written by Laurie Tom
The Perfect Insider is based on the Mephisto Award winning mystery novel Everything Becomes F: The Perfect Insider by Hiroshi Mori. Unlike most anime novel adaptations, which are based on light novels (Japan’s equivalent of YA), Everything Becomes F is geared towards adults, and it shows in the sensibilities of the characters, the subject matter handled, and the ages of everyone involved.
Professor Souhei Saikawa and his students visit a remote island as part of a university outing, but also because it’s part of a research facility housing the infamous genius, Dr. Shiki Magata. Fifteen years ago, when Magata was a child she killed her parents, but was found non compos mentis (not of sound mind).
Instead of a more conventional way of isolating her or integrating her back in society, it was decided to shut her away in this research facility where she could work to her heart’s content. The benefits of her genius could still be reaped and she would be unable to kill again. For her part, Magata insists that she never killed her own parents, but that the deed was done by a doll.
Moe Nishinosono, one of Professor Saikawa’s students, is one of the only outsiders who has had a video call with Magata (who has never left her quarters or taken any visitors in those fifteen years). Intrigued by Magata, who seems to know details about Nishinosono’s past, she convinces Saikawa to go with her to the facility to try to get another audience with her.
Unfortunately the AI and security program that runs the facility malfunctions, causing the door to Magata’s quarters to open for the first time in fifteen years, and Magata’s fresh corpse rolls out on an automated cart dressed in a wedding gown.
It’s a locked room murder mystery!
How did someone get through the heavy 24/7 security and enter Magata’s quarters without being seen? How did they leave? What is the meaning behind the wedding dress? What happened to the rest of Magata’s body? (It’s only her head and torso on the cart. Her arms and legs are missing.) Why did the AI fail at this one moment when it was supposed to have been a perfect system devised by Magata herself?
Due to the island being an isolated research station, help is not coming anytime soon so Saikawa, Nishinosono, and the research facility staff promptly look into what could have possibly happened, realizing that the killer is likely still with them, somewhere inside the facility.
The Perfect Insider is not a thriller, so even though there is one additional murder early on, it’s more mystery than action series. To solve the mystery, Saikawa and Nishinosono need to learn more about Magata’s history, the stories of the other staff members, and do a lot of thinking. Not just how the murderer got in, but what needed to happen in order for the murderer to get in. (The former casts too wide a net, but the second narrows the possibilities considerably.)
Not a lot happens in each episode, possibly a result of trying to stretch a single novel into a 11 episode TV series, but there’s enough to keep the suspense going, and that’s a feat considering that the majority of the story takes place over a few days on an island with people mostly sitting around (at times literally sitting) trying to figure out the crime.
The mystery plays fair in that the audience is given all the same clues the protagonists are, but those with a programming background will have a considerable leg up on figuring out how the security system was foiled and the meaning behind the mysterious phrase left behind on Magata’s computer.
The rest of the mystery takes a considerable logic jump that I wouldn’t have made. Yes, it works, it doesn’t contradict any previously given material, and the meager evidence supports it, but it is such a jump that I don’t know anyone could have realistically made it except in hindsight.
For pacing reasons it’s worth noting that the 11th episode is just an epilogue and is mostly skippable as it does not answer further questions, so prepare for everything to be answered by the 10th. A single cour show is usually 12-13 episodes, and even before this point it’s possible to see how thinly the story is stretched to go even this far. I suspect the production team couldn’t get away with less than eleven episodes for broadcast scheduling reasons, but for the end viewer it works better as ten.
There aren’t many anime mystery shows that encourage the viewer to try to solve the mystery along with the protagonists, so I would recommend this to mystery fans.
Number of Episodes: 11
Pluses: audience is privy to all the same clues as the protagonists, significantly more mature offering than most anime fare, mind blowing how they did it
Minuses: pacing is slow, mystery is probably not solvable by most viewers, most characters are not particularly sympathetic
The Perfect Insider is currently streaming at Crunchyroll and is available subtitled. Sentai Filmworks has licensed this for eventual retail distribution in the US.
Laurie Tom is a fantasy and science fiction writer based in southern California. Since she was a kid she has considered books, video games, and anime in roughly equal portions to be her primary source of entertainment. Laurie is a previous grand prize winner of Writers of the Future and since then her work has been published in Galaxy’s Edge, Strange Horizons, and the Year’s Best YA Speculative Fiction.