The Visuals of a Locked Room Mystery: Owarimonogatari and The Perfect Insider

ougi oshino, ougi and araragi, ougi is araragi, ougi hugs araragi in the locked room, ougi oshino and koyomi araragi, koyomi araragi and himself as ougi, owarimonogatari, ougi formula, ougi oshino and koyomi araragi owarimonogatari episode 1

A tradition of detective fiction, the locked room mystery requires very little at its core. There are no exotic locales required, nor are many props or even people required. At its essence, a locked room mystery can thrive in simplicity– a standard crime scene, limited access, and an ultimately solvable situation for the detective, if not the audience as well.

This same simplicity is accompanied by many pitfalls. If the mystery is solvable for the audience, it cannot be too difficult or too easy, lest they come away disappointed. When the mystery revolves more around the characters themselves, said characters must be interesting or emotionally resonant. A simple setup makes both poor characterization or the lack of a compelling mystery all the more apparent.

In anime, the presentation of a locked room mystery is compounded by the difficulty of showing the mystery – often accompanied by large swaths of expository dialogue – visually, without giving too much away and all while captivating the viewer.

ougi enters the locked room with araragi, ougi oshino locked room mystery, ougi oshino and koyomi araragi, owarimonogatari episode 1, owarimonogatari ougi formula

No stranger to verbosity, Owarimonogatari – the latest in the Monogatari series to air – begins with its own locked room mystery for lead Koyomi Araragi and his right-hand woman of convenience, Ougi Oshino. This conundrum is far more interested in answering questions about Araragi himself and his past, rather than involving the audience in coming to a conclusion. Any audience of Owarimonogatari is likely familiar with Araragi – also Ougi to some extent – and the series uses this to its advantage.

locked room koyomi araragi, ougi formula, owarimonogatari locked room episode 1locked room through a television screen, owarimonogatari, owarimonogatari ougi formula episode 1 locked roomlocked room ougi formula, ougi formula owarimonogatari mysterylocked room owarimonogatari ougi formula, koyomi araragi, ougi oshino, araragi tries to escape the locked room in owarimonogatari ougi formula

Owarimonogatari‘s locked room in question is introduced in a series of shots establishing the room as a classroom with no escape. An eerie green geometric pattern occupies the walls and floor of the room, hinting at the fact that this room is isolated due to an oddity or supernatural occurance – which Araragi later confirms.

owarimonogatari full locked room, koyomi araragi and ougi oshino, owarimonogatari ougi formula

Next, there is a wider shot of the room in its entirety, emphasizing a generic classroom setting and both Ougi and Araragi’s positions. Ougi notably takes her spot at the head of the class, a position later occupied by Araragi and, in flashbacks, Sodachi Oikura.

owarimonogatari floating desks, the classroom turns into an ocean araragi, koyomi araragi remembers, owarimonogatari episode 1, ougi formulaowarimonogatari locked room white, owarimonogatari ougi oshino and koyomi araragi, ougi formula episode 1 locked room mysteryougi and araragi in a locked room red, ougi oshino and koyomi araragi trapped, ougi and araragi, owarimonogatari ougi formula

The room’s decor shifts several times, all while remaining a standard and recognizable classroom. Monogatari the anime consistently uses quirky interior and exterior design as an ever-changing art installation that characters happen to inhabit, so this is not something new that was introduced for the locked room mystery. Additionally, because the mystery is located within Araragi himself, the background deviations hint at Araragi’s mood or thought process, keeping the viewer entertained while Ougi probes Araragi’s memories.

owarimonogatari desks as people, araragi's classmates as desks, owarimonogatari ougi formulaowarimonogatari desks arguing around araragi, koyomi araragi class fighting owarimonogatari, ougi formula episode 1owarimonogatari desks, ougi formula, desks in owarimonogatari fallingowarimonogatari dustpan, dustpan ougi formula araragi owarimonogatari

Other mystery series like Hyouka have relied on icons, objects, and visual shortcuts to guide the viewer through the deductive process. As mentioned previously, Monogatari already uses these tools to provide insight on a particular character’s mental or emotional state. When presenting the locked room mystery, not only do the backgrounds shift, but students are represented by desks. When said students need further definition, they are given a floating name or icon – like a dustpan – leaving Araragi and Oikura as the only two students given actual human form.

owarimonogatari ougi as a shadow of araragi, araragi and ougi, ougi oshino and koyomi araragi, owarimonogatari ougi formulaowarimonogatari ougi oshino shadows koyomi araragi, koyomi araragi and ougi oshino locked room classroom mystery, owarimonogatari ougi formula episode 1owarimonogatari universe inside the classroom, owarimonongatari araragi and ougi together, ougi oshino, koyomi araragi, owarimonogatari ougi formulaowarimonogatari ougi creepy shadow to araragi, koyomi araragi and ougi oshino, owarimonogatari ougi formula

An entirely separate post could be written on how Ougi is framed as a shadow of Araragi throughout Owarimonogatari. Most importantly in Ougi Formula, she is visibly presented as both a part of him, and additionally as someone who makes him extremely uncomfortable. Unlike previous Monogatari installments where a female character is subjected to specific leering camera angles in Araragi’s proximity, Ougi exhibits a similar interest and closeness, all while putting him ill at ease. At the end of Ougi Formula, the mystery of what happened in Araragi’s past is solved, but the mystery of Ougi’s relationship with Araragi is introduced and given further weight through the series’ visuals.

perfect inside rlocked room, the perfect insider, locked room mystery, moe nishinosono and souhei saikawa, after shiki magata's death locked room the perfect insider, subete ga f ni naru episode 3

In contrast, The Perfect Insider offers a much more straightforward locked room mystery setting. Dr. Shiki Magata is found dead while Moe Nishinosono and Souhei Saikawa are visiting her laboratory. It’s a so-called “impossible” murder, with seemingly no way for the killer to enter or exit her room, where she was kept isolated from the world. There are a set number of individuals present, and viewers are invited by the visuals to become detectives themselves alongside Nishinosono and Saikawa.

Immediately establishing that there is only one door into Dr. Magata’s room, the door – to the left in the screenshot above – is shown frequently throughout, emphasizing the close quarters of the laboratory as well as the entrance itself.

the perfect insider subete ga f ni naru, the perfect insider shiki magata's door, the door in shiki magata's lab the perfect insider locked room mysterysouhei saikawa the perfect insider, subete ga f ni naru the perfect insider episode 3the perfect insider door, subete ga f ni naru, the perfect insider programmerssecurity room in the perfect insider, subete ga f ni naru the perfect insider, moe nishinosono and souhei saikawadoor framing moe nishinosono and souhei saikawa where shiki magata was murdered, moe and saikawa-sensei the perfect insider, the perfect insider everything becomes f

The close quarters of the laboratory are also a visual focus. Not only is the one door a focal point, but the proximity of each character to one another is also emphasized, often by framing individuals with other characters located in the foreground but out-of-focus. This gives the entire laboratory, in spite of its sleek and modern appearance, a worn and cramped feeling.

security guards in the perfect insider, the perfect insider subete ga f ni narumoe nishonosono and souhei saikawa, nishinosono with saikawa in the lab, saikawa-sensei and moe, the perfect insider episode 3, subete ga fi ni naru the perfect insider locked room murder mysterymiki magata, dr shiki magata's sister miki, the perfect insider miki, moe nishinosono meets miki magata, yukihiro yamane and moe nishinosono the perfect insider, subete ga f ni naru miki arrives with the director by helicopterdirector is murdered, the perfect insider the director is murdered in his helicopter, subete ga f ni naru, the perfect insider director's murder moe nishinosono and souhei saikawa

This also draws the audience’s attention to both the foreground and the focal point. For example, the last shot shows Nishinosono and Saikawa’s reaction to the director’s murder, while presenting the director in the foreground with a knife in his back. The arrival of Shiki Magata’s sister, Miki, by helicopter is framed by both Nishinosono and Yukihiro Yamane. Both figures seem to envelop her, capturing Miki into the same locked crime scene that has already trapped the others.

perfect insider locked room murder, locked room murder mystery the perfect insider, subete ga f ni naru, the perfect insider room seen through glassthe perfect insider director before his murder, the director in a helicopter the perfect insider, subete ga f ni naruhelicopter pad the perfect insider, miki magata visits the laboratory the perfect insider, everything becomes f the perfect insider helicopter padthe perfect insider miki magata arrival, closed spaces in the perfect insider, moe nishinosono meets shiki magata's sistersecurity camera footage of shiki magata's murder the perfect insider, moe nishinosono yamane yukihiro souhei saikawa in security camera footage, the perfect insider episode 3

Additionally, even in wider or larger spaces of the laboratory – including an exterior look from the helicopter pad – space is crowded and movement restricted by doors, fences, glass, or even a security camera lens. All of this further highlights the locked room aspect of this mystery.

Owarimonogatari stressed the awkward relationship between Araragi and Ougi, while The Perfect Insider reiterates its limited landscape and the closed nature of the laboratory. Due to the inclusion of the audience in solving the mystery, details are continuously highlighted and presented for the viewer to digest. The deduction is not aided by icons or stand-ins, as The Perfect Insider also wishes to trap the viewer within a similar landscape and continuously prod them into solving the mystery themselves.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.