Might as well, considering I’m posting a review out of schedule during a time when those things are popping up all over Nano.
So here we are. The final noitamina show of 2015. Can’t say I’ve been a big fan of the time slot’s constant deaths and revivals to the point that Jean Grey is thinking there’s something wrong with it, and considering that nobody likes The Perfect Insider but people who seem to think that good dialogue automatically equals quality, I don’t think I’m going to be breaking many hearts when I say that I’m not exactly enthusiastic about having to review the show. But hey, regardless of quality, I think most of us can agree it’s still worth talking about. Not to mention, I get to slap those “novel adaptations are always good” heathens around, so win/win.
Based on the third or fourth novel in the S&M (Sohei and Moe) series – which I haven’t read, but The Perfect Insider seems to assume its audience has because it doesn’t even bother to tell us who our two leads are – the anime stars our two title characters as they head to an island retreat for a university vacation where thanks to the almighty god that is the mystery writer, a murder happens Detective Conan-style and the two must figure out what’s going on. The series also has a live-action drama that was criticized for being slow-paced, but upon further research, I discovered it actually adapts five novels worth of material within its ten-episode run, which makes me wonder just what the fuck is in these novels that makes them such a tedious chore even when you only have an hour or so to tell the story. Yes it should come to no surprise considering it’s A-1, but for an 11-episode series The Perfect Insider is ridiculously long. And it doesn’t even have any uninspired world-building to fall back on as an excuse. It’s just long for no good reason whatsoever.
The thing about mysteries is that once you know the truth behind ‘em, they cease to be “mysteries” and instead become uninteresting. As such, the bad ones generally rely on the brain-teasing to entice the audience whilst the good ones tie the mystery into other things in order to stay relevant in the long run. Maybe explore the personalities of our main characters. Rope the mystery into some larger plot. Have the villain be a well-respected figure who was turned into a bad guy for no good reason. Do everything Paranoia Agent did. You’ll be pleased to hear that not only does Perfect Insider not do any of these things, but the mystery itself doesn’t even make sense. It’s like the guy who was adapting the source material realized he ordered too many timeslots, but rather than actually add anything to the adaptation like, say, telling us who the fuck Sohei and Moe are, he just turned on an episode of Monogatari, became engaged in what he was seeing, and yelled “brilliant!” And then he saw the mystery made no sense in the novel and went “oh who the fuck cares?”
There’s so much boring redundant dialogue in this show that it takes three episodes for the mystery to even fucking start. And even with the long stretches of time spent on talking me to sleep, the show is incredibly lacking in detail. The characters react to deaths the same way a normal person would react to a mosquito bite, and everyone gets free rein of the place like they don’t care that there’s a murderer among them to the point that it felt like they were reading the script. Not to mention that what little we see of the victim’s history does a pretty good job at making me glad that she’s dead because she’s fucking psychotic. Maybe it’s just me, but I find it hard to sympathize with someone who’d kill their family out of nowhere whilst looking like she inhaled two bags of coke. And explain to me where all that AI stuff came from and what it added to the story besides a load of bananas.
With that said, the show’s total commitment to treating fucked-up relationships and psychic programs as a normal thing was entertaining at points, mainly because it kept making me laugh. Well, not “laugh” persay. More like snicker at the idea that someone can say that children grow to kill their parents at the age of fifteen like it’s a normal thing to happen. I guess now we know what happened to all the parents in every single highschool anime ever, amirite? Unfortunately, the amount of unintentionally hilarious dialogue is in a vast minority compared to the ones that are either spouting exposition or talking about Moe’s desires to bone her teacher silly. Which is also kind of unintentionally hilarious in a way. I guess spouting out quantum physics when someone asks you where the rewind button on the Xbone controller is located is considered sexy to some people.
My point is this: shows that try to get by on dialogue alone are shit. Because animation is a visual medium and not using the visuals to tell the story is like not having gameplay in your video game. That’s right, The Perfect Insider is the anime version of those walking simulator games. The ones where you play as some nameless being trying to find the plot without any challenge in-between the exposition dumps to the point that it feels like you’re reading a book that was chopped into pieces and scattered across the world so that it takes an awfully long time and money to figure out how the story ends. Forgive me for being old-fashioned, but when I buy a book, I prefer to have the entire thing at my disposal and not have to buy a new chapter every time I go to a new book store. If I had to do that, Huckleberry Finn would have taken three years to finish reading.
Plus, why should I care about the dialogue when it’s being spoken by a bunch of dull drama stereotypes with no personal story or stakes in the mystery whatsoever? Did anyone ever watch LA Confidential and thought it would have been improved if you replaced Guy Pearce with some random kid genius who has no connection with the police force and just said what the audience was thinking whilst discovering the dead body underneath the house? Of course not. Because that kid would have been really fucking boring! I don’t watch anime to see people react to things. I watch anime to see people doing things. And I can’t remember one thing Sohei and Moe ever did besides wonder what was going on and then eventually figure out the truth in one long info-dump before going about their lives.
I mean did this experience change them? Did they go through any character growth throughout the series? Did they have any personal connection with the victim? I remember Moe talking with her once and that was it. Why exactly are Sohei and Moe the main characters if they’re not going to affect the story? Even Benedict Cumberbatch had to match personal wits with the otherwise-unconnected criminals he faces at the end of each episode of Sherlock.
Fair warning to all my readers. I’m going to spoil the plot of this show now, because I can’t get deep into its silliness otherwise. After more than eight episodes of exposition-dumping along with one really bad Engrish scene that grated my ears harder than the voice-acting in a post-90s Sonic game, the show decides to reveal through several overly long and tensionless exposition scenes that absolutely none of the characters we met along the way was the culprit and that the person they thought was the victim was actually a look-alike who killed herself because fifteen years of planning couldn’t stand up to the words that came out of Moe’s mouth. The original plan was to have both the intended victim and her husband killed because they lived fucked up lives and apparently this is their way of seeking redemption rather than – oh, I don’t know – turning themselves in. Instead, the intended murderer kills herself, the intended victim escapes the island, she shows up one last time to tell Sohei that she won’t get caught, we get a final episode consisting of nothing but tying up loose ends rather than giving me some actual payoff, and then the show ends with a scene consisting of the intended victim and the actual victim talking about the meaning of life.
So in other words, assuming that load of boring plot dump doesn’t put you to sleep, the only character who gets any sort of resolution out of this mystery is the unlikable and uninteresting murderer we barely got to know, and it’s an incredibly anticlimactic one as well. Somewhere in Hell, Albert Wesker from Resident Evil is watching this show (and I have it on good authority that Satan allows his followers to watch anime in Hell) and going “dude, I was treated with more dignity than this. And I was killed by a muscleman and his incredibly stupid black sidekick who’d waste valuable health sprays on you if you so much as got a paper cut.”