BBFC Comments on Paranoia Agent Censorship
posted on by Andrew Osmond
Fans of the director Satoshi Kon may be following the new episodes of the Ghibliotheque podcast, where the presenters move away from the titular studio to look at Kon's works. In the latest episode, the focus is on Kon's TV series Paranoia Agent, and the presenters bring up an old censorship issue.
(Discussion of suicide follows.) The eighth part of the series, called "Happy Family Planning" is a mostly self-contained story, a macabre black comedy. The story involves three people who meet online, intending to kill themselves together. Two of the trio are adult men, but they're shocked to realise the third person is a preteen girl, who seems to regard suicide as a game.
In one scene, the three characters try to hang themselves in the mountain. In the unedited episode, the girl is shown bouncing happily up and down with the rope around her neck, chanting "Swing! Swing!" (finally, she breaks the tree branch, sending them all tumbling). However, this scene, lasting 80 seconds, was cut entirely from the UK DVD edition of the episode, following a ruling by the BBFC, the British Board of Film Classification. There was no such cut in the American release.
Responding to inquiries about the cut in the past, the BBFC has made its reasoning clear. Although the relevant DVD was rated 18, the BBFC still judged that the scene of a child "enjoying" being hanged was irresponsible and harmful, and that underage children could be influenced by the scene.
In the podcast, presenter Michael Leader said he had asked the BBFC for a new comment on the issue, and received this more detailed reply:
"We believe that adults should be free to choose their own entertainment and where possible, we will always attempt to deal with a classification issue through the appropriate use of our classification categories. However, in occasional circumstances, a work may raise an issue that requires intervention and compulsory cuts may be required before we are able to award a classification.
"In the case of Paranoia Agent, a compulsory cut was issued in 2006 in response to material relating to the issues of suicide in episode 8. Our classification guidelines state that portrayals of potentially dangerous behaviour, especially relating to suicide, self-harm and asphyxiation, which children and young people may potentially copy, will be cut if a higher classification is not appropriate, and so consequently in 2006, the BBFC considered the portrayal and treatment of the issue of suicide in Paranoia Agent to be potentially harmful, and issued a compulsory cut in accordance with out classification guidelines."
After reading the comment, Leader wondered if the cut would still be mandatory in the UK today. The series had a DVD release from MVM from 2005, in four volumes. Episode 8 was on the third Paranoia Agent DVD, released in 2006. Subsequent collected DVD editions from MVM are still available, with the cut retained.
The 13-episode television anime series premiered in Japan in February 2004. Genon Entertainment describes the anime:
When the darkness overcomes the heart, Lil' Slugger appears..."
After the first victim's story, the police felt the overly stressed woman was having a breakdown and lied to cover-up for some crime. However, after the third and fourth attacks upon unrelated victims led to the same description of a young attacker with a golden baseball bat and in-line skates, the police had to wonder - is the "Lil' Slugger" real or some kind of sinister phantom?
Satoshi Kon directed the series at Madhouse, and Kon is also credited with the original work. Seishi Minakami and Tomomi Yoshino wrote the scripts, and frequent Kon collaborator Susumu Hirasawa composed the music.
Details regarding the series' availability corrected; thanks to GeorgH for the heads-up.
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