(Welcome to Ani-time Ani-where, a regular column dedicated to helping the uninitiated understand and appreciate the world of anime.)

It’s not hyperbole to say it feels like the world is on fire, and it’s very tempting to want to get away from it all and look for some escapism. Of course, leave it to the late, great Satoshi Kon to find a way to masterfully teach us about the dangers of escapism and the importance of confronting trauma and reality, no matter how hard it is, in his first — and only — TV show.

Paranoia Agent begins with a woman walking home alone at night, when she is attacked by what appears to be a young boy wielding a golden baseball bat and riding around on in-like skates. Soon enough, more attacks take place, and the legend of the “Shonen Bat” (or “Lil’ Slugger” in the dub) grows, and the police are overwhelmed.

Like Twin Peaks, this show is initially about a simple mystery — who is Lil’ Slugger? Why did he attack? What’s the connection between the attacks? And much like that classic David Lynch show, Paranoia Agent quickly evolves into something more, an exploration of escapism and trauma through surrealism, as Satoshi Kon blends the line between reality and fiction in a terrifyingly precinct and surprisingly funny thriller.  

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