Paranoia Agent and Japan’s Role in the War: Responsibility vs Victim-hood

Presenting another part of my thesis, Echoes on Celluloid: The Historical Memory of WWII as Seen Through Japanese Anime. The chapter posted below is an expansion of this post here, with a focus specifically on Paranoia Agent. Already posted is my work on Akira and it’s warnings about misuing science. Also posted is the Space Battleship Yamato franchise and the shifting views on nationalism and redemption it presents. There’s sundry other explorations on that page; go check it out.

I had an extremely difficult time writing this chapter. Paranoia Agent is an excellent anime, so complex that I’m still unraveling some of the symbolism even now. It’s strange, and dark, and definitely worth a watch. But what made this chapter such a struggle was researching the Japanese War Crimes. I confess it took me half a bottle of bourbon to get through writing that part of this chapter. My goal was to give sufficent explanation without making myself – or any of my readers – more heartsick than absolutely decessary. Great darkness lies ahead, dear reader. Proceed under advisement.

The late imminent historian Stephen Ambrose once quipped, “The Japanese presentation of the war to its children runs something like this – one day, for no reason we ever understood, the Americans started dropping atomic bombs on us.”[1]  Teacher and scholar Tamaka Matsuuka makes a similar complaint about the Japanese schooling system: “Our system has been creating young people who get annoyed by all the complaints that China and South Korea make about war atrocities because they are not taught what they are complaining about.”[2] Jerome Shapiro, an ex-patriot who has lived, worked, and raised a family in Japan, explains that “…at most levels of discourse, Japan has simply refused to acknowledge its history or participation in world events.  Japan’s own long history of brutal military aggression… (is) often expunged from fictional narratives, state-censored textbooks, and dinner party conversation… in its place is substituted a vague notion of ‘unfortunate events’ and Japan as a perpetual victim of intercultural ‘misunderstanding.’”[3] Susan Napier described Japanese memory as “ambiguous” and “selective,” with a tendency to overlook the war in China in order to avoid a sense of national responsibility.[4] Culpability for the start of the war is often overlooked as are atrocities in favour of the view of the Japanese as victims of the nuclear weapons.  Even in American schools the Pacific War is typically overlooked in favour of Nazi Germany. The Japanese role in the war is most frequently reduced to Pearl Harbor, Iwo Jima – mostly likely thanks Joe Rosenthal’s famous photograph –  and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Occasionally Midway or the Doolittle Raid might be thrown in for flavor. American school children are confronted with the reality of Japanese internment camps, but acknowledgements of the horrible atrocities committed by our Asian adversary between the years of 1931 and 1945 are, more or less, left out. 

Historians vary widely on estimates of civillian and POW deaths at the hands of Imperial Japanese troops, with numbers ranging from three million[5] to fourteen million[6]. The causes of these deaths range from forced labor to deliberate massacre and include the sneak attacks at Pearl Harbor, Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong, carried out without formal declarations of war as required by the Hague Convention of 1907.  Since 1931, the Japanese excused actions against China by describing the conflict as an “incident” rather than a war and describing their adversaries as “bandits,” thereby giving them justification to claim that the rules of war did not apply.[7]  Hirohito contributed to this further when, in 1937, he officially allowed the army to ignore international law in regards to the treatment of Chinese prisoners and again in 1938 when he excused Japanese actions in China by describing them as “punitive.”[8] Exacerbated by a sense of nationalism, racism, and superiority, there resulted countless instances of massacres, cannibalism, rapes, and slavery against not just the Chinese but captured Allied troops as well.  From the genocide of Hui Muslims to the widespread massacres of civilian populations in places like Manilla, Singapore, and the Sook Ching Massacre to the torture, killing, and even cannibalism of Allied prisoners at places like Bataan, Alexandria Hospital, and Wake Island, the Imperial Japanese Army consistently violated international statues and agreements on human rights and conduct of a war which they themselves had voluntarily entered into.

Of the most notorious of these acts is the Nanking Massacre, a period of mass murder, theft, arson, and rape that spanned the six week occupation of Nanking during the winter of 1937-38.  Eye-witnesses said the Japanese invaded the city like “a barbarian horde… (Nanking) had not merely been taken in organized warfare, and that the members of the victorious Japanese army met the prize to commit unlimited violence.  There was no discipline whatever.”[9] In February 1938 several foreign diplomats filed a number of complaints with the Japanese embassy which illustrate the behavior of the occupying Japanese troops:

Case 5 – On the night of December 14th, there were many cases of Japanese soldiers entering houses and raping women or taking them away. This created panic in the area and hundreds of women moved into the Ginling College campus yesterday.

Case 10 – On the night of December 15th, a number of Japanese soldiers entered the University of Nanking buildings at Tao Yuen and raped 30 women on the spot, some by six men.

Case 14 – On December 16, seven girls (ages ranged from 16 to 21) were taken away from the Military College. Five returned. Each girl was raped six or seven times daily- reported December 18th.

Case 15 – There are about 540 refugees crowded in #83 and 85 on Canton Road … More than 30 women and girls have been raped. The women and children are crying all night. Conditions inside the compound are worse than we can describe. Please give us help.

Case 19 – January 30th, about 5 p.m. Mr. Sone (of the Nanking Theological Seminary) was greeted by several hundred women pleading with him that they would not have to go home on February 4th. They said it was no use going home they might just as well be killed for staying at the camp as to be raped, robbed or killed at home. … One old woman 62 years old went home near Hansimen and Japanese soldiers came at night and wanted to rape her. She said she was too old. So the soldiers rammed a stick up her…

The cases of rape are horrific both in volume and in the sheer barbaric brutality with which the acts were carried out.  It is estimated that some 20,000[10] women were raped during the six week occupation, sometimes up to a thousand a night, but this number can never be confirmed entirely because most of the victims were then murdered, often by having something forced into their vagina.  Japanese soldiers went from house to house in search of females and would gang rape them until they died.  Families were forced to commit acts of incest.  Even children were not spared, and sometimes their little bellies were sliced open to accommodate the troops.[11]  John Rabe, a German businessman and head of the Nanking Nazi Party describes one such scene in his journal:

On December 13, about 30 soldiers came to a Chinese house … and demanded entrance. The door was opened by the landlord… they killed him immediately with a revolver and also (his wife), who… asked them why they killed her husband … Mrs. Hsia was dragged out from under a table in the guest hall where she had tried to hide with her 1 year old baby. After being stripped and raped by one or more men, she was bayoneted in the chest, and then had a bottle thrust into her vagina. The baby was killed with a bayonet. Some soldiers then went to the next room, where Mrs. Hsia’s parents, aged 76 and 74, and her two daughters aged 16 and 14 (were). They were about to rape the girls when the grandmother tried to protect them. The soldiers killed her with a revolver. The grandfather grasped the body of his wife and was killed. The two girls were then stripped, the elder being raped by 2–3 men, and the younger by 3. The older girl was stabbed afterwards and a cane was rammed in her vagina. The younger girl was bayoneted also but was spared the horrible treatment that had been meted out to her sister and mother. The soldiers then bayoneted another sister of between 7–8, who was also in the room. The last murders in the house were of Ha’s two children, aged 4 and 2 respectively. The older was bayoneted and the younger split down through the head with a sword.

Horrific images of murdered women and children are worth ten thousand blood-soaked words.

Murders of civilians and unarmed soldiers mounted up, with casualties estimated to be as high as 300,000[12] although the International Military Tribunal put the number at around 200,000.[13] A complete count is impossible due to the number of bodies disposed of in mass graves, burned, or thrown into the Yangtze River. These unarmed soldiers and civilians were mowed down by machine gun, beheaded in killing contests, and shot at random in the street.  In spite of numerous eyewitness accounts, photographs, and video taken by Chinese and foreigners alike, Japanese revisionists and nationalists continue to deny this incident, declaring it a fabrication and arguing that the murders were actually much less in number or that the casualties were strictly military.  While the majority of academics accept the findings of the Tokyo Tribunal, the deniers make up a vocal minority which seems to include Shinzo Abe, the current Prime Minister.  Their reach penetrates even the Japanese school system, where the event is currently glossed over.

Another issue of controversy are the Comfort Women, women and girls who were kidnapped from conquered territories and forced into sexual slavery for the benefit of Japanese troops. Historians generally estimate that approximately 200,000[14] women fell victim to being forced into military prostitution, with Japanese estimates ranging as low as 20,000[15] and Chinese historians placing the number much closer to 400,000.[16] The  Japanese government argues that these women were actually professional prostitutes who volunteered for service. While it may have originally been an offshoot of civilian prostitution the growing need for more women led to coercion and even outright kidnapping, a fact later acknowledged by the government.[17]  The Japanese argument for military brothels was that these “comfort stations” would cut back on instances of rape and aggression committed against local women.  This justification seems particularly ironic as it comes on the heels of the previous summary of the Nanking Massacre.[18]

Comfort women with a Chinese soldier, 1944. US National Archives.

Comfort women who have come forward have told chilling stories of their experiences at the hands of the Japanese army, of how they were kidnapped or coerced into sexual slavery and how they were raped and beaten multiple times a day.  Those who resisted were often killed.  “Raping and kidnapping became so common that soldiers considered abusing Chinese women to be a sport – one of the few ‘rewards’ of their harsh military life.”[19]  Lei Guiying, a Chinese comfort woman who was forced into prostitution at age thirteen, described life in the brothels as “hell:”

Once I saw a group of Japanese soldiers rape a girl continuously.  When they left we saw that her belly had already swelled up… One day I saw the Japanese soldiers burning a dead girl’s body on a pile of firewood; the girl had been tortured to death in the station… I suffered horrible torture in the comfort station.  One day a Japanese soldier… put his two legs on my abdomen, which hurt me badly and made me bleed.  I resisted as hard as I could… (he) beat me and stabbed me with his bayonet… a distant relative of mine saved me from being killed, but the bayonet stabbing crippled me.  I realized that, sooner or later, I would be tortured to death by the Japanese… I was determined to escape…[20]

Zhou Fenying, a famous beauty in her day, describes how she and her cousin were  kidnapped by the invading Japanese:

I clearly remember the day when the Japanese troops came into our village.  It was in the spring of 1938 and that day was my cousin Wu Qun’s birthday.  She was about my age and also good-looking.  My husband was away from home working in the fields.  We heard that the Japanese troops accompanied by local traitors had come to kidnap girls… My cousin and I ran for our lives… but the Japanese troops chased after us and found us.  Later we learned that the Japanese troops had been looking for good-looking girls to put in their comfort station.  Because my cousin and I were known for our good looks, we had been targeted.  The Japanese soldiers tied our feet with ropes so that we could not run away.  Then they had us loaded into a wheelbarrow, one on each side… At Baipu we were unloaded at Zhongxing Hotel.  The owner… had fled…and the Japanese troops made the hotel their comfort station… when I looked around, I saw about twenty girls were already there.  (The Japanese) kidnapped dozens of young women from nearby villages to be their comfort women… When I was released my mother-in-law did not want me to return home.  She could not take the widespread gossip in the village, where people were saying that I had been defiled by the Japanese troops…[21]

The end of the war brought these women no peace, for their psychological and physical scars proved lasting.  Furthermore, those who eventually came forward with their stories faced disbelief from the Japanese and often suffered ostracization from their own communities for being “unclean” or for “servicing” the enemy.[22]  As a result, historians are only recently beginning to grasp the scope and nature of the Comfort Woman’s wartime suffering. 

In 1993, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono issued an apology “to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as Comfort Women.”[23]  The following year, the government set up the Asian Women’s Fund which distributed compensation to women in South Korea, the Philippines, the Netherlands, Indonesia, and the Philippines, although the money came from private donations and not the government itself.  To date Japanese attitudes towards the issue continue to vacillate.  Current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the Kono Statement a “mistake” and threatened to retract it, but diplomatic pressure from the US and other countries has led him to reverse his policy.  In 2012, there were even attempts to get the United States to remove a small memorial to Comfort Women from a park in New Jersey.[24]  The petition, posted on the White House front page, garnered more than 28,000 signatures, mostly from Japan.  Like the Nanking Massacre, the issue of Comfort Women is given little to no attention in Japanese school books.

Another area of contention centers on the Battle of Okinawa and the mass suicides committed by the Okinawa inhabitants at the behest of the Japanese army.  During the battle, residents were told that if the battle was lost, American Marines would torture them for information, rape the women, and massacre them.  As the battle turned in favor of the Allies, the Japanese rounded up Okinawa civilians at assembly points, gave them grenades, and ordered them to kill themselves instead of becoming prisoners.  Of the 190,000 Japanese that died in that battle, nearly half were civilians.[25]  Okinawans were told it was their duty to die, because “in war, soldiers and civilians die together.”[26]  Author Kamata Satoshi described the experience of survivor Masao Komine, a young boy at the time who lived on the island of Tokashiki:

…On March 28th, the day after the US military landed on the island, they moved to (a designated) assembly point… hand grenades were distributed.  Masao and his relatives sat down in a  circle… his mother embraced her children…each family tightened their circle, pressing themselves together, and detonated the grenades… that day 315 people died on Tokashiki Island… one third the population…[27]

If the grenades malfunctioned, or if there were not enough, the terrified citizens resorted to other means:

On Zamami Island rat poison was the instrument of choice… excess consumption led to vomiting and excruciating discomfort but not to death.  For that, more active intervention was required, as illustrated by the case of a frenzied mother who held her baby by the feet and pounded it to pulp against a rock.  Families often hanged themselves from single ropes.  This worked well enough for those in the middle, but not nearly as effectively as those on the ends.  Finally there were the stones, farm tools, razor blades, and kitchen knives… or other household or farming implements turned into instruments of death.[28]

A sculpture by artist Kinjo Minoru showing civilians trapped in caves, being murdered or coerced into suicide.

Although the Japanese government has tried to distance themselves from any culpability for the mass suicides, Steve Rabson argues that their involvement is undeniable, pointing out that in areas where there was no Japanese military presence, Okinawa civilians trusted the loud-speaker announcements made by US soldiers that promised safety, and they came out of hiding.[29] Not unlike the Comfort Women, it took many decades for survivors and academics to bring this incident to public light.  In 1982, the Japanese government issued its first denial of the event, declaring that documents from survivors represented only individual actions and did not reveal enough about the actual circumstances of the battle itself.  In 1982, and again in 2007 the government sought to reword or delete references to Okinawan suicides and a group of revisionists even sued author Kenzaburo Oe for his booklet on the event.

Although certain nationalist groups and even government officials seek to revise Japanese war history to something more “favorable,” Japan has not always had a history of denial regarding her wartime aggression.  In the immediate post-war period, there was general agreement among the Japanese that the war was “unjust” and “reckless.”  With the start of occupation, Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP) discovered that the Japanese population at large had little to no knowledge of wartime atrocities such as those mentioned above and quickly set about correcting this.  The Civil Information and Education section (CIE) established a “war guilt” program which educated the populace to atrocities such as the Nanking Massacre.  The belief was that informing the population of their wartime government’s actions would enlighten them to the cause of their current suffering and was the only way to ensure they successfully rebuilt as a peaceful nation.  During this time, there was general support for the occupation and the nation went through a period of reflection and atonement.  The so-called Tokyo Tribunal for war criminals met with approval and there was overall condemnation of the lot.[30]  This extended even into the animation sector, where there were veritable witch-hunts for those animators who had worked on propaganda during the war.[31] 

However, “rather than focusing on the war responsibility of the defendants resulting from their war crimes, criticism (was) concentrated on their responsibility for leading the nation into defeat and bringing shame and misery.”[32]From the tribunals there developed the feeling that a handful of villains, greedy for power and pushing their own personal agendas, had drug the rest of the nation down into war.[33]  The US, concerned with the psyche of the nation and hoping to prevent the very real possibly of mass suicides, fed this notion and even went so far as to exonerate the Emperor of any wrong doing.  “The U.S. tried to drive a wedge between the military, which it attacked, and the Emperor and the people, which it did not attack. This continued as part of Occupation strategy and the political myth that ‘the Emperor and the people were fooled by the military’ permeated deeply throughout the population.”[34] 

Historian Herbert Bix comments that “MacArthur’s truly extraordinary measures to save Hirohito from trial as a war criminal had a lasting and profoundly distorting impact on Japanese understanding of the lost war.”  After all, it was Hirohito himself who allowed and even encouraged the aggression and atrocities.  It was here, in the well-intentioned maneuvering of the occupation authorities, that the seeds which would grow into a general feeling of victim-hood would grow.[35]  This feeling would extended into a mistrust of authority/military figures and spread to encompass the use of the bombs against them.  From this, a major theme in anime would be established. 

The end of American occupation in 1952 saw the rise of the first revisionists seeking to cast Japanese history in a more positive light.  Hayashi Fusao, for example, published his 1962 work “The Affirmative Thesis on the Greater East Asian War,” which argued that the Allies were motivated by vengeance during the occupation and placed the war in the context of a longer, Hundred-Years-War which had been fought against Western expansionism and colonialism.  Other revisionists like Tanaka Masaaki or Ueyama Shunpei questioned the idea of an unjust war or the legitimacy of the tribunals.  That year saw ten million people petitioning for the release of war criminals.  The government noted that “public sentiment in our country is that the war criminals are not criminals. Rather, they gather great sympathy as victims of the war, and the number of people concerned about the war crimes tribunal system itself is steadily increasing.”[36] Three years later, support of the Tokyo Tribunal was fading.  A survey of 3000 men and women indicated that a “reverse course” had occurred, and Japanese “subjective self-awareness… had grown more warped and degenerate.” For instance when asked, “Political and military leaders during the war were punished by the victor nation through a military court: do you think it natural for this to happen after having started a war? Do you think it inevitable considering Japan lost the war?” 19% responded that they thought it was ‘natural,’ 66% answered that they thought it ‘inevitable,’ and 15% said that it was ‘unclear.’ Furthermore, to the question “Even if Japan lost, do you think that the Tokyo Tribunal was an abysmal way to resolve matters?” 63% of people answered that they thought it was “utterly appalling” while only 31% answered “I don’t think so”[37]

As time passed, opinions on war memory became more polarized with radical revisionists and nationalists seeking to distort the reality of Japan’s wartime actions.  The first of the textbook controversies occurred in 1965, when the government demanded that textbook author Inaga Saburo remove the term “reckless” from his description of the Pacific war.  A further 323 items within his book were also deemed unacceptable.  The book in question had been in use for the past decade.  As a result of the following lawsuit the Ministry of Education tightened up its textbook screening process and limited the number of books open for consideration.[38]  Yet in spite of such controversies and the appeal which revisionist accounts no doubt held for some Japanese, there were still many more, especially in the comic book and film sector, who continued to spread anti-war messages.

The 1970s brought about another period of introspection and division, triggered in part by the Vietnam War and also by the new availability of detailed accounts of wartime atrocities.  Japanese war crimes were now being taught in classrooms, teachers imparting the lessons of the war upon a generation who no longer had any memory of the events themselves.  The government countered this by implementing a revised curriculum that was designed to increase national patriotism and pride.

In the 1980s, concerns about a wayward generation of youth had arisen as teens appeared to have grown overly materialistic, fascinated with American pop culture, and obsessed with manga and anime.  Fearing that the youth had lost their way, the government and elements of the political right sought to compensate, feeling that a lack of patriotism might be at fault.[39]  Nagayo Homma described this as an “identity crisis” Japan was suffering as a result of rapidly becoming a highly developed industrial nation;[40] essentially they were beginning to feel they had lost their identity somewhere along the road to becoming a major economic and technological power.[41]  A call for “better” textbooks arose, and as a result Japan found herself at a “crucial” juncture in the post-war evolution of education.[42] A re-emphasis on patriotism appeared in civics books along with a general refusal to criticize the government. 

In 1982, the next major textbook controversy took the issue international when the government demanded that descriptions of Japanese aggression towards China be “toned down.”  Private textbook publishers, feeling the pressure to meet government demands or lose access to textbooks markets, capitulated and put forth non-controversial texts which skirted atrocities and other issues that might be found harmful to the government agenda. Tetsuo Majita summarized the results:

One can read some of the textbooks dealing with the 1930s and come away with the feeling that nothing much of consequence really happened during that fateful decade.  This approach of turning a stormy history into a dull and non-controversial narrative reflects the absence of interpretive agreement among historians… there is an unwillingness to present disagreements… the result is a carefully edited – some say censored – historical account that is… gutted of experiential significance… historians who knew the past to be… filled with misdirected passion and irresponsible errors… wrote bland narratives… that left no one responsible… the net effect is to distract the post-war generation from the actualities… it appears as a history that post war youth is expected to forget…[43]

This flat and non-committal assessment of history is, in fact, unique to the 20th century.  Earlier eras in history, such as the samurai era, receive much livelier and in-depth treatments.[44]

Neighbouring Asian countries protested the minimalist treatment they received in the 1982 textbook.  The government rushed to smooth ruffled feathers but the result was only a greater outcry from Japanese nationalists and revisionists.  Kitsukawa Manabu pushed back with his 1983 book Japan Was Not an Aggressive Nation.  Likewise, the following year Tanaka Masaaki published a book titled The Illusion of the “Nanjing Massacre,” arguing that the entire thing was a myth cooked up by the Allies during occupation.  They were countered by other historians who wished to preserve the truth; in 1984 the Research Committee on the Nanjing Incident was founded, publishing numerous analysis of the event, and in his publication War Responsibility Ienaga Saburo stated his belief that all Japanese will remain eternally guilty of the crimes their fathers and grandfathers committed during the war.[45]

The death of Emperor Hirohito in 1989 set off another bout of introspection, and the 1990s swung opposite the previous decade with a spirit of reconciliation defining the public mood.  Steps were taken towards atonement; 1993 saw the founding of the Center for Research and Documentation of Japan’s War Responsibility. Reparations for victims such as the Comfort Women were paid out, and several museums were opened to educate the population on Japanese atrocities and colonialism.  Hirohito was blamed for deaths which could have been prevented had he made the decision to surrender earlier, and Japan as a nation was generally considered accountable for her actions, although there remained no consensus within the population.  The museums became the sites of frequent protests.  The 1997 civics textbooks were the most critical and clear they had ever been, but revisionists and nationalists decried them as “masochistic.”  From out of this there rose two significant revisionist groups – the Society for History Textbook Reform, and the Japan Conference, a pro-imperialist, revisionist organization whose goals included reforming education, replacing the Constitution with a Japanese-made one, and the pursuit of a fresh government that emphasized national pride and the sacrifices of martyrs instead of apology.[46]

The early 21st century saw yet another textbook controversy; in 2005 China and South Korea raised complaints that a proposed Japanese history textbook– work of the Society for History Textbook Reform –  “whitewashed” Japan’s atrocities, glossing over the Comfort Women and describing Nanking as “an incident.”  Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shot back that China’s curriculum was “anti-Japanese.”  His position was that he wanted the youth to be proud of the past, and he was reported as saying that he was even considering revising the 1993 Kono Statement.[47] Presently, textbooks are now required to reflect the government position on historical issues, meaning that six of the seven 2015 adopted texts have all minimized Japanese atrocities such as the military’s involvement in the Okinawa suicides.  Only one of these texts mentions Comfort Women.[48]

Mariko Oi described her experience as a student in Japan.  She explains that the students are supposed to get though one million years of history in a single year – a feat that is certainly impossible to do on anything but the most superficial of levels.  This million years of history was summarized in a text of less than four hundred pages, and of that four hundred only nineteen were given to the twentieth century, which is often rushed through if reached at all.  Comfort women and the Nanking massacre are both mere footnotes.  The atomic bombs receive just one sentence.  She explains that it was not until she went to school in Australia that she noticed anything deficient in the Japanese curriculum.  She has since come to the conclusion that many of Japan’s difficulties in foreign relations are on account of the current policies at play in the education system.[49] 

Education systems are products of the government which fund them and thus reflect their values.  Schools, in turn, indoctrinate the youth accordingly.  As a result, these values and viewpoints seep into various corners of Japanese society including its entertainment industry.  In his review of Mick Broderick’s Hibakusha Cinema, David Desser laments that none of the included essays “tackle the issue of … how, too often, the…films produced have portrayed the Japanese as victims without providing a historicizing of the origins of the war and Japan’s culpability in it.”[50]  However, this very subject is the central theme of Satoshi Kon’s Paranoia Agent.  In this series about a boy on skates with a baseball bat who commits random hit-and-run assaults, Kon sharply criticizes his society’s refusal to accept responsibility for the war.  This series stands out against the backdrop of continuing domestic and international debate concerning Japan’s vacillating attitude regarding her actions during the war. 

“It has been proven that I’m not responsible… I’m the victim,” states one of the characters in Paranoia Agent, summarizing Japanese attitudes towards the war and the bomb and setting the theme for the entire thirteen-episode run of the 2005 television series.  At first, it seems “Shounen Bat” makes his attacks randomly, just a punk kid with a violent streak and his victims only happened to be in his path.  However, it quickly becomes apparent that his attacks are anything but random; the two detectives investigating his crime spree discover that each of the “victims” were proverbially cornered and seeking to avoid responsibility for their own poor choices. They are actually relieved to be victimized because they felt it absolved them of their guilt.  As terrible as the nuclear bombs were, John Toland maintains that there were some who saw the Hiroshima bombing as the “golden opportunity” for Japan to get out of the mess she had created and surrender while still saving face.  After all, who can defend against such a terrible weapon?[51] Susan Napier goes further, stating that the “atomic bombing…created for many a collective sense of victim-hood.”[52] The shock and horror of the bomb provided Japan with a tool for misdirection, their suffering in August of 1945 a distraction, perhaps even absolution, for the sins of the preceding decade.  In the end, the audience learns that Shounen Bat was not originally a real person, but invented by one of his victims as a way of avoiding responsibility for a mistake she made as a child. In the end, he is only defeated when she accepts responsibility and apologizes.

The symbolism in this particular series is dense and it might seem tempting to argue that Kon is issuing a general criticism.  However, hints in the opening credits and spaced carefully throughout the series focus his criticism specifically at the issue of Japan’s war guilt, beginning with the theme song itself:

Raaiyaa ra raiyo  –  A marvellous mushroom cloud in the sky

Raaiyaa ra raiyo  –  On an afternoon with small birds eating seed in the lanes

On a lawn dappled with sunlight, touch my hand; let’s talk together

Look, above the bench, a dream begins to blossom

Drown the melancholy in your heart with the sound of the waves

Build a bridge to tomorrow, worrying not of tidal waves and the like

Raaiyaa ra raiyo  –  Such magnificent trails left in the sky by airplanes

Raaiyaa ra raiyo  –  On an afternoon where people pass on a popular street

Smile and take my hand for a little bit; let’s go for a walk together

Look, the wind is drowning out even that voice saying “It’s all over”

Don’t worry about tomorrow; leave the destination up to me

Lock up your heart and don’t believe in avalanches and the like

Raaiyaa ra raiyo  –  I’m used to seeing a rain of fire in my dreams

Raaiyaa ra raiyo  –  On afternoons when I’ve woken up by the office windowsill

An invitation from the rays of the sun shining through the trees; let’s set out together

Look, above the bench, a dream begins to blossom

Listen to the wind blowing through the grass; get rid of your melancholy

Believe that tomorrow will be another clear day; don’t fret about having dreams and the like.[53]

Appropriately titled “Dreamland Obsessional Park,” the lyrics strongly suggest the idyllic summer afternoon of August 9, 1945, when Fat Man was dropped upon the unsuspecting inhabitants of Nagasaki.[54]  As the lyrics and Toland posit, the bomb provided the Japanese with a unique opportunity to shift their status from victimizer to victim, and this is the overarching theme of Paranoia Agent.  Against these lyrics the opening credits show the various characters of the series laughing hysterically amid scenes of danger and destruction – one woman is standing on the edge of a building, another underwater.  Other characters are pictured in ruined cities, in a landfill, or falling from an airplane.  As the song comes to a climax the bomb begins to appear, first behind the character of Detective Keiichi Ikari in time to the words, “a spectacular mushroom cloud in the sky.”  Ikari is smiling, his arms thrown wide in a celebratory, or perhaps welcoming, gesture.  Next, we see the “Sage” character standing on the moon.  One after another, nuclear explosions erupt upon the surface of the Earth, which hangs in the background. 

Later in the series a sharp eye might catch a cameo by Adolf Hitler himself, cleverly hidden among toy parts in an otaku’s collection.  As Kon often criticizes the unhealthy obsessiveness of otaku culture throughout his works, it is appropriate to find the Fuhrer tucked away amid another form of obsession, for it was obsession and worship that led Germany into her

Paranoia Agent, “Radar Man”

own war.  And in the very last episode of the series, just in case no one has picked up on Kon’s hints, Detective Ikari stands surveying the ruins of Tokyo after it has been destroyed by Shounen Bat and comments, “It’s just like after the war ended!”   

Kon’s work is meticulously detailed, right down to the title.  In an interview with Tamaki Saito he explains that he chose the word “paranoia” because it was stronger than “fantasy” or “delusion.”  He felt the word  “gives the sense that someone is actively making himself delusional.”[55]  In Paranoia Agent everyone is deluding themselves about their responsibility for their poor choices.  The series opens with scenes of daily life in Tokyo, cutting from person to person as they all make various excuses to avoid something.  It then moves on to introduce Sagi Tuskiko, the young animator responsible for the creation of Maromi, a sleepy-eyed pink dog that is essentially Kon’s equivalent to Hello Kitty.  Maromi is a big hit, but Tuskiko is under pressure from the studio to create an equally successful follow-up.  Suffering from artists’ block, she is on her way home when she is mysteriously attacked by a pre-teen on rollerblades.  A criminal investigation in the works to find the attacker, and a hospitalized Tuskiko receives a reprieve in her work.  Not everyone believes her story, however.  Detective Ikari is suspicious, as is a vile tabloid reporter who is in desperate need of a scoop.[56] As he stalks her down a dark alleyway he becomes the second victim of Shounen Bat.

The next several episodes follow the investigations of detectives Keiichi Ikari and Mitsuhiro Maniwa as Shounen Bat claims more victims.  It does not take long at all for the detectives to discover what connects the victims – they have all been backed into a corner of their own making, and they are all relieved when they are attacked because it absolves them of their responsibility, at least temporarily.  Take, for instance, the tale of Harumi Chono, a woman afflicted by Dissociative Identity Disorder.  She lives as an innocent and modest teacher by day and a glamorous prostitute by night.  The personalities communicate with each other by leaving voicemails on the house phone.  “Stop acting like a victim,” the prostitute, Maria, says.[57] When Harumi becomes engaged she avoids being honest with her fiancée and instead tries to eliminate Maria, repeatedly throwing away her possessions and deleting the voicemails as though she can delete the unsavory actions of her darker side.  This enrages Maria, who will not go away simply because Harumi finds her inconvenient.  Torn between her two personalities and stumbling maddened through the streets, Shounen Bat takes away Harumi’s troubles with his golden bat.  He then goes into her apartment and deletes her voicemails. 

Another of the vignettes features the corrupt policeman  Masami Hirukawa, who is committing robbery, taking bribes and borrowing money from the mafia so he can build a house for his family.  However, he is anything but the devoted husband and father he portrays himself to be; he regularly solicits prostitutes, rapes the child of a family he robs, and has even installed a hidden camera in his daughter’s room so he can watch her undress.  Things come to a head during a typhoon when Hirukawa’s daughter discovers the camera and runs away.  Hirukawa’s ill-gotten house is swallowed by a mudslide as his daughter shouts at him over the phone, screaming that she wants to forget everything.  Shounen Bat arrives and her request is granted. She wakes up in the hospital with amnesia, blissfully free her from her pain. So, too, is her father delivered from her discovery of his perversion.

These two exemplars do more than establish Shounen Bat’s modus operandi; the symbolism, like practically everything else in the series, can be applied to Imperial Japan during World War Two.  Maria and Harumi represent the two faces of Japan – Harumi as modern Japan, respectable, hardworking, and demure.  Maria represents Japan’s dark wartime record, lurking in the shadows and never actually gone in spite of Harumi’s dearest wishes.  Time and again Harumi throws away Maria’s things only to have them reappear, just as revisionists’ denials and whitewashing cannot make Japan’s past aggression go away.  Harumi begins deleting Maria’s voicemails without listening to them, much as war crimes are deleted from Japanese textbooks.  The act of deletion does not change the message; it only deprives the recipient of information.  Rather than confronting her fiancé and being honest about her issues, Harumi thinks moving forward with her life is as simple as pretending Maria does not exist.  Japan wrestles with the same issue; rewriting the war to suit her own narrative will not change the fact that she inflicted suffering upon her Asian neighbors.  It only leads to problems in their international relationships now and into the future.

When asked why humans commit crimes, Hirukawa’s response is to stick the symbols of imperial Japan to his forehead and change the subject. 
Paranoia Agent, “A Man’s Path.”

In episode four Hirukawa essentially labels himself Imperial Japan when he finds a matchbook decorated with cherry blossoms and the Rising Sun and sticks it to his forehead. 

Hirukawa’s need to build a house at any cost is symbolic of Imperial Japan’s hunger for empire.  He constructs a home for his family by borrowing dirty money from the local mafia and robbing his neighbors of their own hard-earned savings, much as Japan expanded into Asia in search of resources needed to continue empire building.  Japan’s drive to establish the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere, and the war resulting from this ambition, was not self-sustaining just as Hirukawa’s job as policeman was not enough to facilitate his home construction.  Instead, each expansion of the empire required more resources and caused more conflict, leading to a never ending cycle of expansion and conflict.  Hirukawa, too, finds himself trapped in a never ending cycle of theft and crime as the mafia continues to add “interest” to his debt.  Summarizing the very spirit of imperialism, the mafia character says to Hirukawa, “One’s happiness is built on the misfortunes of others.”[58] As he is committing despicable acts of theft a continuing narrative of heroism runs through his head, justifying and romanticizing his crimes in much the same way as Japanese propaganda romanticized the war and justified expansion.

The Japanese shown as liberators of South East Asia, cutting off the tentacles of Western imperialism.…hi_sangoku.jpg
The mighty and romantic Samurai of yore destroying Allied ships
This postcard shows an anonymous Japanese soldier protecting the adoring children of the Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Even Kon’s decision to make Hirukawa a dirty cop is pointed and purposeful.  Ideally a police officer represents order and safety; he protects innocents from any criminal elements of society that would cause harm.  This ideal is what makes the discovery of a dirty cop so enraging – they are not only breaking they law they are sworn to uphold, they have betrayed the trust their society placed in them when they were first given their badge.  Similarly, Japan portrayed herself as liberator and protector of East Asia – the police of Greater East Asia, if you will.  In spite of the trust he took on, Hirukawa behaves as a criminal, making his already dispicable actions all the more appalling.  Similarly Japan not only failed to uphold the trust she claimed for herself, she allowed and even encouraged acts of violence and cruelty against the conquored people she claimed to liberate and protect.  As Hirukawa’s house is buried beneath a mudslide, so all of Japan’s agression came to naught as her empire dissolved beneath the Allied approach.  In the end, the only one who is happy is Hirukawa’s daughter, having blissfully forgetten not just her pain but even her own name just as Japan’s children have all but forgotten the crimes of their forebearers.  Or, perhaps, she is meant to represent how happy they might be if only they could forget.

The evolution of Shounen Bat.  Fed upon the delusions of Tokyo, he becomes ever more powerful. 

Shounen Bat sweeps through Tokyo, bringing them absolution for their transgressions by transforming them into victims just as the nuclear bombs did for Japan.  The detectives soon discover that the original attack was a fake – Tsukito injured herself and made up the story of the boy with the bat in order to get out of her deadline, just as Japan’s suffering was a result of her decision to violently pursue empire.  Others scornfully dismiss her: “The victimizer playing the victim – I bet she doesn’t feel any guilt at all!”[59] Shounen Bat is a outward manifestation of this: he is the embodiment of the recurring trend in the Japanese recollection of WWII: aggressors disguising themselves as victims.[60]

The capture – and subsequent murder – of a copycat reveal that Shounen Bat does indeed exist, dreamed into lifed by Tsukito’s desperation and fed by the desperation of others.  It is even possible to summon him.  He becomes something of a folk hero, with characters actively seeking him out.  As the series continues, he becomes larger and more monsterous until he is no longer even a boy, but a black blob that swallows Tokyo.

In this scene from the end credits, everyone naps peacefully around a giant Maromi. Paranoia Agent, end credits.

Shounen Bat is not the only means of escape avaliable to the citizens of Tokyo.  His counterpart is his creator’s other monster – Maromi, the cute pink cartoon dog which has taken Tokyo pop-culture by storm.  “Maromi’s function… is that of a narotic that relieves stress… by providing excuses to evade responsibility.”[61] 

One episode follows the animation team responsible for the production of the new show “Mellow Maromi.”  A scene from the show depicts a tired and frustrated little-leager complaining that he has no talent while Maromi tries to comfort him.  Instead of suggesting he practice more, Maromi excuses him by saying that he’s just tired and he should take a nap. An offspring of Japanese kawaii (cute) culture, she serves as a mental safety net for the characters in the series, promising them protection from reality if they will only just rest and quit thinking, just as kawaii offers the Japanese a chance to escape reality for a world of cuteness and kitsch.[62] In the very first episode of the series, Tsukito’s Maromi toy comes alive and talks to her whenever she is troubled, telling her that she is thinking too much and that she should rest in spite of her impending deadline.  While watching news coverage of Shounen Bat, Tsukito has already started to figure out that she created him long ago to avoid a childhood responsibility.  Maromi turns off the TV and insists that nothing that happened long ago – like Japan’s wartime actions – could possibly have anything to do with what was happening today.  Her relationship to Shounen Bat is first suggested in episode one.  After Shounen Bat attacks Kawazu he skates up to Tsukiko.  His shadow falls across her stuffed Maromi toy and he enigmatically announces he’s come home.  The existence of the two characters are linked to a particular event that happened long ago – they are “both symptoms of an event and a lie about the event.”[63] Maromi’s populatiry and Shounen Bat’s power increase together, until by the last few episodes of the series the little pink dog is literally everywhere.  As Paranoia Agent draws to a climax and Shounen Bat rages out of control, Tsukiko can no longer deny her involvement in the creation of the monster who now threatens to consume Tokyo.  As the pieces fall into place, Maromi becomes angrier and more protective, unplugging phones, unlocking doors, and urging her creator to run as Shounen Bat comes for her.

Detectives Ikari and Maniwa provide touchstones throughout the series, often seeming to be the only sane people in all of Tokyo even as the case of  Shounen Bat drives both literally to their wits’ end.  The arrest of the copycat drives Maniwa into delusion as he begins to percieve the true nature of Shounene Bat – he is not a person but a concept, dreamed up by Tsukito when she needed an excuse and perpetuated by the delusions of others.  His mental break forces Ikari to suspend him, and Maniwa spends the rest of the series convinced that he is a caped crusader tasked with defending Tokyo from Shounen Bat.  Although delusional he remains self aware, using his own mental state to decode the connection between Tsukito, Maromi, and Shounen Bat and ultimately giving Tsukito the tools necessary to defeat him.  His investigations lead him to the discovery of Shounen Bat and Maromi’s mutual origin: one sad day when Tsukito was just a girl, she took her puppy – the real Maromi – for a walk and let go of the leash.  Maromi was hit by a car and killed.  Unable to accecpt resonsibility for fear of punishment, she lied to her father and made up the story of a boy on skates with a bat who attacked her and killed her puppy.  Ten years later she again found herself in a bind and again used the lie of an attack to avoid responsibility.

The copycat turns up dead in his cell, murdered by the real Shounen Bat and as a result everyone involved in the investigation is fired.  Ikari’s sacking results in an existential crisis similar to that which the nationalists and revisionists suffer, and for the first time in his life he chooses to turn his back on reality.  An old fashioned sort of gentleman, he tries to

understand the nature of a crime for crime’s sake, as the attacks seem to be.[64]  In one scene early on, he ponders this with the corrupt Hirukawa at his side.  Hirukawa finds a matchbook decorated with cherry blossoms and the Rising Sun and sticks it to his forhead, essentially declaring himself imperial Japan.  He then hands the matchbook to Ikari who calls it “nostalgic” and pockets it.  Ikari spends the rest of the series contemplating this symbol of imperial Japan, looking towards the yesteryears as a simplier time while he struggles to solve the mystery of Shounen Bat and stop the senseless violence he represents.  In waging war on Shounen Bat, Ikari is in fact waging war on all of Japanese society; his adversary is not one deliqent boy but every citizen of Tokyo who turns away from reality and lives in their own narrative.  The matchbook and Shounen Bat are linked through the crimes committed by imperial Japan and Japan’s desire to avoid acknowledging them.

The Superflat style of art reflects the traditional art style of scrolls and woodblock prints, returning anime to its roots and reminding Ikari of a simpler time with his world made sense.
Paranoia Agent, “No Entry.”

While his cohort Maniwa sinks into delusion following the murder of the copycat, Ikari takes a more practical route and finds work as a security guard, a job he performs with a quiet dignity in spite of the depression he must surely feel.  Although he has been pragmatic and realistic throughout the series, he begins wishing for an escape from reality.  When he comes across a small Maromi keychain on his way to work he pockets it along with his book of matches, showing his desire to escape.  He hits rock bottom when he learns that one of his coworkers is actually a thief he caught, demonstrating just how far the former police detective has fallen from grace.  Making matters worse for Ikari, his sickly wife is in need of an expensive operation.  Rather than going home to face her he shares drinks with the former thief.  When they leave the bar the real Japan has disappeared and Ikari is in a “superflat” world of yesteryear.  This superflat world smells of nostaligia and harks back to a simpler time, the flat two dimensional images Kon’s way of expressing the shallowness and lack of intellectual depth in Ikari’s world of escape.  It is a reference to the supposed shallowness of anime, kawaii culture, and the desire of Japanese society to avoid the un-pleasantries of their past by thinking and functioning only on the surface level.  The lack of dimension and depth reflect Ikari’s – and Japan’s – preferred outlook on the world.[65]  In this superflat world, Ikari does not have to think about his sick wife or his ruined career.  He is free to chase simple old-fashioned burglers and once again be a hero.

Meanwhile, Ikari’s wife Misae has decided she is a burden on her husband and contemplates suicide.  She summons Shounen Bat to end her troubles, yet rediscovers her courage through the memory of her husband’s strength and pragmatism.  Whenever she felt backed into a corner, he would tell her, “You mustn’t run away from reality.  Ad hoc relief is nothing but an illusion.  No matter how difficult life becomes, let us not turn away from it, and overcome difficulties together.”[66]  Instead of seeking the escape Shounen Bat offers, she now confronts him for destroying Ikari’s career in a stirring monologue which summarizes his very existence:

You took advantage of the weakness in my heart and appeared here to kill me, to offer me a false salvation.  But I will no longer be deceived… I heard you indiscriminately attack those who try to escape from reality.  Are you saying that you’re easing their suffering by doing that?  That you’re saving them?… I will tell you how humans are neither as weak nor as shallow as you believe them to be…[67]

She then lays out all the troubles and challenges of her marriage and describes her husband as “resolute… and noble and strong,” for standing with her through all of them:

 “That is what humans are really like.  No matter how harsh reality is, they can confront it… Your very existence is an illusion.  Yes, you’re the same as this Maromi creature, which leads people astray with ad hoc relief.” [68]

Although sick and possibly dying, all her worldly possessions destroyed by a raging Shounen Bat, Misae’s acceptance of her reality brings her peace.
Paranoia Agent, “No Entry.”

This stirring scene demonstrates Kon’s own faith in his people, his confidence that they are strong enough as a nation to accecpt responsibility for their actions as opposed to losing themselves in excuses, media, hobbies, anime, and kawaii culture.  All the while Shounen Bat is trying to swing at Mrs. Ikari and yet finds himself unable to touch her.  He destroys her home and even throws the television, which switches on to “Mellow Maromi.”  Misae is not taken in nor is she distressed by the destruction of her possessions.  In the end, Shounen Bat vanishes, and the walls to her home fall away to reveal a beautiful pastoral.  By confronting the difficulties of her reality, she has found peace.  Kon is encouraging his viewers to do the same.

Misae’s faith in her husband at this moment is desperately ironic – although it saves her, the detective seems to be lost.  While he wanders his idyllic superflat world, she is dying in the hospital and Shounen Bat has grown bigger and more monstrous.  As Maniwa tries to break through Tsukiko’s delusion, Shounen Bat has transformed from a boy into a daemon in pursuit of his creator.  Tsukiko, rather than listen to Maniwa and accept that she is responsible both for her puppy’s death and for the creation of Shounen Bat, opens a door and she and Maromi escape into Ikari’s superflat fantasy.  Maromi disappears from the real world altogether and the citizens of Tokyo become enraged.  With their distraction gone, they have nothing to protect them from Shounen Bat. 

With Tokyo being ravaged by Shounen Bat, Maniwa and a dying Misae know salvation depends on freeing Tsukiko and the detective from their delusions.  But when Maniwa manages to contact Ikari through a television set, begging him to bring Tsukito back to save Tokyo, Ikari hurls a brick through the television and is applauded by onlookers for protecting them from dangerous information. When Misae projects herself into the world, Maromi tells Ikari to run.  He does, with his wife pursuing him with desperate entities until she is finally able to confront him.  With her dying words she reminds him of the man he is.  Enraged and heartbroken he picks up a bat and smashes the superflat world to pieces, shouting, “I know this world is all fake… it’s all a lie…”  The broken characters become Maromi toys.  With a mighty swing he bats the Maromi keychain into the superflat horizon, shattering the entire world to reveal a devastated Tokyo.

Tsukiko, clutching her Maromi toy, tries to run but is confronted by detective Maniwa who has donned a cape and all other manner of strange, heroic dress. He explains to Ikari all about the original Maromi and urges Tsukiko to defeat Shounen Bat by accepting responsibility:

Shounen Bat was a product of Tsukiko’s delusions that was born ten years ago.  It then resurrected into this present day and made the situation develop this far!  …Ten years ago, when you were an elementary school student, you were attacked by a hit-and-run assailant while taking Maromi for a walk.  Attacked by a boy who wore rollerblades and had a metal bat.  Despite police investigations, the assailant was never found.  Of course he wasn’t!  He never existed in the first place!  You let go of Maromi’s leash because you weren’t paying enough attention, and Maromi died after getting hit by a passing car.  You couldn’t say that to your father.  You were afraid that you would be punished! That is why you made up the imaginary hit-and-run assailant!… Your father knew… his atonement and his hope that you will tell the truth are invested in this![69]

Tsukiko continues to deny everything.  Shounen Bat – now an all-consuming blob – merges with Maromi and engulfs Tokyo, including Ikari and Tsukiko.  But as she floats in darkness and oblivion she cannot escape Maniwa’s words and finds herself relieving that summer day when Maromi died.  Unable to hide from reality any longer, she scoops up the broken body of her puppy and apologizes.  Shounen Bat vanishes and Tokyo is released from his grasp. As Ikari surveys the devastation, he comments, “It’s just like after the war ended.”[70]

Gomenesai, Maromi. Acceptance of her responsibility is all that is needed to defeat Shounen Bat. 
Paranoia Agent,  “The Final Episode.”

Paranoia Agent was one of Satoshi Kon’s last projects before cancer brought him to an early death in 2010 at the age of 46.  As his only television series it was most frequently overlooked in interviews in favor of his more popular films like Perfect Blue and Paprika.  As such, one must distill his meaning from symbolism, a few hints dropped in interviews, and the influence of his mentor Otomo.  Paranoia Agent is Kon’s call to his society to look away from the escapes of modern Japan to confront their responsibility for the war.  Claiming victim-hood only temporarily delivers one from one’s transgressions without actually solving the problem.  If not accepted, it only becomes worse; not only does Japan’s denial of particular atrocities complicate her international relations, her failure to teach her youth about the origins of the war makes it more likely the same mistakes will again be made.  Kon ends the series with scenes of a reconstructed Tokyo and all has gone back to normal.  In an echo of the series’ beginning, we see people immersed in their technology and making excuses to avoid responsibility.  Maromi has been replaced with a cute sleepy cat.  Kon leaves us with the feeling that Japan did not actually learn anything at all from Shounen Bat and that it will all end up happening again – a warning that his society needs to learn from the war instead of simply turning away.  In his 1993 apology to the Comfort Women, Secretary Kono made a statement which Kon seems to urge his people to follow through the series:  

“We shall face squarely the historical facts … instead of evading them, and take them to heart as lessons of history. We hereby reiterated our firm determination never to repeat the same mistake by forever engraving such issues in our memories through the study and teaching of history.”[71]


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[1] Stephen Ambrose, To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian,  (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003), 112.

[2] Mariko Oi, “What Japanese History Lessons Leave Out,” BBC News, Tokyo, (March 14, 2013), (accessed May 10, 2017)

[3] Jerome F. Shapiro, Atomic Bomb Cinema, (New York: Routledge, 2002), 271.

[4] Susan J Napier, Anime: from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle (New York: MacMillan, 2000), 214.

[5] R.J. Rummel, “Statistics of Japanese Democide: Estimates, Calculations, and Sources,” Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2002, (accessed June 29. 2017).

[6] Seagrave, Sterling & Peggy. Gold warriors: America’s secret recovery of Yamashita’s gold, Verso Books, 2003.

[7] Judgment International Military Tribunal for the Far East, 1948,, 1008 (accessed June 30, 2017).

[8] Ibid, 1004.

[9] Ibid., 1011

[10] Ibid., 1012

[11] Iris Chang, The Rape of Nanking, (New York: Penguin Books, 1998).

[12] Ibid.

[13] Judgment International Military Tribunal for the Far East, 1015.

[14] Reuters Staff, “Factbox – Disputes over Japan’s Wartime ‘Comfort Women’ Continue,” Reuters, (March 5, 2007), (accessed June 26th, 2017).

[15] Ikuhiko Hata, “The Comfort Women,” Asian Women’s Fund, June 28th, 2007, 10-11.

[16] Hua-Lun Huang, The Missing Girls and Women of China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan: A Sociological Study of Infanticide, Forced Prostitution, Political Imprisonment, “Ghost Brides,” Runaways, and Thrownaways, (Jefferson: McFarland Publishing, 2012), 206.

[17] Reuters Staff.

[18] Muta Kazue, “The ‘Comfort Women’ Issue and the Embedded Culture of Sexual Violence in Contemporary Japan,” Current Sociology, vol 64,  no 4, (April-26-2016 ), 620 – 636.

[19] Peipei Qiu, Su Zhilang, and Chen Lifei, Chinese Comfort Women: Testimonies from Imperial Japan’s Sex Slaves (British Columbia: UBS Press, 2014), 9.

[20] Ibid., 88.

[21] Ibid., 91-93.

[22] Qiu, et al, 77.

[23] Yohei Kono, “Statement by the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on the result of the study on the issue of “comfort women,” August 4, 1993, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, (accessed Jun4, 2017)

[24] Qiu et al,  xix.

[25] “Japan Denies Forcing Okinawa Suicides,” – Connecting People Through News, March 31, 2007, , accessed July 01, 2017,

[26] Steve Rabson, The politics of Trauma: Compulsory Suicide during the Battle of Okinawa and Postwar Retrospectives,” Intersections, Vol 24, (Perth: publisher?, 2010), pg 41.

[27] Kamata Satoshi, “Gyokusai” in Shūkan Kinyōbi, 12 and 16 October 2007, trans Steve Rabson as ‘Shattering Jewels: 110,000 Okinawans Protest Japanese State Censorship of Compulsory Group Suicides,’ in The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, 3 January 2008, online: (accessed July 1st, 2017).

[28] Miyume Tanji, Myth, Protest and Struggle in Okinawa, (London and New York: Routledge, 2006) p. 38

[29] Steve Rabson, The politics of Trauma: Compulsory Suicide during the Battle of Okinawa and Postwar Retrospectives,” Intersections, Vol 24, (Perth: publisher?, 2010), pg 41.

[30] Takashi Yoshida, “Historiography of the Asia-Pacific War in Japan,” Western Michigan University: History Faculty Publication, (June 3, 2008)  (accessed May 4, 2017).

[31] Jonathan Clements, Anime: A History (London: British Film Institute, 2013), 77.

[32] Kentaro Awaya, “The Tokyo Tribunal, War Resposibility, and the Japanese People,” The Asia-Pacafic Journal: Japan Focus, vol. 4, no. 2 (February 16, 2006). (accessed June 29th, 2017).

[33] Takashi Yoshida, “Historiography of the Asia-Pacific War in Japan,” Western Michigan University: History Faculty Publication, (June 3, 2008)  (accessed May 4, 2017).

[34] Awaya.

[35] Herbert Bix, Hitohito and the Making of Modern Japan, (New York: Harper Collins, 2000), 585, 583.

[36] Awaya..

[37] Ibid.

[38] Tetsuo Najita, “The Japan/United States Textbook Study Project: Perceptions in the Textbooks of Each Country about the History of the Other: Textbooks and Politics in Contemporary Japan,” The History Teacher¸ vol. 16, No. 4 (August 1982), 553-562, (accessed December 7, 2012).

[39] Ibid., 557.

[40] Nagayo Homma, “The Japan/United States Textbook Study Project: Perceptions in the Textbooks of Each Country about the History of the Other: The American Textbook,” The History Teacher¸ vol. 16, No. 4 (August 1982), 543-552, (accessed December 7, 2012), 549.

[41] This theme also appeared frequently in anime, particularly in the mecha and cyberpunk genres.  One excellent example of this search for self is Ghost in the Shell.  Another is Hideaki Anno’s 1995 series Neon Genesis Evangelion, in which a mecha – known as an Eva – actually absorbs its pilot.

[42] Najita, 553.

[43] Ibid., 560.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Takashi.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Oi.

[48] Mina Pollman, “Why Japan’s Textbook Controversy is Getting Worse,” The Diplomat, (April 8, 2015), (accessed May 10, 2017).

[49] Oi.

[50] David Dresser, “Review of Hibakusha Cinema: Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the Nuclear Image in Japanese Film, by Mick Broderick, Film Quarterly 51, no. 4, (1998): 44-45.

[51] John Toland, The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945 (New York: The Modern Library, 2003), 792.

[52] Susan J Napier, Anime: from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle (New York: MacMillan, 2005), 28.

[53] Hirasawa Susumu, Dreamland Obsessional Park, 2005,

[54] Nagasaki seems suggested here because the song takes place in the afternoon, and Nagasaki received the bomb at approximately 11:01 am as opposed to Hiroshima, which was bombed in the morning.

[55] Tamaki Saito, Interview with Satoshi Kon,

[56] The reporter, Akio Kawazu, had gotten himself into a corner by running over an old man with his car.  Unable to pay the resulting medical bills, he follows Tsukiko hoping for a big story.  When the two detectives see him in the hospital making his excuses to the old man’s family, Maniwa quips, “Oh, your victim, huh?” Kawazu retorts, “…I did society a favour by running him over; what a nuisance,” summarizing the racially motivated justifications used by the Japanese army to mistreat their conquests.  Ep 1.

[57] “Double Lips,” Satoshi Kon, Paranoia Agent, aired June 11, 2005, on WOWOW.

[58] “The Holy Warrior,” Satoshi Kon, Paranoia Agent, aired June 25, 2005, on WOWOW.

[59] “Radar Man,” Satoshi Kon, Paranoia Agent, aired August13, 2005, on WOWOW.

[60] Michael Andre-Driussi, “Final Staff,” Satoshi Kon Explores the Insanity of Japan, , accessed September 05, 2012,

[61] Gerald Figal, “Monstrous Media and Delusional Consumption in Kin Satoshi’s Paranoia Agent,” The Otaky Manqué 139-155, (Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press, 2010), 143.

[62] The best known example of kawaii is Hello Kitty. Kawaii has invaded Japanese culture to the furthest corner, until even construction signs are made “cute.”

[63] Druissi,

[64] Ikari asks, “Why do human beings commit crime?… Crime without a reason… crimes in which the purpose has become to carry out the crime itself…”  The atrocities committed by Japan can only be described thusly.  There is no sense or reason in treating captured POWs and unarmed civilians including elderly and infants in such a manner, making the actions of the Japanese military nothing more than crime for the sake of itself.  “A Man’s Path,” Satoshi Kon, Paranoia Agent, aired June 18, 2005, on WOWOW.

[65] Figal, 143.

[66] “No Entry,” Satoshi Kon, Paranoia Agent, aired August 6, 2005, on WOWOW.

[67] Ibid.

[68] Ibid.

[69] “The Final Episode,” Satoshi Kon, Paranoia Agent, aired August 20, 2005, on WOWOW.

[70] Ibid.

[71] Kono Statement.


  1. I’m writing here to let you know how grateful I am for all your research and hard work in piecing this. It is a very interesting read and has given me some extra perspective on making my own analysis video on the show.
    Once again, thankyou.


    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read it, and I’m very glad it’s been helpful for you! Please remember to cite and/or tag me in your own work – I’d love to see it. Good luck!


  2. Why, hello there. This is a commentor writing from Barcelona, Spain. I have been a fan of Satoshi Kon’s work, history and Paranoia Agent for a couple of years, but no other review I scanned put this piece in so much context as you. Ever since the relationship between the war and Paranoia hit me, I have been obsessing over this rabbithole.

    As other commentors have added, thank you very much for putting together this wondrous article. And don’t get too intoxicated with that gin, will ya?

    Responsibility and peace,



  3. The introspective and detailing of this article is impeccable, outstanding. Thank you for teaching me and other readers about these connections / history, really helped expand my views outside of just the anime to real world issues to be taught.


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