There's something to be said about entire groups of people falling victim to the same illusion. It's as if reality itself is altered alongside human perception, twisting the fibers of creation into indiscernible beings capable of destroying the modern scientific foundations we desperately cling on to. Our collective consciousness drifts into forbidden places, allowing entropy and madness to consume us and take root in everything we love so dearly. Society operates on the principle that this reality is best set aside for something brighter.
Whereas Paranoia Agent is a celebration of the power of fantasy and the escapism it provides, it's also a profound look into how human beings disseminate information in the modern age. Dark, joyous, and fascinating in its own right, the show depicts a reality not unlike that in which you or I live in today. It's horrific and outright mad at times – but true to the horrors that take shape just outside your window – making it a compelling series to watch for mature fans of the medium.
Paranoia Agent tells the story of a Japanese city terrorized by a series of violent attacks and the effects these attacks have on different members of the community. It's not so much horror series as it is a show about fear itself and how mass hysteria can alter reality into fictional concepts.
It's this conflict between the real world and fiction that takes center stage in Paranoia Agent, as the anime's various protagonists often find themselves dealing with the chaos around them by using their imagination as a means of release. Though tragic, one can't help but wonder how poignantly this struggle speaks to the way we as human beings conduct ourselves – often resorting to television shows, movies, or books to escape from reality.
The horror aspect of Paranoia Agent kicks in when examining the show on a human level and by empathizing with its characters
Terror in Paranoia Agent can very much be found in themes like social isolation, sexual repression, and abuse. Each character is an embodiment of some type of suffering, meaning there's bound to be a character you relate with on a personal level. No matter what stage you may be in life, Paranoia Agent sadistically caters to your own type of suffering.
There's evidence to suggest that Paranoia Agent's themes are based on occurrences of mass paranoia in history, particularly in the incident of the dancing plague of 1518. During this bought of mania – the earliest recorded of its kind – a woman by the name of Mrs. Troffea began dancing on the street outside her house. Within a little over a month, nearly 400 people gathered on the streets of the Holy Roman Empire to join her, dancing for seemingly no reason. The hysteria caused about 15 people to die each day due to heart attacks, strokes, and exhaustion.
Lil' Slugger serves (in some ways) as the anime counterpart to the Japanese legend of Kuchisake Onna. The female spirit is said to wear a surgical mask to cover up her slit mouth. She follows people home at night, asking them when they least expect it whether or not they think she's pretty. If yes, the spirit cuts open the stranger's mouth from ear to ear. If no, Kuchisake follows the person home to kill him or her in their sleep.
Though no incidents involving the woman ever did take place, sightings of her became so widespread in Japan during the '70s that schools only allowed children to go home alone in groups and police patrols were increased. Seeing as how the legend of Kuchisake dates back to the Edo period, it seems unlikely that the spirit really exists. If anything, the woman's reported presence once again serves as a reminder of the paranoia that can seize a country should they let it spread and take hold.