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.
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.
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.