There is an urban legend going around in Musashino City where the infamous Shounen Bat rolls around on roller blades and beats people with his golden baseball bat. Numerous reports of his attacks have been reported, but the police have been unable to catch him. As the investigation continues and more people fall victim, paranoia begins to set in.
Satoshi Kon is known for his anime movies (and this one singular TV series) starting off normally and then just proceeding into a psychedelic psychological hole of wonderfulness. The anime world might never be able to capture that same feeling again, but these anime recommendations might come close.
For Fans of Black Humor
Welcome to the NHK
College dropout Tatsuhiro Satou has been living as a hikikomori for four years, and in his isolation, he has come to believe in a number of conspiracy theories. Primary among them is that a conspirator is behind his NEET nature. Although he tries to overcome it, his NEET nature is a deep hole to crawl out of.
Both Welcome to the NHK and Paranoia Agent primarily try to keep things real, but through the examination of paranoia and other psychological conditions, sometimes they drift into the supernatural through hallucinations, more so in Paranoia Agent. However, while both shows have a dark focus they also have a comedy about them that make them both a pleasure to watch.
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei
Nozomu Itoshiki is a high school teacher that is so pessimistic that even small misfortunes can send him spiraling into a pit of despair. Surrounded by increasingly insane students, Nozomu’s unique brand of despair has its own way of affecting them, often in a positive manner.
Paranoia Agent only touches on suicide in one of its story arcs, but Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei has a stronger focus on it. However, despite the dark themes in each, the humor is there and it is great. While Paranoia Agent touches on some surreal-ness, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei takes it above and beyond as the series goes on.
The Tatami Galaxy
At a mysterious back alley ramen stand, a lonely college student in his final year accidentally bumps into a man that calls himself the God of Matrimony. There he pours his soul out to the god about all the regrets he has about his college life that he spent bitterly trying to break up couples. However, soon he finds himself back at the very start of college career. Can he change the past or will he repeat past mistakes?
Like Paranoia Agent closer to the end, The Tatami Galaxy maintains a surreal and psychedelic feel throughout the series. While both have their dark humor moments, what these two series really share is a distinctive, wonderful, and absolutely stunning art style that is a treat for the eyes without sacrificing plot.
For Fans of Complex Psychological Stories
Everyone knows about Boogiepop. The legend goes that if you meet her one dark night, you will be taken. However, the rumors of Boogiepop which coincided with a string of grisly murders that happened five years ago have started to whirl up again. Something is out there. Are you safe?
Both of these series master being the realistic “straight man” if you will. They start off relatively real feeling then soon delve further and further into a more supernatural focus. Both series are also about people questioning what is real and if these events are really happening, with that same paranoia spreading like a plague.
Serial Experiments Lain
Introverted Lain Iwakura finds herself one of many girls to receive an e-mail from classmate Chisa Yomoda, even though Chisa Yomoda recently committed suicide. Averse to technology, Lain soon finds herself able to enter the Wired, a network system similar to the internet. From there, her life gets turned upside down as she finds herself the target of mysterious men and mixed up in a series of cryptic mysteries.
Paranoia Agent and Serial Experiments Lain are both about perception verses reality and how what we perceive might make reality differ for some people compared to others. However, Paranoia Agent managed to make this theme engaging, fun, and also complex while Serial Experiments Lain has the complexity in spades, but can slog at times.
Welcome to Irabu’s Office
This is the story of the many patients and their many problems that come to the psychiatric ward of Irabu General Hospital. Here, these patients undergo counselling by the child-like son of the hospital director, Dr. Ichiro Irabu and his sullen but sexy nurse Mayumi. While his treatments are unique and his advice seems insane, he gets results.
If you like weird and psychological, then Welcome to Irabu’s Office is perhaps the best way to follow up Paranoia Agent. While Paranoia Agent is more realistic, Welcome to Irabu’s Office is colorful and playful which pairs excellently with the weird psychological stories that it tells within.
For Fans of Normalcy Building to Utter Chaos
Light Yagami is a high school prodigy and genius. However, he has an ever-increasing boredom and disdain for the rotten violent world. One day, he happens upon a notebook, called a Death Note, which states that if you write a name in it, the person will die. To his surprise, the notebook’s claims turn out to be true. This Death Note, the property of the Shinigami gods of death, gives Light the power to change this world and he decides to become its new God by executing all criminals.
In both Death Note and Paranoia Agent, you have a series that starts off normal and then drifts into the supernatural, getting progressively more chaotic as time goes on. Death Note shows its supernatural fangs early on while Paranoia Agent waits a bit, but both series get super crazy by the end in their own ways.
Dr. Kenzou Tenma is a renowned brain surgeon with a perfect life, at least until one night when he is faced with a difficult decision. Both a small boy and the mayor are brought in with mortal injuries, and he can only save one. Naturally, he saves the boy, but when a series of murders begins to happen around him, all evidence points to the boy he saved.
As thrillers, both of these series kept their audiences engaged by constantly keeping up the thrill and mystery. Paranoia Agent, as a short series, doesn’t get to expand on that as much, but Monster is a behemoth in the thriller genre that creates a story that drags you in and doesn’t let go for the ride.
The Lost Village
A bus full of eccentric individuals that met on the internet all decide to leave society behind in search of a mysterious village that cannot be found by any map. Excited for their new life, these people soon find that this village is full of more mysteries than they can comprehend.
Is what is happening really real? That is the question that both series make you ask yourself, and both do a really good job of that. However, while The Lost Village flounders in its ending, like Paranoia Agent, it keeps things dark and mysterious for much of the show. It is an intrigue that keeps you watching.
There are actually probably a lot of other good anime recommendations for Paranoia Agent, but we wanted to keep our list concise. If you think something else should be on here, let us know in the comments section below.