Review for The Perfect Insider - Complete Season Collection Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack
Who doesn’t like a decent locked room mystery? A sleuth faced with the impossible, perfect crime, and having to use the grey matter to figure out the outlandish and convoluted way the crime may have been committed. I certainly was a Jonathan Creek fan back in the day, when the mop-headed one would solve such crimes on a weekly basis. Although on re-examination, perhaps it was the combination of infuriating know-it-all detective and easily infuriated female assistant that was the draw, with no little romantic tension in the air as well. I don’t know if the creators of The Perfect Insider are fans of Jonathan Creek, but they too have as their central sleuthing characters a know-it-all detective and a loyal and easily provoked female assistant. This should be interesting...
Genius programmer Shiki Magata is a woman with a dark past. At age 14 she was accused of killing her parents but was found not guilty due to diminished responsibility. Since then she’s been holed up on Himaka Island, actually she’s been living isolated in a room for fifteen years, in a compound where she does her work. All contact is through close-circuit television, and no one has actually seen her, although her work speaks for itself.
For professor of architecture Sohei Saikawa, and his student Moe Nishinosono, scheduling a class seminar trip to the island is the perfect opportunity to pay a visit and ‘meet’ with Shiki Magata. They finagle their way into the lab, but Magata isn’t answering. When they break the seal on her room, a room to which no one has had access for fifteen years, the find her limbless body. She’s been murdered, and this is only just the beginning!
11 episodes of The Perfect Insider are presented across two Blu-rays from Animatsu. This is a combo release, with the show also presented on DVD, but I only had the Blu-ray check discs to review.
1. White Meeting
2. Azure Encounter
3. Red Magic
4. Rainbow Colored Past
5. Silver Hope
6. Crimson Resolve
7. Grey Boundary
8. Purple Dawn
9. Yellow Blind Spot
10. Aster-Colored Truth
11. Colorless Weekend
The Perfect Insider gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on these discs. It’s from the noitaminA broadcast slot, aimed at more mature audiences, and that tells in the look of the show, the animation style. Certainly you can see by how striking its credit sequences are that you’re in for something out of the ordinary. The image is clear and sharp throughout, with smooth animation, and no signs of compression or even any significant banding, the world design has a degree of clinical perfection to it, and the measured artwork extends to the characters, which are quirky, and just outside of the anime norm to really catch the eye. The comparatively subdued colour palette helps to promote the show’s individual style.
The images in this review were kindly supplied by Animatsu.
The sole audio track here is a DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo Japanese track with player locked English subtitles. It’s a perfectly acceptable audio experience, no glitches or drop-outs, with the dialogue clear throughout, the show’s limited action sequences given space to breathe, and the show’s music coming across well. Once again, you can tell it’s a show from the noitaminA slot with the quality of the credit sequences; the dancing neon figure opening is a highlight of each episode with theme song really quite catchy. The subtitles are timed accurately and are free of typos, but for some inexplicable reason, they insist on capitalising everyone’s surname.
The discs present their contents with static menus, and each episode is followed by a translated English credit reel.
It’s a curious episode distribution on one dual and one single layer Blu-ray. Surely an 8-3 or even 7-4 split would have been better in terms of AV compression, especially given the paucity of extras on disc 2.
All you get are those wonderful credit sequences sans text, and trailers for Cobra the Animation, The Labyrinth of Grisaia/The Eden of Grisaia, Chaika the Coffin Princess – Avenging Battle, and Cross Ange: Rondo of Angel and Dragon.
Locked room mysteries are like magic tricks (see Jonathan Creek), they’re supposed to be baffling beyond belief, totally incomprehensible, able to stump viewer and detective alike, but be just about accessible enough to get us all theorising, putting 2 & 2 together to get 5 in an attempt to beat the sleuths to the solution. The Perfect Insider manages this perfectly well. The thing is that just like a magic trick, once the secret is revealed at the end of the story, it should be so simple and indeed obvious that we all slap our foreheads and exclaim, ‘well anyone could have done that!’ That’s where The Perfect Insider falls flat, as it delivers an explanation for its mystery that is even more convoluted and contrived than the mystery itself.
After watching the series through, I couldn’t make head or tail of its ending, how the crime was committed and why, so I actually went online and Googled it, and was presented with a plot hole so obvious that the show really shouldn’t work at all. You might think at this point that if a mystery show requires you to resort to the Internet for an explanation, then it has failed as a mystery show, and you’d be right. With any other show, I’d be urging you to ignore The Perfect Insider and try something with a little more in the way of internal logic. It’s just that what the Perfect Insider does get right, it does so in a very impressive way, and it also does enough that is different from other anime mystery shows to make it worth watching at least.
The Perfect Insider is a more adult animation. Anime isn’t shy of sensationalist or taboo subjects at the best of times, but it’s how it handles them that makes the difference, and the crimes committed in this show, and more particularly what motivates them all comes from a pretty dark place, and when we’re getting into the psychological make-up of the characters, things get pretty unsavoury indeed, the result of a genius mind applying warped and wholly amoral but internally consistent rules to the universe.
It’s also more adult in the way the characters are written, the way that they relate to each other and interact. That’s particularly true for the main characters of Professor Saikawa, and his student Moe Nishinosono. It’s obvious that Moe is holding a torch for the professor, and in any other anime, he’d be blissfully oblivious to this unrequited love. In The Perfect Insider though, he is aware of it, just choosing not to act on it, valuing their friendship more than any potential romantic relationship. And rather than keep the mystery front and centre throughout, the story is actually told secondary to their rocky relationship as it goes through its minor ups and downs through the series.
What also impresses about this show is that it’s a proper drama. It’s about people interacting, conversing, and debating. This is a show where you really do have to pay attention to what people say, what their motivations are, and it isn’t unheard of for this show to take a good five or ten minutes over a conversation. It’s a show where the characters engage the intellect as much as the emotion, and how the interpersonal drama plays out is actually more rewarding than the head-scratcher of an ending,
The Perfect Insider is then ultimately a frustrating and unrewarding show to watch. So it all depends on your philosophy regarding narrative. If the destination is more important to you than the journey, then I might think twice about this show, but if the journey is of greater interest, then there is much of worth in The Perfect Insider, and you should consider giving these discs a spin.