The Perfect Insider – First Impressions: A Curiously Intelligent Locked-Room Mystery that Explores Existentialism

Perfect Insider, The 02The Perfect Insider (すべてがFになる) is a seinen mystery anime series that is an adaptation of the original novel from 1996, written by acclaimed author Hiroshi Mori. It aired during the Fall 2015 simulcast season and was produced by A-1 Pictures, with direction from Mamoru Kanbe (The Promised Neverland). The music was composed by Kenji Kawai, who is quite a prolific composer and musician.

I picked this up because I’ve been wanting to catch up on the anime titles that I’ve missed out on for AniTwitWatches, which is a community-based anime watching shindig created by Jon Spencer, and this has been one of my most-anticipated titles on my watchlist for a long time, followed closely by Wandering Son, which is another AniTwitWatches pick (and hopefully the next show on my hitlist!). After having seen the first two episodes, I feel like the series has an incredible amount of potential to become one of my favourite anime of all-time.

The Perfect Insider (based on the first two episodes) is about a college professor and his student as they go on a camping trip with other colleagues to a small island where a genius named Shiki Magata resides in complete isolation from the world. She is one of the most brilliant engineers alive yet harbours a dark and enigmatic past, which has forced her into what is essentially solitary confinement. Shortly after arriving on the island, a corpse is found, leaving the teacher and student with quite a hefty murder mystery conundrum.

On the surface, the story seems to revolve around a locked-room murder mystery. Yet, from all the dialogue exchanges thus far, as well as the speculative gossip about Magata’s past, I’m left feeling like the gist of the narrative is more about existentialism and human nature with regard to intelligence, perception, and the enlightenment that can be achieved from withdrawing from social contact—all elements that I absolutely adore in a good Japanese literary fiction novel, which is precisely how this anime is presented so far.

It’s no secret that Japanese literature is my favourite reading genre in existence, mostly because of how contemplative and intellectually engaging it is for me. While watching through the first two segments of The Perfect Insider, I received the same sort of stimulus that I would if I were reading a book by Edogawa Rampo or Natsume Sōseki. In fact, the long-winded chats that take place in the pilot are supremely akin to themes that are found in those authors’ works, with some Hiromi Kawakami tossed in for good measure. The casual discourse on how people interact with one another and how that influences personal perception was amazingly interesting to me. I love anime that implements dialogue heavily and this title is a great example of it.

In the second episode, the chatter is more geared towards self-isolation, as they (teacher and student) were discussing the controversy and celebrity-like status that envelopes the cerebrally prodigal engineer. Some of their conversations were incredibly close to home given the current worldwide pandemic situation. For example, there was an exchange that pondered an evolutionary future where people became so insulated from one another that shaking hands would only occur on special occasions or to celebrate significant events. The potentiality of a world that can be completely sufficient via remote work isn’t as an impractical or unrealistic concept as it would have seemed to be just a few years ago.

If I had seen or read about this, say around 2014, I would laugh at it, more so when one considers how poisonously consumeristic some countries are (e.g.: America). However, now that COVID-19 is a very real part of everyday living, a dangerous epidemic that has forced the world into self-isolation and quarantine, the idea isn’t as far-fetched or outrageous as it used to be. In fact, in many ways, it’s actually far more ideal (assuming that an economy isn’t grounded in corrupt capitalism), and I love that The Perfect Insider gave me an opportunity to think about things like this on a whim and in unexpected ways. For me, it creates such a pleasurable and exciting watching experience.

Deep, convoluted conversations aside, other things that I found to be wholly intriguing are the parallels between the two characters, Shiki Magata and Moe Nishinosono (the student). Moe’s life is unbelievably privileged, so much so that she’s never even tasted common Japanese comfort foods (yakisoba) or held a knife. Her privilege has also kept her very sheltered and alienated from experiences that are typical for a young woman in her twenties who’s in college, like romance or going on dates. The comparisons between her seclusion and Magata’s is blatantly obvious and is used to further highlight other commonalities that the two characters share. My hope is that their kindred qualities shall somehow contribute to the narrative in unexpected ways as everything progresses onwards and avoids falling into cliché traps. If that did happen, I think a big part of me would feel sad as it would feel like a waste of the mind-blowing possibilities the title could offer. A little risk in originality can go a long way for a crime mystery that is far deeper than a mere cat-and-mouse gig.

Other very minor, positive musings that occurred to me while watching include the opening and ending songs. They are energetic and jazzy, and I really love listening to them. The soundtrack or musical score thus far is extremely limited and practically non-existent, but it works well to build a special tone of sinister yet curiously contemplative atmosphere, and I’m sure it shall contribute to the overall creepiness that comes with death in future segments. Also, the second episode’s set-up reminded me so much of Yukito Ayatsuji’s The Decagon House Murders, particularly the beginning portions, and it just made me nostalgic for locked-room mysteries in general.

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A doll of death

Overall, I’m enjoying every moment of The Perfect Insider so far and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the mystery shall unravel moving forward. Going to keep my fingers crossed that things won’t turn into a mess of disappointment.

You can catch The Perfect Insider over on Crunchyroll or HIDIVE.

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12 thoughts on “The Perfect Insider – First Impressions: A Curiously Intelligent Locked-Room Mystery that Explores Existentialism

  1. Pingback: Summer Anime Watching Wrap-Up (June to September) | BiblioNyan

  2. Pingback: The Perfect Insider: A Dialogue-Centric, Deliciously Cerebral Locked Room Mystery Series – Anime Review | BiblioNyan

  3. I have watched it in the past, but as you mention given the current situation and the changes it may create eventually in our entire culture, it might be due a rewatch. Already you are pointing out things I apparently missed. Perhaps I should wait until you finish and I get to read your final review! On a side note, “poisonous capitalism” is an excellent phrase and so very true, a perfect description of the space the U.S. has devolved to.


    • I’m almost done with it and I loved it quite a lot. It’s not perfect as there’s some questionable material but it’s still really good. Very intellectual.


  4. I tried this anime when it started airing, ditched it and came back to it for #AniTwitWatches. Having the lockdown to make things more relevant made things funnier in that respect.

    Now that I’ve finished it, I will admit it has some good parts and some weird ones that balance out to become neutral. It does throw out some interesting ideas about humanity…and surprisingly, this is the only anime so far where knowledge from my former aspirations to work in cybersecurity came in handy for more than a side detail (I wish there were more). Talking about the negatives would require spoilers, so I won’t say any more.

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    • I’ve heard it’s quite controversial. I haven’t read any reviews yet to avoid spoilers, but I’m sure once I’m done I’ll go hunting some down. I can see some issues with it and I’m only 4-5 episodes in, but I’m going to hope it won’t turn out too badly. I’m just a sucker for anime that’s akin to Japanese literary fiction.


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