Review/discussion about: Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider
Have you ever thought about the concept of nothing?
Nothing means no books, no chairs, no phones. It means no mirrors, no cards, no pillows. Even when all of these physical objects are gone, there is still more to remove. No air, no light, no electromagnetic forces, no atoms, no thoughts.
Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider goes the opposite way. “Everything” is just as crazy as “nothing.” Now those books and those pillows and those atoms are around, but that is not enough. Even when you think you collected it all, there is still more to collect. And then some.
“Everything” means everything to The Perfect Insider. But while it did not collect everything, it still provides a pretty strong anime.
The Perfect Insider would, from the outside, appear to be a mystery anime. And this description is true. An unexplainable set of events occur, the characters all work together to find an explanation, and a satisfactory solution is singled out. Over the course of eleven episodes, the anime does just this.
But from the inside, the anime is that second genre: psychological.
To be more precise, the anime is philosophical. The mystery acts as a buffer for the philosophical ideas that The Perfect Insider toys with. Questioning “Who are you?” is a common line of thinking for the anime. Discussing the nature of the body versus the soul is where the anime feels safest. Trying to define the concept of freedom or love makes the anime content.
Tying each of these ideas together is another idea, one that is the most important to the anime and is another difficult philosophical concept.
There is a surprising amount of death in the show. The death of Dr. Magata’s daughter. The death of her parents. The death of her twin brother and maid. The death of Director Shindou. The death of Nishinosono’s parents. Death surrounds the anime.
A lot of words are said by the The Perfect Insider about death. But, succinctly, the anime comes to its conclusion through Dr. Magata: Death is a cure.
The problem is in the presentation. The anime barfs all of this information in the audience’s lap within the last two episodes. The other ideas are posited, creating a foundation for the idea of death, but deeper exploration of death happens almost too late. It unfortunately has to be this way: The rest of the season has to focus on the mystery and the positing. Hence, the anime’s philosophical take on death, while wildly interesting, fails to reach the audience in an easily digestible manner.
Yet, is that not the point? The philosophical questions are hard to understand because they are, well, hard to understand. Dr. Magata is an anomaly. She thinks in a way that nobody else has ever done before. And, in a way, the audience is not supposed to understand what she is thinking. Because, as Saikawa-sensei aptly and contextually puts it, we are “programmed” to think differently from this insane, unique genius.
But this barf is hard to swallow. Life is a beautiful opportunity. Life gives people fun and places to visit and different hobbies and relationships and information to learn and food worth trekking those extra few minutes to get and anime to watch and happiness. That is, life is (and relevantly) everything.
“A flower wilts for the sake of a new seed” is the anime justifying a child killing its mother. “Isn’t the instinctive desire of beings, born not of their own volition, for their lives to be taken in the same way?” is the anime trying to make the murdering of others appear normal.
These notions are not justifiable. These notions are not normal. They are ridiculous. They are ridiculous because death is not the answer. Death removes life. And since life is everything, death removes everything. Providing – by equivalency – nothing.
Beyond the philosophical themes lays the narrative itself which is comprised of two timelines.
The first is the present. Here, Nishinosono and Saikawa-sensei work together with the staff of the island laboratory to solve the mystery surrounding them. The second is the past. Here, Director Shindou and Dr. Magata – as a young teenager – slowly reveal what happened all those years ago. The past timeline usually appears at the end of most episodes since nearly every scene from the past is filled with suspense and important information. I.e., a cliffhanger.
This past-and-present technique is simple and common but effective. Having the narrative split, flip-flopping between the present and the past, ramps up the mystery. It helps to make the proceedings more confusing, more unknown to the audience.
Yet the anime more or less confuses itself when it commits a big crime of its own: It rarely shows what happened “behind the scenes.” For example, Dr. Magata and her child are only shown together at the end. Before the end, the audience gets nothing. The audience is not given a view of them in their secluded “home” or an idea of their daily lives or what the child thought of her mother and vice versa.
Another example is Dr. Magata and Director Shindou. While they have more scenes together than the mother and daughter – like riding a Ferris wheel or at a hotel – there are still not enough interactions shown to make their relationship appear worthwhile.
Not having these and the other set of interactions arguably ramps up the mystery further. Which is a nice argument. But it also prevents the audience from fully understanding Dr. Magata and, by extension, the philosophical reasoning she oft leans on.
The Perfect Insider’s narrative also leans but on a plot contrivance. Later on in the season, a futuristic pod device is introduced. A big problem is that the pod was never mentioned. But even more problematic is what it is used for.
First, the pod reveals to Nishinosono a hugely important set of details from her past. And second, the pod gives Nishinosono and Saikawa-sensei the opportunity to speak with Dr. Magata. Because the pod is so restricted in its use, it comes off as too niche. As such, events that should be worthwhile to the narrative come off as overly convenient.
As for the mystery itself, the anime does well. The details that make up the mystery are rather clever. A pregnancy, hexadecimal code, and imitation of a nonexistent sister keep the audience guessing for the duration of the anime. While it may have been best to actually show Dr. Magata going through some of these actions – the murder of her daughter, her creating the Trojan code – what is most important is keeping its events a mystery which The Perfect Insider did.
The Perfect Insider does come full-circle with its narrative when it references the magic trick and the t-shirts, but there are too many problems beforehand that weigh the anime down.
Actual animation in The Perfect Insider remains relatively average. However, certain actions, like a character speaking or hair billowing or Saikawa-sensei failing to put in his eye drops, prove the anime can heighten its actual animation when it wants to.
Regardless of what level of animation is going on, the anime places extra care in its art, presenting visuals that are almost always meaningful. For example, the art does not just have the characters moving around. The art actively characterizes the cast.
In one episode. Nishinosono calls her butler back home. When he takes too long in his reply, she gets impatient. The audience sees her impatience plastered on her face and, more strikingly, in the fidgeting of the mouse pointer on the computer screen.
In the same episode, Saikawa-sensei is smoking a cigarette. (As he always does.) He speaks half of his sentence, inhales some smoke, and then exhales it. As if the smoke cleared his mind, he readjusts what he says.
In a different episode, Dr. Magata sits in her chair, looking like a doll. It is not until Director Shindou arrives that her face lights up and she begins to animate.
Tiny details like these say so much about the characters without resorting to exposition. And the anime uses such subtleties a lot.
To reiterate, The Perfect Insider contains a lot of expository material in the form of narration and monologues. Furthermore, the anime takes place on one island and (for the most part) within one building. As such, the anime puts as much care into its artistic direction as it does its art. But, rather than adding character depth, these details are designed to engage the audience.
A wonderful example is in the fourth episode. Director Shindou starts with a small bit of narration: “I heard her voice. Or more precisely, their….” The anime then proceeds to have Dr. Magata, currently a young teenager, speak to herself with her multiple personalities. But rather than just showing her talking to herself, the anime constantly shifts the perspective.
One perspective positions itself behind Director Shindou. One aims at her from her right side. One faces the mirror in front of her. One sits outside the barely ajar door. The scene does not last long, and the technique is subtle, but the different perspectives mirror the different personalities of Dr. Magata, making it hard to know “who” is really speaking.
Sometimes, these visuals derive from one’s imagination. The purple water in Nishinosono’s nightmare subconsciously reminds her of her purple dress. The cold, enclosed interrogation room for Nishinosono and the warm, open patio for Saikawa-sensei indicate the feelings between these two and Dr. Magata. Dr. Magata and her daughter riding on the back of a camel in the desert evokes a sense of endless discovery for that “perfect answer” the doctor says does not exist.
The opening track and ending track likewise mire themselves in imagination. The traced dance number in the opening track symbolizes the “dance” the characters have with each other. And the inner guts of some software forming an image of the doctor in the ending track symbolizes the “software” that makes up who people are.
(A special shout-out goes to Nishinosono’s small jig in the middle of the opening track. Her body bobbing and head bobbing are strangely alluring.)
More often than not, however, the visuals ground themselves in reality. Said realism comes from not just the lighting and the setting but also the character designs. People in The Perfect Insider wear regular clothes, varying in eye, nose, and mouth shapes to get at diversity without resorting to crazy.
The main cast – Nishinosono, Saikawa-sensei, and Dr. Magata – are the same, but, as the mains, they have a few extra details. Nishinosono’s short hair and baby face visually paint her as a naïve child. Saikawa-sensei’s many t-shirts signify his “many eyes” as Dr. Magata puts it. As for Dr. Magata, her white gown represents her “pure” disposition.
Overall, the The Perfect Insider leverages its art as much as possible to present a wonderful-looking anime.
The Perfect Insider approaches its characters in a strange way.
The audience learns a bit about Nishinosono, Saikawa-sensei, and Dr. Magata throughout the season. Nishinosono can manipulate large numbers, has a deep affection for Saikawa-sensei, and lost her parents at too young of an age. Saikawa-sensei deals with life in a calm, logical manner, smoking cigarettes and making silly jokes to pass the time. And Dr. Magata slept with her uncle, killed her parents, and hid herself away for fifteen years before reemerging to seek death.
Weirdly, the individual characters do not matter. They neither develop within the narrative nor impact it. What is truly important is the faux love triangle that exists between the three main players: Nishinosono, Saikawa-sensei, and Dr. Magata.
The whole dynamic is, perhaps obviously, complicated. But the best way to describe it is in terms of getting and understanding. “Getting” means seeing what another is saying. “Understanding” means seeing and comprehending what another is saying. That is, one cannot understand another without first getting them, but one can get another without understanding them. (Confused yet?)
An example. Nishinosono gets Saikawa-sensei. She knows when he is lying. She gets his sense of humor. She tends to know what he thinks. But her love for him, a love she feels is not reciprocated but instead aimed at Dr. Magata, prevents her from completely understanding him. Part of her character arc involves moving closer to the understanding side: learning just how much Saikawa-sensei helped her in the past lets her understand him differently.
Yet she cannot get Dr. Magata. She questions the doctor, and she is flabbergasted at how the doctor finds killing her own parents – when Nishinosono tragically lost her own – a simple, justifiable move.
Saikawa-sensei completely understands Nishinosono. He knows how to make her laugh. He had been there for her during the lowest point in her life. He accepts her “contradictions” as he puts it. But, with Dr. Magata, he only gets her. He does not understand her. He admires her for who she is. He gets what she says, but he cannot fully understand her mindset.
Dr. Magata, as the flawless character she happens to be, completely understands both Nishinosono and Saikawa-sensei. She understands Nishinosono because of her apathy towards humans, her thinking similar thoughts (as episode two showcases), and her not having parents either. And since Saikawa-sensei has a “very similar structure,” she understands how he operates, too.
In summary, Nishinosono gets Saikawa-sensei but does not get Dr. Magata. Saikawa-sensei understands Nishinosono but only gets Dr. Magata. Dr. Magata understands both Nishinosono and Saikawa-sensei. (Still following?)
The dynamics are complicated. But why? Why create such a convoluted set of dynamics? Why focus so much on their interpersonal connections rather than their intrapersonal selves?
The Perfect Insider’s narrative bases itself on the answer to this question. The anime is, after all, a mystery. However, the answer finally manifests within the last ten minutes or so of the season.
Two separate scenes in these last ten minutes are shown. In the real world, Saikawa-sensei recounts a story about Nishinosono’s father. In the imaginary world, Dr. Magata talks with her daughter about humanity. Both conversations revolve around the same theme: questioning and answering.
People are constantly questioning. Questioning the world is what drives people forward. And, by extension, people are constantly trying to find answers to these questions. Nishinosono questioned “Why do people live?” Saikawa-sensei’s answers got her laughing again. Dr. Magata’s daughter questioned herself, so she sought “freedom.” Dr. Magata questioned Saikawa-sensei in the ocean, and, after hearing his creative response – “Because you can’t smoke underwater.” – she wanted to meet him once more.
Dr. Magata phrases it best: “If they [humans] knew everything, they would attempt nothing. If they attempted nothing, nothing new would happen. Humans seek answers to the things they do not know. That is how kindness, nostalgia, joy, and fun are born.”
In other words, questioning the world and finding those answers allows people to get, allows people to understand. To get and understand the world, thoughts, and, most importantly, people.
This directive is The Perfect Insider’s main message. Question others, question ourselves. Only then can answers be found. A “perfect answer,” as Dr. Magata says, may never, ever be discovered. But so long as people question, answers will follow.
In other words, to understand each other, people simply have to ask, “Who are you?”
Alongside the art, the sound-work of The Perfect Insider is one of its strongest aspects.
The opening track comes out on top. Its upbeat vibe completely contrasts with the mysterious vibe of the anime, making the track feel even more fun. The vocalist does a wonderful job, too, with the step-wise, quick, and “Yea!” lyrics. And, as is pretty much required for a dance song, the track is quite catchy. Made so by the drums, the guitar, and the not-too-fast-and-not-too-slow-but-just-right speed. The OP is a fantastic track that is more than worth listening to both inside and outside of the anime.
The ending track is a step down, but that is not saying all that much. The dual female and male vocalists working together symbolizes Nishinosono and Saikawa-sensei doing the same. The different techno sound-effects fit the computerized motif. The toned-down build-up in the middle. That held lyric. The sudden and not-long-lasting loss of music near the end. All of these details, combined with the catchiness, make the ED into yet another strong track offered by the anime.
Not wanting to be outdone, the rest of the original soundtrack does well too. Tension-filled tracks made up of fast violins and harps. Soft, piano-and-flute tracks for those extremely pleasant moments. And melancholic tracks composed of violins and chimes. These more classical tracks, alongside the more mysterious ones, set up and fit the atmosphere of the anime quite well, making the OST another strong addition to the anime.
Voice acting performances are similarly high in execution. Yasuyuki Kase as Saikawa-sensei uses an older, reserved voice that suits the cigarette-loving teacher and that does not get annoying to hear for long periods of time. Atsumi Tanezaki as Nishinosono uses a cute voice that is both mature and young, reflecting the girl’s same disposition. And Ibuki Kido as Dr. Magata has a calm, plain way of speaking. Her voice captures the doctor’s levelheadedness which accentuates her rare, more emotional outbursts.
The Perfect Insider also deserves huge props for a scene that somewhat came out of nowhere. In episode seven, Saikawa-sensei talks to Dr. Magata’s “sister.” The cool part is they both do so in English. The coolest part is that the scene lasts a really long time. And when the audience thinks they are done, they keep going. Cleverly, it distracts the audience from thinking that the “sister” is actually Dr. Magata, especially when she speaks in the third person.
I liked this one. And I certainly appreciated what it did. It might be as opposite to a “turn your brain off” anime as an anime can get. The deep, philosophical questions were (obviously) the reason for this.
The anime forced me to spend a lot of time dissecting what it was trying to say. While that may be an indicator that the anime delivered its message unsuccessfully – me literally having to type out their conversations, verbatim, in order to have their exact thoughts close by seems a little absurd – it gave me the chance to question.
I thought about my own ideals. I thought about the ideals of others. I thought about life and death and myself. Not many anime can make me do that.
The mystery itself was okay but nothing I was ever taken in by. Mostly because the stakes never felt high, and the payoff was lackluster. Dr. Magata was okay, too. I am not a big fan of perfect characters; I would have liked to have seen her challenged more. The whole point is that she was perfect, but her being so flawless made her less interesting than she could have been.
I did like the “romance” between Nishinosono and Saikawa-sensei, though. Her storming out into the hallway and yelling to herself out of frustration when she learned about Saikawa-sensei staying over at another woman’s (his sister, unbeknownst to Nishinosono) place made me chuckle. Or Nishinosono declaring that she, not Saikawa-sensei’s sister, would be buying his shirts from now on made me laugh. And just the teasing, natural dialogue they shared with each other made me smile on more than a few occasions.
Nishinosono herself could be cute and fun, too. Kicking out the female lab worker because she was getting too buddy-buddy with Saikawa-sensei – “Door, close!” – had me laughing since this small act was both funny and true to her personality. And her appearing grossed out by the fact that Saikawa-sensei wanted her to call him an “idiot” had me grinning. A lot of these moments overlapped with her relationship to Saikawa-sensei, but they were, nonetheless, entertaining.
Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider has some highs and some lows. More highs than lows. The art and the music are extremely strong, but the story and the characters, despite the philosophy, could have been executed better. In the end, the anime did neither everything nor nothing. But it did, at least, do something.
Story: Bad, while the mystery itself is constructed well, a ridiculous take on death, the lack of important interactions, and an unfortunate plot contrivance each weigh the narrative down
Animation: Great, subtleties, reality, and imaginary come together to create a visually impressive treat
Characters: Fine, Nishinosono, Saikawa-sensei, and Dr. Magata are not strong characters on an individual basis, but their interpersonal relationships nicely explore the theme on questioning and answers
Sound: Great, fantastic OP, great ED, nice OST, above average VA performances
Enjoyment: Good, the mystery and Dr. Magata were okay, Nishinosono and Saikawa-sensei, especially Nishinosono, were fun, and it forced self-reflection
Final Score: 7/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3