Category Archives: Ratings 80-89

Subete ga F ni Naru [The Perfect Insider] [85/100]

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The [not quite] Perfect Insider

The Perfect Insider takes the classic locked room mystery and gives it an interesting twist, inserting digital technology and gendered elements… elements that don’t quite hold up under scrutiny, which may be a deal breaker for some.

Isaac Asimov in an introduction to his collected mystery short stories wrote that there were essentially two schools of whodunits. The first was of a logical puzzle sort that had to be deduced by the protagonist (and also, natch, the reader), with the locked room mystery being the ultimate example. The main pleasure to be derived in these sorts of stories was the logical coherence of the mystery and the way in which it could be solved as an exercise of the intellect. Asimov, as we might guess, wrote mysteries in this form.

The other sort of mystery, Asimov said, was the sort where the actual mystery was really second to the process of deduction – what might now be termed a police procedural. The main dividend  for the reader of these tales were the myriad amusing insights into human behavior, a sort of cynical morality play. Asimov gave Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe stories as the ultimate example of this school of mystery, adding, perhaps a bit ruefully, that they were really more shaggy dog stories than actual mysteries.

Having read every Philip Marlowe novel more than once, I can say that even now I don’t really remember what the mystery in any one story was exactly, or how it was even resolved. But the mystery was ancillary; an excuse for Marlowe to get involved with a colorful cast of characters, make clever remarks, and have adventures (a contemporary homage to this type of mystery is the Big Lebowski).

We can say. then, that The Perfect Insider represents a classic bait-and-switch: we are promised a cerebral locked-room mystery, and instead end up with an enjoyable character study and a somewhat disjointed adventure yarn. How annoyed the viewer is by the work’s admittedly unscrupulous deception depends on how amused they are in spite of it all.

Personally, I liked it so much that I now want to watch the live action adaptation.

The Perfect Insider opens with a simple confrontation between two young women, one of whom murdered her parents, and the other who had her parents taken from her in a tragic accident. From there begins an insightful, but also at times uneven, exploration of what it exactly means to be in control, and whether that is synonymous with freedom, a central theme that quietly flows beneath the surface of the work.

The next scene is takes up the rest of the first episode, and consists entirely of Moe Nishinosono, the young woman who lost her parents, talking with her professor.

If watching a cartoon about a professor’s office hours is something that intrigues you, then you will probably enjoy The Perfect Insider. For me, the episode was amazing. The professor,  Sohei Saikawa, is the series’ gumshoe stand-in, a haggard, unconventional chain smoker who can move effortlessly from  Zhuang Zhou to bootstrapping operating systems.  Moe Nishinosono falls into the Girl Friday role, but both characters color outside the lines enough that the conventional roles they play are more homage than hack work.

By episode 2 the duo find their way to a remote island, of course, where a storm cuts them off from the mainland, of course, and then a murder happens, of course. Thus, we finally arrive at the mystery, which involves the other young woman introduced in the first episode, the brilliant but deadly Shiki Magata. Again, the series’ charm lies in its spin on traditional elements of the mystery: the femme fatale, who in this instance never even meets the male protagonist; her seductive power for him lies totally in the realm of abstract thought.

A major plot point hinges on a real-life problem in programming, the overflow or wrap-around error, which I thought was a very clever and daring touch, given how unfamiliar and technical an issue it is, from the perspective of a general audience.

Of course, as I later had pointed out to me, while such an error is theoretically possible, it is highly improbable, even given the time period the source material was written in (the anime is based on a novel written in the early-mid 1990s). Essentially, the error involves an overflow on a 16-bit unsigned integer, which is a digitally stored whole number that has to be equal to or greater than zero, with no negative sign. However, by that period in time in Japan even video game systems had at least 32-bit CPUs, implying that the standard integer size on computers used in a state-of-the-art research laboratory would have to be at the very least twice the size of the one given in the story.

A detractor here would say that this is representative of the series’ general shortcomings; it’s only kissing to be clever, don’t think for a second that it’s going to go all the way, or that it even cares. I think this somewhat unfair, at least in this instance. It’s not something a casual viewer would ever catch, and even those people who sense it’s fibbing on a technicality would still be wiling to grant the artistic license and maintain the suspension of disbelief. Biologists and paleontologists are still able to enjoy Jurassic Park, right? Still…

In fact, what we can say is that the work as a mystery really, truly is sloppy. The mystery isn’t solved so much as it unravels in big heap in front of the viewer. By the final episode I was completely lost; not, I suspect, from a failure of intellect on my part, but because the story had so many loose ends you could make a mop out of it. At least, I hope that’s the case – FilmSnark has a much more detailed analysis of everything that didn’t add up (most of it).

And yet, after finishing it, I immediately wanted to watch it again. The main characters are a lot of fun, salient points are made regarding intelligence being used to excuse sociopathic behavior, and the soundtrack is awesome, like imagine if Phil Collins scored the original Lupin III series.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 85/100

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Duarara!x2 Shou [88/100]

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After a five year gap between this season and the original a lot of the charm that made Durarara!! such a success remains the same.  It follows Ryogo Narita’s light novels pretty closely–  there’s the kidnappings, the exaggerated Shizuo’s strength putting fear in Ikebukuro’s criminals and centers on the intertwining lives of its citizens.  It’s a series that neatly rolls so many genres seamlessly together from action to comedy to horror and even the subdued romance between Celty and Shinra plus Anri and Ryuugamine.

I believe where X2Shou outshines the first season is how closely connected the new cast is with the old.  The Russians are back and have the addition of Egor, Varona and Sloan providing a much needed backstory to their part in Ikebukuro; something that the first season needed a lot more of.  The singer Ruri was a brief mention in the beginning of the first season that it was great to see that even she has her strange secrets:  the identity of Hollywood.

My one large complaint is Studio Shuka’s animation.  Rather than sticking with Brains Base the creators went with a company that may have done a decent job in background designs the character’s facial expressions are a bit distorted at times.  There were a few times where the animation hadn’t been as fluid as the original.  For the show it doesn’t help in keeping up with the same dark artistic integrity it once had but from an anime industry perspective its brilliant.  They’ve established a new studio using a former producer of the classic Durarara!! [which is why we see tons of familiar staff working on these new seasons]  to helm the overall animation production for x2Shoux2Ten and x2Ketsu.  Smart move.  I’d really like to see this done on shonen series like BLEACH or Kyoukai no Rinne.  Rumiko Takahashi is known for doing long series so it’d be a good move to do what Studio Shuka did and follow their influence.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [88/100]

Captain Earth [82/100]

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If there are fans of Star Driver reading my posts then you will understand when I say this that you will love this series.  It’s exactly like it, the awakening of giant robots by singing, Daichi following his destiny of becoming a captain is just as similar to Takuto’s claim to Ginga Bishonen [Galactic Pretty Boy].   Even the Kill-T-Gang  are ripped straight from the the Glittering Crux Brigade!  Even the bond that Akari, Teppei, Daichi and Hana share remind me so much of Takuto, Wako, and Sugata!  It’s not just in the style of animation BONES chose to use here but the soundtrack remains relatively similar as well!

I may enjoy a series a ton but that doesn’t mean I don’t have some objections to how they might be designed.

Satoru Kosaki helms the soundtrack to Captain Earth.  This guy’s a member of MONACA, which was founded in 2004 by Haruhi Suzumiya’s Keiichi Okabe and is the main source of music in Star Driver as well.  I have a problem with this guy.  Both he and Hiroyuki Sawano do not have a very creative edge when it comes to writing up scores– I’ve said this before and I will say it again Sawano is productive with his musical tastes and so is Kosaki.  Could definitely mix some of the tracks we had in here with Shingeki no Kyojin, Kill la Kill, hell even some older shows like Outlaw Star or Mobile Suit Gundam Wing!  Just goes to show not much has changed since 2010 with Kosaki’s music.  I absolutely love it when anime deliver very different productions but here is where this is just recycled material.  One that is fun and highly enjoyable on the outside but very dry and repetitive on the inside.

So the story is that Daichi’s father dies from saving Earth from the attacks of the Kill-T-Gang, and upon learning this he takes it upon himself to become a captain.  When he was a kid he stumbled across a mysterious facility where he met Teppei and Hana– both have unique abilities one that can summon a giant ship the Blume and the other has an Ego Block.  A digitalized box that holds all the power that that person possess and it’s also said that is is what makes the Kill-T-Gang live forever. Captain Earth sure loves to throw in terminology left and right throughout the series without ever explaining it previously.  Can’t say I like it when it does this but it does move the story along, just as Star Driver did.

2-cour series like this one have the luxury of evolving its characters very well without ever worrying about pacing, and that’s exactly what Yoji Enokido did!  The Midsummer’s Knights went in a solid direction, and with Igarashi’s previous works he’s known for having a formulaic character of the week be introduced for 5 or 6 episodes straight.  It wasn’t boring because those Kill-T-Gang members lead normal lives outside of their main mission– Amara and Moco work at a crepe truck,  Zin a dealer at a casino, Lin a competitive motorcycle racer, Ai is an idol singer, Baku the boxing champion, and Setsuna a somewhat normal girl.  This is the one part of the show I really loved even more than the main plot, because even the side-cast that weren’t even a part of the overall story arc were there to establish the world these alien-beings live in, and what they would be missing if it ends up getting wiped out by them.

Igarashi is a director that sure knows how to  lay a foundation of strong characters but where this series falls flat on its face is predictability with the main story.  Hana grows to have feelings for Daichi and this only gets rejected once when she decides to leave the team, Teppei questions his place in the world after he’s destroyed his Ego Block, and the adults including Nishikubo hold on to such strong regrets about leaving behind a mess for the children of the future to clean up.

All in all it’s a coming-of-age drama where the teenagers in this show must realize that to save everything that they hold dear they need to stand up for what they believe in and fight!  Even if it is with Livlaster guns, Engine Impactors and the power of friendship!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 82/100

If you like this you might also enjoy:

–  STAR DRIVER

–  Aquarion EVOL

– Sacred Seven

Samurai Flamenco 85/100

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So I am slowly getting my final impressions out for some of these series. Space Dandy final review should show up in the next few days or so. The initial reason why I started this blog was to create a kind of anime inventory of what I have seen. After putting up a few posts, I am starting to view anime in a different light, not just for the entertainment factor, but a lot more expressively. There are a lot more trends that anime series seem to follow that I have noticed a lot more and more. I have seen some really well-done series like Cowboy Bebop, The Tatami Galaxy, and Noein are to name just a few, and some poorly crafted ones as well. Fractale, Guilty Crown and Mahō Senshi Riui all had potential but fell flat. Fractale and Samurai Flamenco followed the mold of “not knowing what to be”. These two shows were for the majority of their run well executed, yet for some reason or another there was an element [Fractale – ending, and change in direction of characters; Samurai Flamenco – further story development] to their stories that didn’t sell well for me at least. I will say now that Samurai Flamenco is without a doubt a much much better series than Fractale. Just want to be clear on that before I continue on here. Also I want to point out that this is my personal opinion on these series subjectively. Continue reading Samurai Flamenco 85/100