Everything Becomes F: The Perfect Insider

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Based on the 1996 mystery novel by Hiroshi Mori, The Perfect Insider tells the story of a particularly intelligent professor Sohei Saikawa and his assistant Moe Nishinosono, the wealthy daughter of his mentor. The two are keen to meet a famous genius AI researcher called Shiki Magata who has lived in a locked room for fifteen years since the death of her parents whom she is believed to have killed. Shortly after Saikawa and Nishinosono arrive on the small island where Magata lives they discover that Magata has been murdered. And so begins the psychological investigation – for how could Magata have been killed when she lived alone?

The intelligent Saikawa instinctively steps into the role of the deducing detective, with the curious Nishinosono playing the Watson to his Holmes as the two bounce theories and opposing ideological perspectives off each other in an attempt to solve the mystery of Magata’s death. It is revealed pretty early on that Nishinosono has feelings for Saikawa, who remains oblivious even when she is unable to disguise her jealousy or happiness over his attentions to her and others. Nonethless, their relationship is presented primarily as that of two intelligent companions with a genuine bond, and Nishinosono isn’t afraid to disagree with him or challenge him over his philosophies. Her secret crush is used as light humour occasionally but everything remains within civilised parameters – no wacky anime arm flailing or biffing the oblivious male over the head.

Murder solving requires nicotine
Saikawa spends as much time smoking as he does thinking

Magata offers the most overtly interesting character for the audience. With her long dark hair she evokes imagery both of the delicate doll she refers to in an online interview with Nishinosono and a more unhinged ghostly character reminiscent of the classic Japanese horror film Ringu. Through flashbacks it’s shown that she carried on a relationship with an older man at the age of 14 and has multiple personalities. The archetype fleshed out for her of the crazed temptress could feel cliche, but the show isn’t salacious or exploitative in its approach to either issue. Even one of the more dramatic moments in which young Magata presents the older man with a knife is kept on the brink of a dramatic moment for a later reveal.

Don't you just hate it when you interrupt a couple mid murder spree?
Wait, that’s not how you perform Seppuku…

The Perfect Insider takes a very detached and psychological approach to telling its story, in keeping with the genre. Whilst the muted colour tones and starker animation style keep the focus on the intellectual game unfolding, I found the pared back emotions to be too cold or minimalist at times. For instance, when Magata first emerges from her room and everyone realises she has been murdered, there is a complete lack of reaction. Similarly, when Nishinosono returns to look at the body later we see no disgust, horror or sadness. Once I got over the fact that this was a type of anime that focused so heavily on the rational, it became easier to enjoy it for what it was.

Although the clinical style can be a bit jarring at times, The Perfect Insider provides a fascinating layered mystery, weaving in the psychological, the technological and the downright puzzling to make for a continually intriguing watch. There are plenty of philosophical discussions about death which I expect are even more in depth and interesting in the original novel. Be sure to check out this anime if you’re looking for something cerebral!

Everything Becomes F: The Perfect Insider is now available on Crunchyroll.

 

 

My Top Five Best Anime Ever

I have spent the last fifteen or so years of my life watching anime, so it felt like a good time to put together a short list of what I feel are the best (of what I’ve seen so far). The five I am about to discuss are not rated in any particular order of what I feel are the best, mainly because they are all quite different in style and genre, and I love them in different ways. I also decided not to include any Studio Ghibli films as I feel it goes without saying that they make up some of the very finest of Japanese animation. Here we go!

Code Geass

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What it’s about: Prince Lelouch Lamperouge has had to sit and watch as his empire Britannia has brutally conquered most of the world, including Japan, where he has been exiled. Japan has been renamed “Area 11”, and its citizens treated as second class, subject to poverty and abuse under the new regime. Lelouch sets out to seek justice and freedom for Japan and his sister Nunnally, adopting a secret disguise as “Zero” and using a strange magical power bestowed on him by a green haired witch to command anyone to do whatever he wants once. Unfortunately he has to do battle with his childhood friend Suzaku who is also seeking justice for Japan, but through legitimate means as he tries to rise through the ranks as a Britannian Knight to change the system from within.

Why it’s one of the best: Code Geass serves up a healthy portion of every core anime genre going – mecha robots, supernatural powers, politics, high school drama and romance – and most of the time it balances them all excellently. The ethics are compelling as Lelouch treads a morally grey area with his consequential approach against Suzaku’s deontology, the action is gritty and the politics are convoluted. The romances and lighter high school moments provide a nice offset to the emotional weight of the rebellion being staged as the stakes get higher and higher.

 

Ouran High School Host Club

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What it’s about: Haruhi is an honest, hardworking girl who has managed to get a scholarship to a wealthy, elite school. Her plans to keep her head down and away from the shallow, rich types are derailed when she accidentally breaks a priceless vase. The vase belongs to a host club, a group of pretty boys of all types who spend their extracurricular hours charming and entertaining the female students. They agree to let Haruhi work off her debt as a host, dressing as a boy. Of course their crazy hijinks often interfere with her studious sensibilities…

Why it’s one of the best: Ouran High School Host Club really pulls off ridiculous humour, often as a segueway into the serious, heart tugging moments. Tamaki’s brash, vain superficial charm and Haruhi’s blunt, serious nature both disguise heart-rending back stories and together they help each other learn and grow in a touching way. The show also parodies the shoujo genre as often as it embraces it which prevents things from sinking too deeply into fluffiness, and it has a lot of fun playing with gender roles and stereotypes.

 

Parasyte the Maxim

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What it’s about: Shinichi is a quiet boy living a normal life until a parasite burrows into his hand, gaining sentience and naming itself Migi. With no way out of his new situation, Shinichi finds himself agreeing to work with Migi and do battle when other parasites begin possessing humans and brutally murdering those around him.

Why it’s one of the best: Although a slow starter, Parasyte the Maxim becomes a gripping anime as Shinichi slowly physically and emotionally transforms following his fusion with Migi. Alongside compelling battle scenes in which Shinichi has to outwit monstrosities much stronger than himself, the show offers up some fascinating commentary on evolution, self preservation, and whether parasite-infected humans living peacefully in society should still be considered a threat. If you’re looking for an anime that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat and make you think as well, this is an excellent choice.

 

Space Brothers

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What it’s about: Brothers Mutta and Hibito Nanba dreamed about becoming astronauts as kids. When younger brother Hibito is about to achieve his ultimate goal of being the first Japanese astronaut on the moon, Mutta is reminded of how much he still wants to go to space and begins the long journey towards becoming an astronaut himself.

Why it’s one of the best: Currently standing at 99 episodes, Space Brothers takes its time to take the viewer on an emotional journey, with Mutta and Hibito as wonderfully nuanced central characters that feel more like real people than any other anime characters I’ve seen. The space details are accurate and true to life of what a real astronaut application and training process would be like (with NASA and JAXA both referenced), the soundtrack is wonderful, and it will probably always stand in my top five list.

 

Your Lie in April 

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What it’s about: Arima Kousei was a child prodigy on the piano until his mother died. Tormented by her death and abusive teaching strategies, Kousei became unable to hear his own playing and gave up the piano. He lived quietly in his grief, until in his teens he meets the vibrant and beautiful violinist Kaori. Kaori’s zest for life and unorthodox playing style slowly bring Kousei back into the joy of music.

Why it’s one of the best: With big shining eyes and picturesque cherry blossoms floating on the breeze, Your Lie in April is as visually as it is emotionally beautiful. The scenes in which Kousei, Kaori, and other peers compete feature the likes of Chopin, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky (although the standout for me is Kaori and Kousei’s performance of Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso which I’ll leave a link to below) and each performance is beautifully animated, really capturing the urgency, anxiety and pure in-the-moment joy of live performance. Your Lie in April wonderfully parallels the feelings Kaori and Kousei have for music to their own anxieties, hopes and dreams for life and love, and their deepening intimacy as they grow ever closer.