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Anime / Paranoia Agent

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"He comes for those who are desperate."

A grinning boy in a baseball cap travels around Tokyo on golden rollerblades. He has a bent, golden baseball bat, and he uses it to whack people in the head.

The police are searching for the boy codenamed "Shonen Bat" ("Lil' Slugger" in the English dub), but none of the victims are cooperating fully with the police; in fact, many seem relieved and thankful for the mild concussion the boy gives them via his golden bat. All of the victims have something to hide — but then again, so do the police ...and so does the frail old man who draws chalk equations in the hospital parking lot... and so does everybody who spreads rumors about Lil' Slugger. Who is this mysterious boy, who seems to attack people only when they are about to have an existential breakdown and has never been seen by anyone but his victims? Is he a gang member, a creature of the paranormal, or something else entirely?


Paranoia Agent is a thirteen-episode anime series directed by the late Satoshi Kon, who specialized in mind-bending anime with some social commentary thrown into the mix. At times, the series resembles an anthology, with each episode throwing its star character through a Twist Ending, but everything later becomes connected in a way that rivals Serial Experiments Lain's levels of conspiracy and surrealism. Besides being perfectly creepy, this series is noteworthy for the (Studio Madhouse) animation alone: the characters all have distinct designs, and apart from some minor filler and Stock Footage, cost-cutting tricks were kept to a minimum.

The anime was originally licensed by Geneon, who released it on DVD in North America. After Geneon folded, the series went out of print for well over a decade until Funimation finally acquired the license in February 2020. The English dub aired on Adult Swim in 2005, and re-aired on Toonami in 2020.


Due to the surreal nature of the series, there are numerous spoilers. In order to get the full experience, please watch the series first.

"He tropes for those who are desperate":

  • Animal Motifs: A number of characters are designed to in some way resemble an animal either visually or through behavior (or both). Some of the more overt include Kawazu being a frog, Yuichi being a fish, Shogo being a cow, Saruta being a monkey (a fact which is even lampshaded in his episode) and Harumi being a butterfly.
  • Animal Theme Naming: Nearly all the major characters have animal names - Sagi (heron), Ikari (boar), Maniwa (horse, also his internet handle), Ushiyama (cow), Chono (butterfly), Hirukawa (frog), the Otaku Kamei (turtle), the internet handles of Zebra, Fuyubachi (Winter Wasp) and Kamome (Seagull) in "Happy Family Planning", and so on. Note that some of them have character-related double meanings, as well - written with a different kanji, Tsukiko's last name, Sagi, means "fraud".
  • Anime Theme Song: A very, very weird one that very typical of Susumu Hirasawa, the song's author.
  • Anti-Escapism Aesop:
    • The central theme of the series. The "Lil' Slugger" persona is constantly used as a scapegoat by numerous people who are looking for an excuse to get out of the problems they have. Along with imagining up fantasy worlds such as one straight out of a video game, being attacked or killed by Lil' Slugger is the go-to excuse for people.
    • Though it ties into the series' overall message, there's also a centralized take on this in "A Man's Path". In it, the pathetic central character, Officer Hirukawa, juxtaposes his increasingly desperate crimes of robbery, burglary and possible rape with a cliché Shōnen manga that he reads for stress relief. It's disturbing how easily he mentally maps a male power fantasy narrative about Heroic Resolve, I Did What I Had to Do and rescuing the Damsel in Distress to justify violent crime.
  • Art Shift: Usually a sign that things just got weird.
  • Barefoot Suicide: The Title Sequence starts with Tsukiko standing at the edge of the building with her shoes off, laughing. It's easy to infer what she's about to do.
  • Bare Your Midriff:
    • A standard feature of one of Maria's outfits.
    • The outfit the evil princess wears in "The Holy Warrior", who appears to be "played" by Harumi.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: Occurs in the final episode.
  • Big Bad: Lil' Slugger, although it's open to interpretation whether he's even sentient in the first place.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Nearly a Downer Ending. Tsukiko comes to terms with her past and saves Tokyo from the black ooze stuff. However, there's no indication that anyone else got over their problems. Ikari, whose wife is dead, is still a construction site security guard, and the final scenes are a clear mirror of the opening scene of the series as if to say it will happen all over again, but at least this time everyone will take responsibility for their own actions instead of blaming everything on everyone else. Maniwa, now white haired, replaces the old man from the beginning.
  • Black Comedy: "Happy Family Planning" milks every bit of slapstick it can get from the characters' suicide attempts.
  • Blame Game: The entire series boils down to Tsukiko blaming an imaginary villain for an accident that she was responsible for. However, as if reflecting back on the core issue, Tsukiko's co-workers also place the blame on her repeatedly for whatever goes wrong, continuously talking about her behind her back. Ironically, although this comes from their own dissatisfaction, jealousy and ineptitude, because Tsukiko is constantly trying to avoid feeling guilty about the one thing that she can be blamed for, the death of her pet dog, she is unable to confront any kind of blame whatsoever, using Maromi as a shield.
  • Bookends: The last scenes mirror the very first almost perfectly.
  • Bowdlerise: On the UK DVD, "Happy Family Planning" was edited to remove the comic hanging sequence,note  as the UK still edits suicides from movies and TV shows on home media formats out of fear that the suicide will still be imitated due to out-of-context playing and repeating of the part by more vulnerable viewers. This is averted with the UK Blu-ray release, which has exactly the same content as the North American version.
  • Breather Episode: "Happy Family Planning", the episode after the prime suspect for Lil' Slugger is murdered by the real Lil' Slugger in his own cell, both Maniwa and Ikari are fired for their failure, and Maniwa starts going insane. It involves three people trying and comically failing to commit suicide together.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: All the characters have very distinct designs.
  • Central Theme: Two prominent ones:
    • Giving into lies and illusions to escape the hardships of reality might feel good in the short term, but it can't last. Everyone has problems, and shouldering them onto other people only creates more problems. Your troubles are yours to deal with; that's part of growing up.
    • Japan's obsession with cuteness is getting in the way of actually doing things.
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
    • Tsukiko talks and interacts with Maromi likes it's a real person.
    • Kozuka. This is subverted when it's revealed that he was lying the whole time.
  • Contemplate Our Navels: Interesting case with Mrs. Ikari. Her telling Lil' Slugger her life story could be symbolic of meditation and mindfulness, which are a huge part of Buddhism. The fact that she's the only character to reveal a great deal of her backstory is a contrast to how virtually no one else ever discusses their past and how they became as messed up as they are, and it's implied this happens because Japan is losing the ability to make peace with the suffering that comes with being alive. And as per the theme of the series, this causes Tokyo to suffer - you can't take someone else's troubles for them, knowingly or not, and expect everything to be all right.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Tsukiko created Lil' Slugger as a way to avoid her strict father's scolding for losing Maromi. However, Maniwa reveals that her father always knew the truth. He only went to search for Lil' Slugger to avoid the fact that he was so strict that his own daughter feared him, so he lied to the police and took a bat and pretended to search for Lil' Slugger to show Tsukiko that he cared about her.
  • Creepy Crows: When crows show up, something bad is about to happen.
  • Dead All Along: Zebra, Fuyubachi and Kamome in "Happy Family Planning". In a variation, they're actually alive at the beginning of the episode, but then die accidentally but don't realize it because they were busy trying to commit suicide. The resulting ghosts keep on trying to kill themselves.
  • Death Seeker:
    • Zebra, Fuyubachi and Kamome. It leads to such hilarious things like failed suicide attempts and chasing after Lil' Slugger and asking him to kill them. It turns out that they died early in the episode. It's heavily implied that Fuyubachi is terminally ill, and that Zebra's boyfriend broke up with him, hence why they want to die. Why Kamome wanted to kill herself is more ambiguous, but her concerned over being abandoned by the other two might indicate coming from a broken home or being an orphan.
    • Kozuka apparently, as he had a connection to them; he was killed by Lil' Slugger before he could take his own life, though.
  • Deconstructed Trope:
    • The production manager for the Mellow Maromi series is a deconstruction of the Plucky Comic Relief character, showing just how obnoxious such a person would be when put in charge of anything.
    • Mrs. Ikari is set up to be a Yamato Nadeshiko. She acts like a submissive housewife because she is deeply depressed. Then, as her episode goes by, she seems becomes a Reconstruction of this; it's revealed that's she's happy being submissive to her husband due to the deep, deep respect she has for him, and when Lil' Slugger appears to her, she is able to acknowledge her past, take responsibility for her actions, and give him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to boot. In a way, she could be considered a variant of Silk Hiding Steel in that she is the only character to "defeat" Lil' Slugger while being calm and thoughtful, and without raising a finger.
  • Despair Event Horizon: This is how Lil' Slugger chooses his victims. His purpose is to fix the situations that have driven them there by making their problems irrelevant in the face of an entirely new problem, recovering from being beaten half to death.
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: In "Mellow Maromi", one of Lil' Slugger's victim accidentally turns on his car radio and the series' opening theme song plays.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The entire city of Tokyo is swallowed up by a giant black blob because Tsukiko lied about how her dog died when she was in sixth grade. It can also be seen as a Snowball Lie.
  • Doing In the Scientist: Despite Ikari insisting otherwise, Lil' Slugger is not a human delinquent. He's a supernatural phantom unwittingly created by Tsukiko to escape responsibility for the death of her dog, before the rest of Tokyo begins using him as a scapegoat as well, turning him into a Humanoid Abomination of Never My Fault.
  • Doppelgänger: Makoto Kozuka and Lil' Slugger.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: The Title Sequence contains almost every major character, even though many don't show up until later in the series.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: Revealing Lil' Slugger's true nature, origin, and purpose puts virtually everything that happens in the series in a new context, given that the majority of episodes are about how people encounter and react to him. This is lampshaded in "The Final Episode", which has an On the Next sequence that invites you to watch the series again, because knowing how it ends will alter the experience for you.
  • Enter Eponymous: Episode 1 is titled "Enter Lil' Slugger".
  • Episode Title Card: It's always worked into the episode somehow.
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending:
  • Fan Disservice:
    • The topless shot of Maria after she has sex with the fat otaku, especially when he starts talking to his action figures about the deed.
    • The pictures of Hirukawa's daughter undressing, partly because she's in her early teens and mostly because the pics came from the spy cam her father placed in her bedroom.
  • Fanservice: Despite the disturbing atmosphere, the series manages to get some fanservice in here and there, especially in "The Holy Warrior".
  • Foreshadowing:
    • A lot in the Title Sequence:
      • Tsukiko stands on top of a building with a sky that's sunny, before it suddenly turns into a storm. She's the source for everything that goes to hell in the series.
      • Maniwa is falling to the ground from the air, which hides his decent into madness.
      • The two ladies laughing next to each other are one and the same.
      • During the part when Lil' Slugger is rolling up to the screen, characters in front of him are laughing before disappearing, except for Ikari and Maniwa, which not only foreshadows what Lil' Slugger really is, but that Ikari is The Only Sane Man in the entire series, even breaking out of his Lotus-Eater Machine, while Maniwa also fights against Lil' Slugger and reveals the truth behind him, but sacrifices his sanity to do so.
      • A lot of the places the characters are laughing at are ruined areas, with Kawazu standing in blasted ruins with no life, Yuichi and Ushiyama laughing in a storm before a flood carries them away, Ikari standing on top of Tokyo Tower as a nuke goes off behind him, and the Old Man laughing on the moon as sonic booms are shown happening on the Earth. It all foretells the coming destruction of Tokyo at the hands of Lil' Slugger's final, inhuman form.
    • In "Enter Lil' Slugger", Lil' Slugger tells Tsukiko, "Hello again." It's not until the last episodes where it's revealed they "met" before when she was in middle school.
    • "Happy Family Planning' has a lot for its twist ending where it turns out the trio in a suicide pact are already dead:
      • It seems like the trio got out by the skin of their teeth when the building they're in is being demolished. They didn't.
      • None of the background characters react to them at all because they can't be seen.
      • When they're trying to throw themselves in front of a train, someone beats them to the punch but seems to limp away in an act of No One Could Survive That!. He didn't.
      • When Lil' Slugger meets them, he seems freaked out at their enthusiasm and promptly runs when instead it's because they're ghosts and even he doesn't want to deal with that!
      • Finally, they cast no shadows.
  • Freak Out: Most episodes have a climax involving the central character experiencing this. This is literally what summons Lil' Slugger to his targets. The entire point of his actions is to make your problems insignificant by turning you into a victim of a violent crime. And that's only a "net gain" for somebody who's been driven to the point of complete despair.
  • Gainax Ending: Adult Swim said in a blurb "we've got some new shows that are pretty f'ed up. And we know f'ed up - we saw the end of Paranoia Agent".
  • Generic Cuteness: Averted as Satoshi Kon's fond of this.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Maniwa and Ikari both intentionally and unintentionally fall into these roles during interrogation.
  • Gossipy Hens: "Etc." focuses on a group of them.
  • Gonk: Maria is shown sleeping with some pretty ugly clients, including Hirukawa and the unnamed otaku who imagines having sex with his anime figurines while doing her.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In "Etc.", the gossipers share ridiculous stories. The first to come up is the story of a student, under pressure because he's studying for an all-important exam, who vomits out typed text and dies; this is believed to be connected to Lil' Slugger due the typed word "bat" landing on his forehead. The next story involves a woman and her overbearing, abusive mother-in-law. The women say "How tragic" and so forth. We then get to the new girl telling ridiculous stories, and she gets singled out for it.
  • Ill Girl:
    • The girl from the one of the stories the housewives tell.
    • Misae Ikari, an ill middle-aged housewife with traces of Plucky Girl.
  • Irony: Because of the anime's success, you can buy Maromi merchandise in real life.
  • Jerkass: According with the theme of the series that you can bring the worst on yourself, many of Lil' Slugger's victims are terrible people who've created the circumstances through selfishness. In a weird way, Lil' Slugger brings about a chance for some of them to change for the better:
    • Kawazu is a sleazy, perverted reporter who stalks and harasses marks for potential stories. At the beginning of a story, he's dealing with a lawsuit after hitting an old man with his car, and views himself as the victim of the circumstance; after all, he's the one who had to pay so much money after hitting him.
    • Yuichi. Even when the person he threatened was defending him, he still had it out for him. This grudge seems to have disappeared by "Fear of a Direct Hit", though.
    • Hirukawa is introduced first as a man who frequents prostitutes. Then it's revealed he's a dirty cop who's rubbing elbows with the Yakuza. Then it's revealed he's a pedophile who takes pictures of his daughter and may or may not have raped a girl during a break-in. Sort of playing with this a bit, Hirukawa is one of the few characters who takes Lil' Slugger's attack as a chance to change himself and attempts to be a better person who re-establishes a connection with his daughter.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: In the DVD commentary, Kon himself says that one of the challenges of working on the series was deciding how much of the story he should tell the viewers.
  • Left the Background Music On: The opening theme is already very creepy. Having it suddenly blare out of a radio is enough to scare anyone out of their wits.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: Ikari's 2D cut-out world.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The song accompanying the Title Sequence. In a sense, it also applies to the superficially soothing song that plays over the end credits, although the dissonance is with the images rather than with the non-existent lyrics. This was done intentionally due to the late timeslot the series received in Japan.
  • Magic Realism: This shows up in multiple ways:
    • Lil' Slugger is not a person, or even a living thing. He's a physical avatar of the desire to abdicate responsibility for being in a bad situation.
    • Maromi is the same thing, but also represents the comfort that something familiar and harmless brings, and giving too much significance to trivial things.
    • An otaku's dolls come to life and assist with the investigation briefly.
    • Ikari ends up trapped in a world literally made of his own nostalgia, where everybody is two-dimensional and poorly animated.
    • "Happy Family Planning" follows a group of ghosts who don't realize that they're dead.
    • There appears to exist a sort-of "imaginary realm" that reclassifies real things and people as fantastic characters and items, such as Maniwa's golden bat becoming a sword.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Invoked by all the characters who are attacked by Lil' Slugger. They want a villain who they can blame for their own problems — and thanks to an in-universe Memetic Mutation, they get it.
  • Meaningful Background Event: "Mellow Maromi" combines this with Danger Takes a Backseat. The episode is told in flashbacks, with the present being Saruta, the production manager, driving frantically to deliver the taped episode for the new Maromi anime to the network to air while he frequently flashbacks to the past, which presents how the anime was made and how Saruta basically offed several members of the staff over the course of the production process. As the episode returns to the present, we begin to see Lil' Slugger trailing behind, getting ever closer to the car with each jump. Saruta finally notices him and drives frantically to escape. For a moment, he seems to have lost Lil' Slugger only to find out that he's now behind him in the backseat.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Tsukiko's last name, Sagi, can mean "heron" or "fraud".
    • The "cho" in Chono is one way of saying "butterfly". Another is chocho. The former is tied into the main plot, while the latter refers to Harumi's multiple personalties.
    • The production manager in "Mellow Maromi" is called Oda Nobunaga after the famous warlord. Just like the real Nobunaga, he is betrayed by his subordinate and killed.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • An in-universe example - In "Etc.", the housewives are talking about the attacks they heard about, trying to outdo each other, with each story becoming more surreal and outrageous than the last.
    • Lil' Slugger himself. It's a particularly bizarre and violent example, but it has been brought up. That is because Lil' Slugger is nothing but another side of Maromi. Maromi's idea is everywhere in Japan: toys, drawings, clothes and an animated series.
  • Mind Screw: The series is par for the course for Kon.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot
  • Moving the Goalposts: In "A Man's Path", the Yakuza boss keeps raising the amount of money Hirukawa owes him so he'll be forever in his debt.
  • Nightmare Face: The hideous clown-like makeup worn by Harumi as her internal conflict with her "Maria" personality reaches its boiling point. It shows up twice, once before she's whacked by Lil' Slugger and once as the black sludge swallows her in "The Final Episode".
  • Noblewoman's Laugh: "Princess Flyer" in Kozuka's story.
  • Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be: Ikari's Lotus-Eater Machine is powered by this; rejecting it is how he eventually breaks out.
  • Nuclear Weapons Taboo: Defied Trope. There is a clear mushroom cloud in the Title Sequence as a part of the background of Ikari's scene.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: One of the first signs that something about Lil' Slugger is a bit off. This is most egregiously used in "Mellow Maromi".
  • Old Cop, Young Cop: Ikari and Maniwa, respectively.
  • On the Next: The episode trailers are narrated by the Old Man, and are mini-Mind Screws in and of themselves. More specifically, they're told in the form of metaphors that won't make any sense until after watching the episode they're describing. "The Final Episode" even has one, with Maniwa replacing the Old Man, and it essentially encourages the viewer to rewatch the series in order to better understand it.
  • One-Person Birthday Party: This happen to Yuichi in "The Golden Shoes" as his classmates think he's the one who struck a fellow classmate, Ushiyama, as Lil' Slugger due to wearing gold colored roller blades. Despite trying to state otherwise, only his tutor, Harumi, shows up.
  • The Only One: There is only one person who can stop Lil' Slugger. This is justified because it's the person who created him.
  • Otaku: An unnamed but recurring character. Given the series' overall themes of people running from real life, it's not difficult to see how this archetype ties in.
  • Paranoia Fuel: This series contains a good deal of in-universe fuel. Lil' Slugger is basically powered by it. This may inspire you, however, to fear fear itself.
    "Must not run away... Must not turn your back on him... He comes for people who've been driven into a corner and have nowhere to go. Must not talk about him... Must not think about him... Rumors help him grow. Imagination... paranoia nurtures him! Nowhere to go..."
  • Parody: Maromi takes after the real world Tarepanda.
  • Patrick Stewart Speech: Ikari's wife, Misae, gives a speech on how she as well as humanity can overcome despair toward Lil' Slugger.
    Misae: Yes, now you know the real truth about humans. No matter how painful it may be, we can always face reality!
  • Perp Sweating: Ikari tries this repeatedly on Kozuka.
  • Plague of Good Fortune: "Happy Family Planning". It's less "good fortune" and more "dead people can't commit suicide" by the conclusion.
  • Postmodernism: The animation team must have had fun working on "Mellow Maromi", eh?...
  • Psychological Horror: The series definitely delves into this; many episodes are driven by a character's Freak Out and/or Sanity Slippage portrayed from their own point of view.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Lil' Slugger is an evil being who kills people who are in despair. In "Radar Man", Maniwa fights a giant version of Lil' Slugger who has red Glowing Eyes.
  • Reformed Criminal: After Ikari is fired from the police, one of his co-workers at a new job is a man he put in prison years ago who seems pretty lighthearted about it.
  • Reluctant Psycho: A couple, most notably Harumi. She's not exactly a straight example, though: she treats Maria as the Enemy Within who's ruining her life, and society would back her up on that because a chaste tutor in love is more "acceptable" than a call girl. However, Maria fights back only when Harumi tries to erase her and, early in their focus episode, it's shown that Maria was the original personality while Harumi is the split personality.
  • Replacement Goldfish: In the fantasy world Ikari and Tsukiko escape to, they become this to each other as he fills in as a protective father figure and she acts as the daughter he always wanted who died before birth.
  • Rewatch Bonus: "Happy Family Planning" follows three people who all coordinated a Suicide Pact on a message board, and seemingly keep trying to off themselves through most of the episode, especially when they learn of Lil' Slugger's involvement in people getting killed. By the end of the episode, Fuyubachi realizes the truth that they've been dead for quite some time because he wasn't casting a shadow. Indeed, the episode makes a good job of showing that the trio had died from gas inhalation and sleeping pills, but kept them hidden inside larger shadowed areas and lit interiors where shadows wouldn't be very visible. Other civilians would still cast them though. Even Lil' Slugger cast a shadow as he ran away from the trio who chased after him.
  • Rollerblade Good: Despite how vicious he is, Lil' Slugger is skilled at riding those golden rollerblades.
  • Rotating Protagonist: The series rotates through the main cast as each episode focuses on a character's emotional instabilities and eventual confrontation with the antagonist.
  • RPG Episode: "The Holy Warrior" is this, told from the warped perspective of Kozuka who played one too many RPGs and saw the world and his victims as game characters. Only not really, as revealed in "MHz". He was just doing it to screw with people before he died.
  • Sanity Slippage: Most of the cast suffers it over an episode. Three suffer it over the series. One does not ever lose it. Two recover from it. Everyone is smiling by the end. Unless they died already. Except in "Happy Family Planning," where all three died and are singing happily in the end.
  • Shadow Archetype: Maromi and Lil' Slugger are both shown to be disturbing in how obsessed people are with them, and they're both fictional characters, in-universe, created by Tsukiko that have come to life. They're also both symptoms/causes of people hiding from the truth. The difference is that people fear Lil' Slugger, because he is overtly hostile, while Maromi only ever displays concern for people. Misae lampshades this in "No Entry".
  • The Shadow Knows: Used subtly to show The Reveal in "Happy Family Planning"; ghosts don't have shadows. Zebra, Fuyubachi and Kamome lose theirs when the construction equipment unexpectedly tears down the building they're in, bathing them in sunlight and killing them accidentally. It changes the context of most of the episode, and gives a nice Rewatch Bonus for those who watch the whole thing already knowing the big secret.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Tsukiko looks like a grown-up version of Osaka from Azumanga Daioh, though given the context it could be more of a Take That!.
    • An image seen on posters in the otaku's room are quite clearly recolored versions of Di Gi Charat characters, but again, counts as a Take That!.
    • Ikari's younger self looks identical to young Genya in Millennium Actress, both of whom are played by Shozo Iizuka so it could double as an an Actor Allusion.
    • Radar Man hitches a ride on a "Speedy Bat" delivery truck in a nod to Batman; it's also a play on words for Lil' Slugger's Japanese name, Shonen Bat.
    • Monty Python's Flying Circus. In "The Holy Warrior", Kozuka seems to have defeated the monster. Then he looks up:
      Kozuka: ...oh, its-! (crushed by Giant Foot of Stomping)
    • Much of the JRPG material in "The Holy Warrior" is from Dragon Quest, the Big Bad Goma being based on Zoma.
    • In "Fear of a Direct Hit", Taeko's last line in the episode is oddly reminiscent of another work by Kon.
    • One of the gossiping women telling stories about Lil' Slugger's actions tells a story about a boy and an Ill Girl in love; the ill girl claims she will die when the last leaf on the vine she can see out her window falls. The boy spends all night atop a ladder, painting over the fallen leaf until he makes a perfect painted recreation of it, only for him to see Lil' Slugger kill the girl and fall in horror off the ladder to his own death. Another woman starts to point out it's from a famous story by O. Henry, but is cut short by the other ladies' angry glares.
  • Show Within a Show:
    • As Hirukawa falls farther and farther from grace, he begins modeling his mindset on the Determinator hero of a Rated M for Manly manga in a desperate, twisted attempt to justify his actions to himself.
    • Mellow Maromi, the series staring Maromi, the mascot dog that Tsukiko created.
    • Kozuka's video game. The series has quite a few of these.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Far on the cynical end. Essentially, every single thing that goes wrong in this series goes wrong because people won't grow up and take responsibility for their lives.
  • Snowball Lie: The entire plot is due to how a lie about a puppy was used in order to escape responsibility. Said lie would effectively come to life when other people began using it. This is best lampshaded by Ikari in "The Final Episode":
    Ikari: The whole world's gonna end, and all because of a goddamn puppy.
  • Snowy Screen of Death: When the black blob invades the TV studio in "The Final Episode".
  • Something Person: Radar Man, whose powers include mastery of metaphor and non-linear thinking.
  • Space Whale Aesop: If you have some sort of weird wild Psychic Powers to make your imagination come to life, don't lie about how your puppy died. Good advice!
  • The Stinger: Borderline Gainax Ending.
  • Surreal Horror: Lil' Slugger starts as some punk kid with a bat, and becomes both more threatening and more bizarre as the series continues, culminating in him becoming a massive black blob that emerges from several unconnected locations at once, and overtakes virtually all of Tokyo in less than a few hours.
  • Sweetie Graffiti: A drawing shaped like an umbrella is seen drawn on a door in a school in Ikari's dream world.
  • Time Skip: After Lil' Slugger vanishes with Tsukiko accepting her own fault, his black ooze form goes along with it, freeing everyone who was trapped, but Tokyo is devastated; "it's just like after the war" according to Ikari. Two years later, Tokyo is fixed, but the ending scene mirrors the beginning, only this time with everyone desperately trying to move on from anything that reminds them of what happened, with shades of also taking accountability for their actions. Meanwhile, Maniwa has descended into madness due to becoming Radar Man, and has become the next Old Man.
  • There Are No Therapists: Zigzagged. Harumi is seeing a therapist, but any real life practitioner worth their salt would've institutionalized the poor woman ages ago. But then we wouldn't have "Double Lips".
  • This Loser Is You: The unnamed otaku. Even his figurines don't give him any respect.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: In many episodes, you aren't sure what's supposed to be real. Tsukiko is the most notable example though, considering that it is her lie that devolves into the events of "The Final Episode". Your first clue that there's something more substantially wrong with her than just being a Cloudcuckoolander is when you see Maromi talk.
  • The Tokyo Fireball: The black sludge that Lil' Slugger becomes as his power reaches a crescendo devastates Tokyo in "The Final Episode".
  • Tokyo Tower: Maniwa perches on it while delivering an emergency message to Ikari in "The Final Episode".
  • Twitchy Eye: A number of characters briefly display this. It ties into the series' theme of everyone being at least a little crazy.
  • Umbrella of Togetherness: A sketch of a lovers' umbrella symbol is briefly glimpsed in Ikari's dream world, drawn on a door in a school.
  • Vicious Cycle: What's become of Maniwa at the very end implies this, as he's seemingly taken the place of the old man.
  • Wham Episode: "MHz". The reasoning behind the attacks are somewhat explained and Kozuka, the prime suspect, is in jail. And then he turns out to be a copycat criminal who is murdered in his cell by the real Lil' Slugger, who skates through the walls in plain view of the police, proving his supernatural nature.
  • Yakuza: They drive the plot of "A Man's Path" by demanding money from Konikawa, causing him to turn to crime.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: It's revealed in later episodes that Lil' Slugger is a negative apparition fueled by the paranoia of the growing and out-of-control rumors of the public, hence the title. How he came to be was due to Tsukiko lying due to stress of her successful anime character (Maromi). Of course, the original lie was due to her losing a puppy after begging so hard to get it and not owning up to the consequences from telling the truth. It isn't until she eventually confronts and admits her mistake that Lil' Slugger disappears.