The Perfect Insider: A Dialogue-Centric, Deliciously Cerebral Locked Room Mystery Series – Anime Review

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.

Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider | TV fanart | fanart.tv

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?  

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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.

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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.

PI Eps. 01 g

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?

PI Eps. 01 d

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.

The Perfect Insider is available on HIDIVE, CrunchyRoll, and VRV.

8.25 non-alcoholic beers outta 10!

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kofi5

18 thoughts on “The Perfect Insider: A Dialogue-Centric, Deliciously Cerebral Locked Room Mystery Series – Anime Review

  1. I enjoyed your write up on this. Apparently you and I are the only people who thought the mystery was really easy, so I’d say for most people this won’t actually be an issue. I did want to offer one correction in your writing however:

    “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.”

    The age of consent in Japan being 13 is not actually true, at least not as a blanket statement and with caveats. Consent varies from prefecture to prefecture and is actually a lot closer to what you would expect compared to other nations. To clarify the 13 year-old can consent thing, think like Romeo and Juliet laws in the US. Basically a kid who’s 16 could have sex with a kid who’s 13, but it again depends on prefecture. This is actually not common compared to most other nations, but it’s where this misconception comes from.

    All that said, the relationship between Shiki and the other party is a critical component to the narrative. I remember Cameron argued that it’s inclusion was for “shock value” to keep the story engaging, but even he admits that it feels more meaningful than that even if he can’t identify the why. Much like School Days, it’s one of those things that’s easy to react to emotionally and completely miss the purpose behind its inclusion in the story being told. I’m glad you didn’t condemn the anime for that reason.

    In fact, I see you loved it and from the sounds of it, a lot more than most! I’m glad the show could be so enjoyable for you and I hope you’ll continue to enjoy the various anime in the anitwitwatches series as you are able to get to them. Enjoyed reading 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yup, I’m aware of the consent laws in Japan, that’s why I wrote “most of Japan” rather than just all of the country. Even though there is a national age of consent, 13, it definitely varies between prefectures, the same way that in America there is a legal consenting age, but each state has their own set of laws. It’s not precisely like that, but the gist is similar. For the purposes of this review, the basics was enough as it got my point across. But I knew if I started explaining the differences and getting more into detail, I’d digress a lot because it’s actually a complex system with many different repercussions depending on various situations. My cousin’s a lawyer in Japan, and he was telling me about how consent can be a tricky thing from one area to the next; he’s dealt with quite a few cases regarding it. From a legal standpoint it’s actually fascinating stuff (to us).

      I never felt it was for shock value at all, probably because of how it was handled and portrayed, and also as you mentioned because it’s such a vital component. I’ve had a lot discourse about it with a buddy of mine who’s seen and loved the series, and I very briefly touched on that in the question I posed towards the end about intelligent maturity. It’s super grey area in the show and that’s one of things that makes it so thought-provoking.

      I’m sad I didn’t get a chance to watch this with everybody else because of the discussion potential. Yet, I am happy I picked up overall. I loved it. 🙂🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. The best review of this anime I’ve seen yet! Of course, that may be because I agree with you on most of the salient points.

    The problematic issue is, of course, the illicit relationship between Skiki and her uncle. I don’t have a problem with it and here’s why.

    I did not get a sense that this was fan service. It was not played out as fapping ecchi for older guys to fantasize about getting into a young girl’s panties. There is plenty of that in anime-land and you know I call it out when I see it. The affair is an important plot element but there’s nothing erotic in its presentation. It is a grotesque relationship and there’s no tweaking of morality to make it seem ok.

    People do bad things. Sometimes they never have to deal with any consequences for what they do. Anime is under no obligation to deliver homilies about virtuous living and should certainly be free to explore the controversy. It isn’t like anyone had a happy ending.

    I have to wonder about singling out the incestuous relationship as “the great evil” in this show. Shiki also murders her own parents. What she does to her own child is far more hideous than any simple murder. And murders her lover/uncle. This does not show a child having an affair with a much older adult in a positive light.

    If people want to show their disgust for an anime, there are plenty of mainstream anime where adult/child sexuality is treated as a joke or a masturbatory fantasy. Or even rape as a virtuous thing because now the victim realizes they really wanted it and loves the perp for it.

    I have blogged before about how the Japanese culture is pretty nasty about children and sexuality. Subway molestation is epidemic. Child porn was not illegal there until very recently and that was only at the demand of the international community. The national age of consent is still only 13. Prefectures have had to set their own ages to raise them. People who are convicted of child porn charges get slaps on the wrists and aren’t even excluded from polite company. The attitude shows up in their anime.

    https://aunatural.org/2020/01/12/the-aspect-of-japanese-culture-i-find-most-disturbing/

    The name “Shiki” brings to mind another fantastic franchise that delves deep into existential philosophy, “Kara no Kyoukai,” aka “The Garden of Sinners.” If you haven’t watched it, (several movies) please do so. I think it is marvelous.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Every country has their plethora of dark and terrible sexual exploitation, to put it mildly. This isn’t merely limited to Japan. I feel like it’s far easier for people to point the fingers at other nations, particularly nations of POC, than look inwardly to see that they aren’t that different at all, or in some cases, even worse. That’s why I never specifically label one country as being more toxic than others because that sort of generalisation isn’t without its hypocrisy.

      Living in the States, I’ve seen such an intense objectification and sexualisation of children and a complete disregard for the sexual-centred crimes committed against non-male folx and people of colour; in most cases it’s far worse than other Western countries. A White man gets six months jail time for brutally raping an Asian woman because he comes from a rich family and was an athlete, where normally he’d get 10 to 15 years on average. Parents put their young children into beauty pageants and flaunt them around in a lot of makeup and suggestive clothing (making them look almost ten years older) as a way of establishing beauty standards and teaching them that their beauty is the way to get ahead in life.

      Also, how many people get labelled as being deviants in America when their interests have absolutely nothing to do with sex? I’m sure you’ve encountered plenty of that being a nudist. It’s not about sex or being a pervert all, which you’ve discussed, but ignorance makes people believe otherwise quite steadfastly.

      There are tons of other examples I’ve seen, especially from the cases that my brother encountered when he was a lawyer, so to say that Japan is nasty about children and sexuality, more so than others feels incorrect to me because America isn’t really any better about it by far; more so to associate an entire culture with it. I’m not defending them or the fact that this kind of stuff exists, as a victim of rape I would never do that for anyone, even my own countries, I’m just saying that no one country is truly above another or worse than another when it comes to things like this.

      Sorry, kind of got lost in the flow of thoughts there…

      I’ve heard of The Garden of Sinners! It was a difficult series to find for the longest time, but now that it’s on CR, I’ll definitely have to check it out. I remember it was a novel series at first. I hope they do a proper translation of it one day (and also the novel for The Perfect Insider) because I’d love to read ’em.

      Shiki’s name was super interesting to me. Not only does it refer to a corpse, but it also refers to dolls (the ones with round bottoms that can never be tipped over). The symbolism of her name and her role in the anime really fits so well together and just furthers that whole existentialism bit, more so with how she perceives dolls and death. Like I said in my intro, there are so many things that can be discussed here with the show. I just love it so much.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It will not be a quick binge! There are 7 movies from 55 minutes to 2 hours long. They are not in chronological order, which will probably confuse you until you figure it out. Just like the Monogatari franchise wasn’t in chronological order.

        There’s also “Gate of Seventh Heaven” which is a recap of everything up thru movie 6, “Epilogue” which is a kind of philosophical discussion between the two main characters set after the 7th move, “Kara no Kyoukai: Mirai Fukuin” a movie set ten years later to see what our characters have got up to, and “Mirai Fukuin – Extra Chorus” which is 3 side stories, about 10 minutes each,

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I vaguely remember that I started this anime, but didn’t finish it. I could also be confusing it with another one honestly (it seems I really am getting old haha, as my memory isn’t what it used to be). That said, after reading this, I’m adding (or re-adding, don’t know if that’s even a word lol) it to my to watch list. This was a great write up!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Excellent review for what appears to be a pretty thought provoking (if easy to solve) story that delves into a lot of the different ways being a genius can affect someone. Even more so when that person is put into isolation. If you don’t allow someone the chance to experience life at a normal pace, then that person cannot grow as well a person. So, when given the chance to have said experiences they will try and shove as many of them in as they can.

    The whole situation with the relationship and age of consent is one that shouldn’t be viewed with a typical western focused lens. First it isn’t a typical situation, secondly it isn’t happening in the west. It is an issue that I see all to much when dealing with works from outside of the country they are being reviewed in. Just because it is illegal, immoral, not normal to you, does not mean it is the same way around the world, and frankly to anyone who can’t understand that, maybe they should stop trying to pretend they know everything about said country that the piece of art came from. So, thank you for being one of the few reviewers who understand that you have to understand cultural and country context when reviewing these things, it is most refreshing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for this comment. It’s refreshing, as well, to see someone else who understands the concept of cultural and and regional context. Westerners make such brash judgments on non-Western media so quickly and usually in such a jaded manner that it makes me question their interest in non-Western media to a certain extent. Not being open minded about certain differences is how stereotypes and gross misjudgments about cultures, identities, and beliefs are made, hurtful as hell ones too. Plus, it creates an atmosphere of hypocrisy that is super frustrating.

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