything, he just happens to be right. He doesn't come at anything other than what actually happened to Maromi through real detective work from that point forward and ends up losing his mind completely trying to solve it.
Happy Family Planning episode
I don't understand how this episode connects to anything at all. Is it only to show that ghosts in this world exist so people aren't surprised when Misae talks to Keiichi in his fantasy world? On the Wiki Page they have a quote from the creator stating that he did the anime so he could just put down whatever came to his mind. Is this just something he did on a whim? It seems like Little Slugger was just shoehorned into the episode and was pretty pointless. It doesn't seem like this episode ties into anything.
This troper thought that the purpose of Happy Family Planning was to show how truly messed up the universe of Paranoia Agent is. We are seeing three people who want to die and are willing to seek it out, even at the hands of Lil'Slugger, after all. It also seems that the episode is addressing a form of escape that many people in Japan have been attempting: suicide, and it's doing it in such a ironic manor that whenever we laugh we don't know whether or not that's a good thing.
This is a personal interpretation: Whenever someone is approaching his personal Despair Event Horizon, Shounen Bat appears and he is Moving the Goalposts for that person: To recover for being beaten half to death is a small price for Moving the Horizon of his Despair. Every way of escape the protagonist try conduces to a dead end, and only then Shounen Bat appears and he helps them not to cross the Despair Event Horizon. But one of the themes is that humanity can endure: If only they would accept to face their problems, they would somehow live with them and solve those problems. Suicide is the only way of escape that succeeds; at the cost of those who take it will never solve their true problems and will have Unfinished Business. When Shounen Bat saw the ghosts, he was truly afraid of them because they are Barred from the Afterlife and the only ones he cannot help: They will have Unfinished Business forever, trapped behind the Despair Event Horizon.
At the end of the episode, the camera pans onto a sign that probably says something that relates to the episode, but it's in Japanese and there are no subtitles. What does it say?
"Happy Family Planning". (It's a condom machine.)
Why did Kamome want to kill herself?
It's never stated, but I believe it was implied that she came from a broken home, or at the least was abandoned/mistreated by those who were supposed to take care of her. And while this may be stretching the symbolism, the fact that the episode ends with a shot of a condom machine may also imply something about her history and why she is so attached to the two men.
During the ending theme, there's this weird noise. Given that the theme is called "Maromi's theme" could it be something that Maromi is making?
.... It sounds almost like some kind of chuckling.
Who is that old man and what kind of equation was he writing? Why was he shown standing on the moon in episode previews, and why did Maniwa take his place at the end of the series? How/why did Maniwa become a superhero?
The ending implies that this has happened before and with it the seeds are planted for it to start fresh eventually. The old man presumably was the one who overcame the last iteration of "Lil' Slugger" and now his role as passed to Maniwa. Maniwa, during this story, was the truthseeker who brought down the delusion which is probably the closest we'll get to a reason for his dressing like that (aside from the fact that he liked videogames and wanted to be a hero while his world was collapsing and he was also slipping off the edge).
Who as that old homeless woman? she seemed to be related to Hirukawa and his daughter.
Red Herring. They introduced her as a possible culprit of Lil' Slugger and later had her talking to Maniwa and Ikari to reveal he was more than he seemed.
Was the 2D cartoon world created by Ikari or Tsukiko? They were led there by Maromi, who was with Tsukiko, but Ikari breaks out of it by accepting that he has no place in the world. But when Ikari sees his wife and he remembers he wanted a child, why does Tsukiko seems to take the form of a child and call Ikari "father"?
My best guess here is that the two had compatable needs and neurosis; Tsukiko wanted a (gentle) father figure and Ikari wanted a daughter figure. This represented them fleeing reality and going to a place where they could fill that role for each other. Without one of the two playing into the other's delusion, the place would fall apart; which is what happens really. Tsukiko taking on the form of the child literally in Ikari's eyes was probably due to his inceased stress as he realized his wife died (or was dying) and he both needed to escape while wanting to remain; however, even before that it is implied Tsukiko appeared exactly that way to the towns people; she is given free candy when Ikari buys cigarrettes and fish so she can "grow" and etc. This is something you'd offer someone the age of the daughter, not 20ish Tsukiko.
After Lil' Slugger is defeated, there is much less demand in Tokyo for cute cartoon animals like Maromi. But what is everyone talking about when they say "I don't want to do that". It seems to be something related to the Lil' Slugger attack, but not necessarily Maromi.
Maromi has a spiritual successor in Konya, a dandelion-colored cat. Stuff like "I don't want to do that" is reminiscent of the first episode; it's a showcase of Japanese people avoiding their responsibilities. It's Book Ends; people just found another form of escapism and reverted to their old ways.
What the hell is lil' Slugger? It's definitely /something/ that feeds off of lies and delusion but is anything more about its origin or existence revealed? It seems like some kind of spirit but I don't think I picked out more than that.
Satoshi Kon does this stuff a lot, but it seems like Tsukiko invented him as a scapegoat, then because of her later fame when she needed to use him again, so many people discussing/fearing him allowed the idea to take on a life on its own. Other theories to why he became living entity include "Tsukiko has psychic powers" and "Just because."