The Perfect Insider

Moe Nishinosono is a bright and intelligent 19-year-old, in her sophomore year studying at Nagoya National University. On the surface, Moe appears well-off and even somewhat self-indulgent, from a politically well-connected family who wants for nothing. Her childhood, however, was scarred by tragedy when her parents were killed in a plane crash that left her orphaned. Moe is infatuated with one of her lecturers, Sōhei Saikawa, a brilliant associate professor of architectural engineering. The two have known one another since Moe’s childhood: Sōhei was a pupil of Moe’s father, also a university academic, and was present when Moe witnessed her parent’s death. Sōhei behaves toward Moe somewhat like an older – affectionate if distractedly distant – brother and seems not to notice or reciprocate her feelings. More to the point, Moe is aware that there is one person whom Sōhei does admire: Dr Magata Shiki. A child prodigy who earned her doctorate at the age of 11, Magata murdered her parents when she was 14; found not guilty by reason of her mental state, she was sentenced to be confined in perpetuity at a state-of-the-art offshore facility under the supervision of her uncle. In the fifteen years since, she has produced brilliant research on artificial intelligence; and, despite never leaving the room in which she is confined, has started giving media interviews. Without Sōhei’s knowledge, Moe uses her political connections to get an interview with Dr Magata in the hopes of finding out more about her; but the meeting becomes uncomfortable when Magata asks Moe a series of unnervingly insightful questions about her feelings for Sōhei. Shortly afterwards, Moe manipulates circumstances to ensure Sōhei leads a field trip of students – including Moe herself – to the island where Dr Magata is confined. But while they are visiting the facility that has been Magata’s home/prison for fifteen years, Dr Magata is brutally murdered in impossible circumstances. Shortly thereafter, her uncle the Director is likewise murdered in an equally impossible scenario. And suddenly Moe and Sōhei find themselves locked in a race to find the killer before they can escape the island…

Based on the 1996 novel Everything Becomes F by Hiroshi Mori, The Perfect Insider was produced by anime studio A-1 Pictures and originally screened on Japanese television between October and December 2015.  Conventionally animated in a blend of 2D and 3D animation techniques with a small amount of additional CGI, The Perfect Insider is a classic “locked room” mystery in which an impossible murder nonetheless occurs and somehow has to be explained. To that end, all the characters are somewhat recognisable as tropes of the mystery genre, with Sōhei Saikawa taking on the role of the brilliant detective, while Moe appears as his often frustrated – albeit occasionally insightful and brilliant in her own right – offsider. That there are layers of complicated emotional and personal connection between Moe and Sōhei does round out their relationship somewhat and prevents it from devolving into the entirely stereotypical. Nonetheless, Sōhei is the archetypal disaffected outsider looking for meaning in life – and unable to see that it might reside in relationship with others – while Moe is ultimately a girl who wants the boy she likes to notice her. That said, this series does traverse some dark territory – incest, murder, mental illness, grooming, emotional manipulation, suicidal ideation – and weaves all these strands into the central mystery of the “locked room”. Whether all these threads are successfully tied up or explained may be open to debate; but if there is any point at which the series is occasionally let down, it’s in the animation, which sometimes appears slapdash – character designs that don’t always appear to be proportionate to their surroundings, vehicles that move like jerky marionettes, etc. Nonetheless, The Perfect Insider is an engaging series, briskly and convincingly told, that will provide the attentive viewer with more than a little food for thought.

Text © Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2022. All rights reserved.