Welcome back readers to the month of October, the month of Halloween! I’ve had something of an absence from this site recently, and for that I do apologies. Life has been busy and I rarely have time to work on what I would like to these days, but I’m back and ready to finish this review! Perfect Insider has been a interesting ride, but was it a good one, or did the mystery simply leave fall flat? Let’s decode this Tokyo Transmission as I give out my Final Cut.
The Perfect Insider (Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider) – Season One
Genre: Mystery, Psychological
Spoiler Warning: This is honestly very low on the spoiler level for the show overall, but if you do want to go in blind, some basics of the plot are outlined in this review.
Upon reaching the small isolated island home to Dr. Magata and her research staff, Souhei Saikawa and Moe Nishinosono soon find themselves wrapped up in a murder mystery. When the body of Dr. Magata is displayed for all to see, the research facility is thrown into chaos as the bases computer systems lose control and a killer is hidden amongst the scientists. Matters only get worse when the director is found dead moments after arrival, leaving the helicopter damaged and the island cut off from the mainland until the next scheduled ship.
Feeling compelled to investigate the death of the person the two both wanted to meet so badly, Souhei and Moe begin to work with the rest of the laboratory staff to find out who killed Dr. Magata, as well as seeking a measure of closure for their own questions.
In terms of a cast, the true focus never strays far beyond the interactions between Moe and Souhei, though the show does take time looking into Magata’s past, and the events leading to her death. Being perhaps the most interesting character, Magata’s story begins from her childhood and gives us fragments of her past. Enough to infer important meaning in relation to the story and work towards the mystery at the heart of the show, but it never truly dives deep into her mind. This is partly to leave her a mystery, equally mysterious as the case itself, and partly to leave you in the dark before too much of the case is solved. She’s certainly a good addition to the show despite the small role she truly plays overall, it’s something of a shame she gets so little spotlight, but in hindsight perhaps that works best in the long run given the nature of her character and the overall involvement in the story.
Souhei and Moe however, never really had much of a pay off in character development. While Moe’s backstory fills in enough of the gaps between their relationship and place in the story, nothing that interesting happens, there were no twists or turns to change your initial opinion. I never truly warmed up to Moe beyond “she’s ok” and while Souhei was always a fun watch, you never learnt anything about him beyond what was on the table to begin with. It doesn’t truly detract from the character but it made me wish for a little more focus with him over Moe. There is a larger supporting cast that grows once the crew arrive on murder island, but honestly no one is worth a mention, both in interest and involvement to the story. All in all, the three mains are a solid enough bunch, each representing a point of their thematic triangle in ideals apparent to the themes at hand, but more evolution across the board would have been nice to see. That thematic triangle though, is the true characterization the trio brings across during the story. It focuses less on their stories and more of what they each mean to each other. The complex interactions between the three are handled well, and take up a lot of the shows run time, making this more of a examination of the relationships and theme between the characters than a pure murder mystery.
Following Magata’s death, the show becomes less a straight investigation of a murder case, and more about the exploration of certain themes and ideals alongside the crime. These do all come together for the story on the whole, yet it’s hard to say it really dove particularly deep into its subjects. More than anything it centers around the idea of self-limitations and the desire for freedoms we deny ourselves, as well as the true ideals behind death of life and what that means to a living being. Magata represents the achievement of those ideals, while Souhei wishes for them and Moe denies them. While some level of conclusion is reached by the end, it never really feels like the character made any real progress, or even changed from their experiences. I can’t go into this too deeply without starting to unravel aspects of the show and characters far into spoiler territory, but It does do a nice job spinning that discussion of internal conflicts alongside the story, but it would have been nicer for a strong push in either direction ultimately. In the end it does make you think, and the exploration of this psychology and the concepts attach largely become a stronger tale of human life and death beyond the murder mystery plot presented, even if some of the timing and narrative in that department could have been handled better.
I think the weakest point of the show by far would be, oddly enough, the character’s intelligence. Having a show starring an extremely intelligence characters can be incredibly entertaining. As they destroy challenges before them in interesting and entertaining methods, or simply unravel mysteries and pull the strings of the plot with ease. In Perfect Insider though, the characters seemed too wrapped up in their own conflicts to even want to focus on the story around them. None of this is to say the show isn’t an entertaining experience, but when you have a mystery on your hands, you want to see that juicy twist and spiraling conclusion worked towards through the narrative. When they explored themes mixed into the plot itself this is fine, and the characters themselves are complex enough to interest your gaze, but all the challenges seemed far too easy for Souhei in particular, with Moe not far behind. When they did actually sit down and focus on the case at hand, they solved the riddle almost instantly. Jumping from question to answer without any real in-between doesn’t have to be bad, but it felt rushed and too quick in this case. Despite the show’s short length, I would have preferred half the length for a far more focused thematic and story aim, then what felt like beating around the bush for time.
Art and Voice
While the show on the whole does look rather good, with decent animation and its own tone drenched into the given art style, I’m a little disappointed more wasn’t done with it. The majority of the anime is very slow, and the art style kind of gives off that…drained vibe? The show knows it’s a more mature and slow paced story, more on the mystery and analytical elements than gripping story, and it shows through the artwork. It does have some really nice looking scenes and locations, some in particular I definitely can’t talk about, but almost the whole show is just inside Magata’s lab. While this is less a criticism and more a disappointed note, what we are given with the show is just grey and white building for most of the experience. After managing to let its tone seep into the art, little was done with that direction. Perhaps that is the point honestly, in some thematic sense it certainly is, but still, it was a shame to not see more done with it.
The CG elements from Souhei’s old friend and future health complications, the cigarette smoke, definitely continue as the show goes on. While the smoke never took me out of the show, there are some select elements of the laboratory that really felt jarring. Big obvious CG isn’t new to anime, and sometimes it’s not really a problem, but the little that did appear in Perfect Inside just felt…far too obvious. I wouldn’t say it damaged the experience or anything, but it did throw my focus when these extra dimension monstrosities invaded the realm of length and width. Even worse they seemed to contrast against the flat, pardon the pun, tone of the show. These scenes were not often but they were the most jarring collisions of the art styles I’ve seen for a while. It’s hardly going to ruin the show, or episode, but it felt like an unnecessary step away from something interesting achieved by the rest of the show’s style. On the whole though, maybe it’s just been a long time since watching something of a similar vein, but I did little how well the art style took the shows tone and enhanced the atmosphere. That atmosphere may be a slow and methodical investigation and character discussion, but I knew that’s what I was getting into, and I have no problem with that.
Voice work throughout remains great, each character being brought to life with the right levels of excitement, drained tiredness and calm, collection needed across the interesting vocal bored. In reflection is was also grounded in the same level of reality threaded throughout the show, characters never “went full anime” or felt disconnected from their world, it could have been presented no differently to a live action mystery drama and lost nothing. The music alongside the voice was a good counterpart, it did a great job of setting the scene without truly stealing all your attention. I can’t add anything about the opening and closing credits but again, those were surprisingly upbeat and enjoyable for the tone the rest of the show gave off.
Did I Like it?
To answer the headline, honestly, I don’t really know. I did not dislike Perfect Insider by any means, it had some interesting setup and mystery, but lacked any real payoff. Despite the makings of a great twisting and turning narrative, the conclusion of events really just ended with “Huh, so that’s what happened”. While Saikawa and Magata were interesting characters to follow, Moe really didn’t do anything for me, and her own character resolution fell short or having much impact at all. I give the genre a lot of leeway at times, but even for a mystery anime it just felt slow. Between an engaging beginning and ending, the entire middle of the show somewhat plodded along, almost as if the characters were too smart for the case in its already short eleven-episode frame. The relationship between the three characters is decent, as is the different themes each represent in a larger narrative about a psychological dialogue that takes up much of the story. The presentation of the concepts tackled however, aren’t always great, and feels rushed at the end due to slow pacing and a lack of focus.
All in all, for the first time in Tokyo Transmission I would say…maybe give this one a pass. I wouldn’t outright say this isn’t worth your time, or simply a bad anime, but there are better things out there to watch. If you really crave a slow paced psychological mystery with some interesting, if under realised concepts, then by all means give it a shot. Otherwise maybe pick up Erased instead, that was a good watch.
So what did everyone else think of this one? Honestly I don’t know of many who’ve even commented on it’s existence all that much. Did it work for you or was it a less than Perfect Insider? I’ve been out of the writing loop more than I’ve wanted to be recently, but I’m intend to be around as much as life allows so stay tuned! I have been keeping up with my streaming more than before, so if you want to keep up with me outside of the site works, check out my twitter, facebook and twitch pages for more info and content!