Alternative titles: Subete ga F ni Naru, Everything Becomes F
Novel Adaptation by A-1 Productions
Streaming on Crunchyroll
Professor Sohei Saikawa is planning an outing with the other members of his research lab. Moe Nishinosono, the daughter of his mentor, presents him with the idea to visit Shiki Magata, a mysterious programming genius who has gone into exile after being accused of murdering her parents. That’s all that happens, really. But that’s okay.
Aqua’s verdict: F Is For Favourable
Nothing happens in the first episode of The Perfect Insider. And that’s okay. When I finished watching it — after what felt like but a handful of minutes — I somewhat unfortunately ended up comparing this show to Bakemonogatari. Both shows could be justly refined as ‘slow’, ‘talky’ or ‘pretentious’, but whereas Bakemonogatari is memorable mostly for its pseudo-intellectual nonsense, The Perfect Insider uses pretentiousness as an entry barrier. People who need grade-school level narrations and exposition dumps need not apply, as do people who confuse eccentricity with depth, like… well, 90% of the people who watch Bakemonogatari.
There is method to The Perfect Insider’s madness — from the salient riddles to the half-casual, half-respectful back and forth between Moe and her professor Saikawa. Even with the little information we have on them, only a few minutes of dialogue are enough to make them feel like real characters, Saikawa blathering misanthropy with the kind of sardonic ‘I-secretly-know-this-is-far-fetched-but-let’s-just-keep-going-and-see-what-happens’ self-awareness only an academic can possess, and Moe dangerously tip-toeing the line between observant flirting, concern trolling and straight-up emotional manipulation.
It’s not Shakespeare, evidently, but at the very least The Perfect Insider manages to make every single line it spouts be about something, and organically string them together into something approximating a actual conversation between two flesh and blood human beings. It never feels dull or pointless, never lingers on, never waits for you to catch up or shoves its credentials down your throat so you too can feel as smart as the people who wrote it. It’s loquacious without being boring, slow without being discursive, and at it’s best worthy of a mystery novel voted one of Japan’s very best.
What Bakemonogatari does have what The Perfect Insider lacks, however, is style. While the opening and ending sequences are artistic masterpieces, The Perfect Insider is generally a rather drab, static show and while it’s generally easy on the eye, director Mamoru Kanbe clearly hasn’t gotten the memo about dialogue scenes not being a visual lost cause. Asano Inio’s character designs lose a lot of their charisma in animation and while Atsumi Tanezaki turns in another fantastic performance as Moe, the soundtrack is nothing to write home about. Nevertheless, The Perfect Insider puts a lot of potential on display, with excellent characterization and dialogue, and intriguing whiffs of mystery. Now we just hope it won’t go down the way… well, pretty much every noitaminA show of the last 5 years has gone.
Artemis’ verdict: Understatedly Compelling
The second of this season’s murder mysteries doesn’t exactly start off with a bang. An extremely dialogue-heavy episode, the premiere of Perfect Insider seemed more preoccupied with setting up character dynamics than it did with presenting the audience with an actual plot; if I didn’t already know what was going to happen from the MAL synopsis, I could almost have assumed this was going to be some kind of slice-of-life drama/romance. Since this anime also looks and feels a great deal less dramatic than Sakurako-san, it’s probably safe to say that many viewers will favour that over Perfect Insider, whose visuals aren’t as lush and whose writing is a great deal more understated.
I have to say though, I think I prefer the subtler and less fan-pandering atmosphere of this story, and am happy to exercise a little patience to see where things go. A slow build-up may not make for a mind-blowing opening, but that’s of comparatively little importance to me if it leads to something I can really sink my teeth into. And hey, it’s always nice to see new anime based on full novels. Moribito, Hyouka, From the New World, Eccentric Family, Welcome to the NHK… experience has taught me that when it comes to anime adaptations, novels tend to make for pretty decent source material.
Also, bonus points for the nifty OP!