Paranoia Agent only aired for 13 episodes in 2004. While the series was short-lived, it told a full story, plus some extra tales here and there. What made it significant enough to stand out to viewers even 15 years after it stopped airing was the mysterious nature of the show and the overall plot.
As a psychological thriller anime, Paranoia Agent has many creepy moments. Some moments are a subtle, introspective look at social engagement with phenomena around them while others are a bit more ham-fisted. There are many moments that bring the creep factor to 10 in the short series, but here are 10 of the creepiest.
10 Maromi Moves
In what shouldn’t have been surprising, the first creepy moment comes when Maromi begins to move around. Maromi is a toy designed by Tsukiko, modeled after her childhood dog. The build-up to the actual movement is what really sets the stage.
As the series kicks off, there is an eerie feeling about the giant eyes of Maromi as they seemingly land on the action, wherever it may be. In a Toy Story-esque fashion, the viewers are meant to believe it is just a cute mascot for the series, but just a toy in the show. In a tense moment, it begins moving around the screen and changing the series from just being about a killer into something more supernatural.
9 Boss Turns on Tsukiko
Throughout the show, Tsukiko’s boss, Hatomura, is a much more silent character. Since none of the stories really revolves around him, he is a background character at best. Appearing in only a handful of episodes, his character is insignificant except for his animation is very flamboyant, from his mannerisms to his walking.
The creepy scene comes late in the season when, after a meeting and giving Tsukiko a ride home, he literally grabs her and starts screaming in her face. He drops the flamboyancy for a much more predatory feel. It is an out of nowhere moment that was shocking, and the implications are what make the creepy factor grow.
8 Drastic Animation Shift
At the beginning of episode ten, the animation style is suddenly shifted from the grittier animation style the show had been using to a chibi-style, cartoony vibe. It is a jarring change, made more so when the character on screen, a boy with a golden bat, has a fun playtime with Maromi.
It is later learned that this is a clip from the animation of Mellow Maromi, the anime being created in the show, but that doesn’t make it less creepy. The cutesy styling so late in the series was such an unsettling shift. It is only made worse by the creepy repetition of Maromi saying “take a rest,” while the art shifts in-and-out of storyboards and actual animations.
7 Maniwa’s Break-Down
After feeling like the case hadn’t truly been solved, Detective Maniwa accidentally runs across the old man who has been appearing throughout the series. The first encounter is in a faded red-light that disappears immediately as if it were only in his mind. Then it goes downhill.
Maniwa begins to have hallucinations of the old man, such as having dinner in the middle of the road and then seeing him on stage. After watching the old man split himself in two, Maniwa looks around to see all the faces in the crowd are the old man. A shot overlooks him as his face starts to shift slowly and then the scene is ended there. It is a nightmare that translates into creepiness exceptionally well.
6 Ikari’s Town
Not necessarily a moment but a collection of them, Ikari’s town is one of the most unsettling settings in the show. While a 3D Ikari is walking around and living his life, the rest of the town is 2D, almost like cardboard cutouts. The creepiest part is that Ikari doesn’t even question it. He just believes he should be there.
The town is an idealized world made by Maromi. All the people are good, friendly folk except the stereotypical robbers dressed in black stripes with a burlap sack. Each piece is specifically placed like toys for the enjoyment of Ikari. It isn’t until Ikari’s wife’s spirit shows up and starts wreaking havoc on the town that he finally snaps out of it and destroys everything.
5 One-uping Stories
Again, not a single moment, but literally the basis for the entire episode of “ETC,” four women stand around recounting tales of Lil Slugger. Each woman takes a turn to tell a story they heard, though it is likely they were all made up by each of the women. As one woman starts to tell more fantastical tales, she is told that she needs to make up more believable lies.
Since the show is a look at the social psychology of urban myths merging with real life, these women are the prime examples of the conditions that lead to the ending. Even though real tragedy is around them, they gather to attempt to tell a better story than those around them. The creepiness is more realistic because this reflects real-world issues. These women need to be the best, even as people around them actually die.
4 Taeko’s Revelation
Starting with a young girl being a good child and caring about her father, the story turns creepy as the dialogue goes subtly dark. It starts with a young girl telling her father that she would be his wife one day, which isn’t necessarily creepy in itself, as children don’t typically understand how to process complex emotions like love.
As we learn later, her father is a man that was one of the focused stories, the police officer and unintentional Yakuza member, Masami Hirukawa, who built his family a house. One day while Taeko was on the family computer, she found photos of herself undressing. As she destroyed her room, she finds a camera placed there by her father to watch her naked.
3 Sick Lady’s Tale
Ikari’s wife, Misae Ikari, faces down Lil Slugger by acting desperate for death until he shows up. What follows is a monologue of power from Misae. As she continues to speak, Lil Slugger becomes erratic, taking swings at her, but never connecting. She learned that misery and despair drive him, but he can be held at bay by being courageous.
She goes back and forth between truly dark moments and bright lights of her life, such as her husband. The whole time, Lil Slugger is shifting his form in front of her. He grows giant and muscly in an attempt to instill fear in her, but she remains calm. The tense scene gives both a feeling of creepiness and courage that is hard to accomplish, but Paranoia Agent does it well.
2 Being Undrawn
Episode ten has many meta-moments for an animated show. It introduces the typically unknown positions of animated development, but it also introduces the mental distortions for one character, production coordinator Saruta Naayuki. As he reflects on the week leading up to the present, he goes through horrific moments, but one stands out.
As he is being berated, his hand has been undrawn from life. A kind of body horror, the undrawing begins slowly but gives off a horrifying implication. The character figures in that moment that he is something that can be undrawn as the rest of him shifts in-and-out of sketches, a fate worse than just disappearing or dying as he knows it is happening.
1 Daughter Forgetting Everything
At the end of Episode 6, Taeko is attacked by Lil Slugger and knocked unconscious. She has already set out on a crusade against her disgusting, perverted father, but, in doing so, she has a moment of feeling ashamed that she allowed herself to be in the situation.
After she wakes from her attack, she is silent as her father sits at her bedside apologizing. Taeko responds with the question of “who are you?” She got amnesia and cannot remember the disgusting actions of her father, which means he gets away with it scot-free. The last time she is seen, she is with him, smiling unknowingly.