Please note: This review shall discuss an inappropriate relationship between a thirteen-year-old and an adult male. Please read at your own discretion. (The section shall be marked)
The Perfect Insider (すべてがFになる) is a seinen mystery anime series that adapted the original 1996 novel by Hiroshi Mori. It was produced by A-1 Pictures, directed by Mamoru Kanbe, and spawned 11 episodes during the Fall 2015 simulcast season. What initially began as my attempt at catching up on AniTwitWatches titles that I had fallen behind on has quickly become one of my favourite serials from the 2010s decade.
The Perfect Insider follows a college professor, Sōhei Saikawa, and his student, Moe Nishinosono, 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 discovered within a locked room, leaving the teacher, student, and everyone else on the island with quite the deathly conundrum.
Shortly after watching the first two episodes, I had a strong feeling that I would end up adoring this anime quite intensely. What I wasn’t expecting was to find myself engrossed to the point where I would have too many things that I wanted to talk about. Narrowing it down took a lot of time for me, but that’s also the mark of an excellently pleasurable watching experience. There are three main elements about The Perfect Insider that caused me to swoon wholeheartedly; the brilliance of its examination on existentialism and intellectualism (which causes it to be dialogue-heavy), the use of numbers, and the attention to detail in the animation style. Of course, there are a few more things, but these three make the top of the list. If there’s anything that I didn’t care too much for, it would be the predictability of the locked room mystery itself.
The Perfect Insider is a marvellously cerebral series that explores the philosophical notion of existentialism, particularly where geniuses and people who exhibit psychopathic characteristics are concerned. The bulk of the anime is centred on the question of our place in the universe or in this world and the meaning behind what we do with this existence. How do our sincere choices influence us and others around us? Does irrationality partaken with complete rational thinking change the value or outcome of those behaviours and decisions? Are geniuses the exception to the imperfections of irrationality?
Each character is a walking representation of what contemplating existentialism looks like. Shiki is on the extreme side of the spectrum where Professor Sōhei is more in the middle, with Moe being on the other end. They all create a balance of similarities with differences that centre on what it means to be alive and living in a moment where their simple existence may not account for much at all, thus making their choices just as irrelevant. This theme is further deepened by the involvement of intellectualism.
Everything that these three individuals do is an act of their innate devotion to intellectual thought in one way or another, even the most mundane or typical of actions. Moe’s jealousy and constant scrutiny of the women in Sōhei’s life is a symbol of her naturally inquisitive brain processes, to understand human affection in ways that she never learned, thanks to her parents dying so young. Sōhei choosing to portray himself as an apathetic and rather aloof individual versus allowing people to witness how deeply emotional and empathetic he is, protects him from pain but also gives him a chance to understand other’s suffering in a deeply personal yet safely distant manner. Shiki’s sexual relationship with a much older man is an experiment on psychological manipulation of human desire. All of these things empower them in seeking out a more meaningful and intellectual understanding of their existence to various degrees.
I love having conversations on existentialism because it’s something that challenges me intellectually in various ways, and to see it so complexly yet openly discussed in an anime was a bit mind-blowing to me. That is why the heavy use of dialogue to progress the narrative was awesome. When I’m watching a series or film that has a plethora of analytical elements to it, I appreciate dialogue because it makes the exposition feel more natural and intriguing. When the chemistry between the characters is superb and the flow of the dialogue doesn’t hold any awkwardness or stiffness to it, then it’s even better, which are all elements that exist here in The Perfect Insider. It’s why I connected with and hungrily consumed the show. It’s so excellently crafted.
As for the role of numbers, I can’t really discuss this without giving away major story spoilers, but I will say that the implement of numbers into the overarching plot was done quite marvellously. It’s damn good psychological writing and it shows when everything is revealed at the end. Recently, I’ve been sharpening my mathematics skills and understanding the implementation here to tell a complicated tale of a woman in isolation and how numbers has influenced her entire existence (oh look existentialism again) was just plain amazing.
The animation is breath-taking, especially the attention to details in the background. For example, the subtle way the sky transitioned from one colour to the next as two of the characters watched the sun rise. The whole shot was so stunning and matched the exchange they were having. In another scene, there is a similar situation, but this time the colours that changed were of the beverages the characters were drinking. The scene was zoomed out, yet the beverage shifted from one colour to the next so seamlessly, and also went along with their discussion. I love it when the most ostensibly littlest details come together to really round off the visual and atmospheric aesthetics of an anime, and is one of the aspects behind my passion for the medium.
If there’s anything to mildly complain about, it would be the predictability of the locked room murder. By the third or fourth episode, you learn enough about the character(s) in order to deduce who the culprit is. The only thing that isn’t certain is the motive and the technical parts of the execution. Normally with predictable mysteries, I tend to become painfully bored. However, because of all the other stuff going on in The Perfect Insider, I never felt bored, just more intrigued, so it’s not really a complaint in the bigger picture.
The last thing I wanted to discuss is Shiki’s relationship with the older guy, and I feel I should add a huge disclaimer: I’m not condoning sex between a grown ass adult who’s 30+ and a 13-year-old girl!! I would never condone that. For the purposes of this review, I shall be discussing it as it relates to the narrative and structure of the characters’ personalities only.
Lots of people had issues with the anime and its portrayal of a sexual relationship between a thirteen-year-old girl and a guy who is clearly in this 30s at the very least. I think it’s important to point out that the age of consent in Japan (most of Japan) is 13 years old, so by legal standards she was a legally consenting party to their illicit affair, which doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable or shocking, but that is the reality. In some countries, it’s even lower than that.
In the anime, I found their relationship and the manner of which they ended up being together to be a critical commentary on how manipulative psychopaths are. Shiki is credited with being one of the smartest people in the modern world who was incredibly intuitive with reading people. Couple that with grand feelings of boredom and an unyielding desire to absorb as much of the world as possible, she manipulated any and all openings as she saw fit, which we see sporadically throughout the series. So, when she sensed his attraction, or, at the very least, his fascination with her, she manipulated him into having sex with her. It was an experience that she craved.
Living in such a sheltered and protective bubble all the time can significantly warp a person’s ability to think logically by “normal” standards. When an inch of freedom is given, folx in those situations take a mile and suck in as much as they can for fear of never getting a chance like that again. That’s honestly how I interpreted the entire situation. That decision goes on to have some brutally tragic circumstances, which further exemplifies the whole analysis on existentialism that I mentioned earlier. It’s even brought up a bit at the end.
Also, the novel was written in the 1990s, which was an era where Japanese media examined sexual liberation quite heavily, especially where girls and women are concerned. Relationships between adults and teens were portrayed quite commonly. In Initial D, we have a female high schooler who’s in a physical relationship with a man that’s approximately 40 years old. In Cardcaptor Sakura, there’s a young woman and a much older dude who get romantically involved. Plus, countless dramas and novels that have the same sorts of relationships. So, while the anime was released in the 2010s, the story originated in a completely different era.
Even with all that stuff, I will say this: he was a grown ass man and should have stopped it when she tried to initiate it, whether he was terrified, fascinated, or anything else or not. But he didn’t, and the sequence of events that follow because of it basically formulate the foundation of the person that Shiki Magata becomes, as well as the groundwork for everything else that’s discussed in the anime henceforth.
It does create an interesting situation though: she is far more perceptive than him and, in some unique ways, even more mature. So, let me pose a question: while he should have recognised what was happening, when there is such a huge disparity between intelligences, who’s really in the wrong? Our own understanding of age, a number and integer, automatically co-relates it to our comprehension of the culpability for certain behaviours. So, when we have geniuses in the world who surpass the very nature of what is typical intelligence relative to age, what makes this situation any different?
All in all, I really loved The Perfect Insider. It’s so damn contemplative and rich with a plethora of themes that it’s almost impossible for me to not walk away adoring it in some level or another. Even so, I don’t think it’s an anime that every watcher shall enjoy. There’s the inappropriate relationship bit, for starters, which I know many people won’t be able to stomach (understandably so). If you’re not a fan of dialogue-heavy, thought-provoking narratives that fixate on big, dense themes, then you won’t like it. If you don’t like whiny, brainy girls who gripe about being jealous all the time, then you may feel frustrated by Moe (her ability to calculate anything almost instantaneously is sexy, everything else about her is godawfully irritating). But if you don’t mind a slow-burn mystery series that tends to get quite philosophical, then it may be the anime for you.
8.25 non-alcoholic beers outta 10!