Figal – “Monstrous Media and Delusional Consumption”

Figal, Gerald.  “Monstrous Media and Delusional Consumption in Kon Satoshi’s Paranoia Agent.”  Mechademia vol. 5 (2010).  139-155.

Just one more quick post today, and then I NEED to get back to actually READING the stuff!  (I can stop any time I want to, maaaan!)  Trying out a different format for this one, since it’s a journal article rather than a full-fledged book.  Maybe…. bullet point lists of likes and dislikes?  GO!

(I’ll note, by the way, that I’ll have more to say about Figal’s work after I read his Civilization and Monsters in a bit.)

Cool stuff about this article

  • Kon!  Finally!  God!  There’ve been a few things written on Kon (as far back as 1993, according to this handy bibliography by Mikhail Koulikov, though not picking up momentum until about 2005, or so), and I hope it’s part of a coming boom in scholarship about him.  His work is fascinating, and deserves a serious look from academics.
  • Gives a really nice reading of some of Paranoia Agent‘s formal experimentation, especially in the “Maromi Madoromi” episode.  “It is as if the color is knocked out of him” is a great line, and he ties it well to the show’s concern with the divide between reality and fantasy.
  • (Sort of?) reconnects otaku with broader society, albeit anxiously.  See my previous gripe about Azuma’s treatment of otaku (which itself quotes this article in some serious funhouse mirror shit), by comparison.  Figal doesn’t go as far as Azuma in basically deeming otaku as ontological others, though he does use them as a kind of canary in the coal mine of society for the reading he wants to push.


Uncool stuff about this article

  • Really media-phobic.  I’m not denying that the cautionary tale of mindless media consumption he identifies is present in Paranoia Agent, just that there’s a whole other half to it.  It is, after all, only through Maniwa/Radar Man’s acceptance of the influence of fantasy on everyday reality that the mystery is solved in the end.  Figal brushes right past the whole Radar Man thing like it’s completely unremarkable because Radar Man is the counterpoint to his McLuhan-inspired turn of phrase, “the medium is the monster”.  Figal’s reading of McLuhan is that new media instantiate imperceptible structural changes in the flows of society, and these changes are bad.
  • Relegates the role of gender to a footnote.  Seriously, the revelation at the end that the whole mystery spins out of Sagi Tsukiko’s reaction to her first menstrual cramps was huge, and is something I’m still thinking over after having watched the series three times.  Figal poses a few basic questions about this development in a footnote, but chooses to sidestep discussing it at length/at all in the body of the text.  Instead, he focuses on the war connection brought on by Detective Ikari.  While the world-historical question definitely also deserves attention, this isn’t the only instance of gender being foregrounded in the series (I’m thinking here of Chouno Harumi’s character or the gossiping housewives of “ETC”), and I think that deserves a look.
  • Ambiguous stance toward otaku in his use of the phrase “otaku manque” (“failed otaku”) to describe the majority of society.  Are we supposed to want to be more like the active consumer otaku, such that we have a more thoughtful engagement with the media we consume?  Or are we supposed to fear the (in his words) “otakuization of society,” lest we all become the stereotypical otaku who meets his tragic end in the series after completing his solipsistic plastic model of himself?


So yeah.  Good article in some ways, and hopefully indicative of growing scholarly attention being paid to Kon’s work, but frustrating in other ways.  Now back to work, Brian!


3 thoughts on “Figal – “Monstrous Media and Delusional Consumption”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s