Often in murder mysteries, narration is meant to give the reader or viewer pause, be it truly unreliable or simply filtered through the respective lenses of others. If the property desires the viewer to play along with the detective – and more often than not they do, as the reader is served by an in-universe self-insert of sorts – it behooves them to pay attention to who is speaking and what the speaker’s biases are in relation to the departed.
One person whose voice is conspicuously absent in The Perfect Insider is the deceased herself: Shiki Magata. Her innermost thoughts and desires are shown in bits and pieces, always in the words or mind of another.
“2015, Summer. I offer this diary to you to tell you what she was thinking, and what her fate was. She was always thinking about who she was, where she’d come from, and where she was going. Everyone convinces themselves that life is an enjoyable thing. She, however, was always thinking about how much of a burden it was.”
-Seiji Shindou, The Perfect Insider, Episode 1
The first person who introduces us to Dr. Shiki Magata is the mysterious Director Seiji Shindou – we later learn he was also her uncle and lover – who opens the series’ premiere episode with the above monologue and a diary. He states that she’s a woman who simultaneously thought about her past, her present, and her future. Additionally, he adds that life was generally a burden for her, and she felt that many freedoms were given up in exchange for the need to stay alive. He later describes her as one who was constantly flashing between life and death. As such, the first image of Shiki Magata, aside from her presence in the opening song sequence, is one of her hands bound by shadow over the very same diary. It’s unclear as to how much this is reflective of her own personality, or what the Director believes to be her personality.
On the subject of her multiple personalities, he is shown to have an awareness of them, but only uses “their” once, when setting the scene prior to the presumed loss of her virginity.
Presumably, the Director writes this as a posthumous account of Shiki Magata from the perspective of one who was close to her. At first, he was charged with a large part of her upbringing, and later he became her lover. In Episode 6, The Perfect Insider reveals that he was not only present when she murdered her parents, but complicit in the act.
The Shiki Magata that the Director offers is first a prodigious child and then a willful teenager to whom he was continuously drawn. His tone is not one of a doting uncle, but that of an awed lover or partner. Most importantly, he describes her as someone who had differing viewpoints than most on life and death.
“She got stupid too. Stupid enough to finally take an interest in others. In an interview she said the same thing. ‘Every human starts as a genius. As they age, they become average. It’s because they get stupid that they can work.”
-Souhei Saikawa, The Perfect Insider, Episode 1
The above line is spoken with resignation by Professor Souhei Saikawa to Moe Nishinosono. Moe immediately responds that Shiki Magata’s words sound like something he would say. She’s correct, much of Saikawa’s worldview is told through parroted Dr. Magata-isms, to the point where the viewer wonders whether he has his own actual thoughts or opinions.
Saikawa presents everything Shiki Magata does and says through the filter of a superfan, placing her on the highest pedestal while continuously admitting his admiration. He first presents her to the audience in a drawing that he does while presumably in a faculty meeting. His initial conversation with Moe regurgitates the phrases that the Director claimed as Shiki Magata’s thoughts back in the form of three questions: “Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going?” Interestingly enough, it’s Moe who interrupts and poses these questions, proof that Saikawa has repeated them frequently in the time they’ve spent together.
“You could say that people like Dr. Magata are the most human of us all.”
-Souhei Saikawa, The Perfect Insider, Episode 5
Later, following Shiki Magata’s death, Saikawa further espouses what he presumes to be Dr. Magata’s worldview. His Shiki Magata is a person who is the ultimate being, her capacity only limited by others who would dare tread on her freedoms or stand in her way. As Moe tries to wrap her head around the existance of split personalities and why Shiki Magata would have killed her parents, Saikawa turns Moe’s thoughts back onto her, ultimately siding with the Dr. Magata in his own mind, the pure Dr. Shiki Magata who is above everything.
“She was a lovely young lady, although she’d get upset if you told her that. Of course, she was extremely bright, but to me, she was just my cute little niece.”
-Yumiko Shindou, The Perfect Insider, Episode 5
Conflicting with her own husband’s view of Shiki Magata as well as Saikawa’s figurative pedestal, Yumiko Shindou initially describes Shiki as her “cute niece.” In a conversation immediately following the death of both Shiki Magata and her husband, Yumiko Shindou is strangely calm when questioned by Moe regarding the death of Shiki’s parents. As she describes the scene from 15 years ago, Yumiko appears to remember more the longer that she speaks, possibly implying that she had somewhat buried the memories of that night until recently. Her account somewhat matches what is later shown in an Episode 6 flashback, minus a reported scream “like she was possessed.”
It’s unclear as to how aware Yumiko was of her husband’s relationship with their niece, and his role in their murder. Additionally, it’s not given whether the aforementioned flashback is her perspective, or simply another account from the director. Unlike other flashbacks – which are primarily from the Director’s perspective and diary – this specific memory has no narration. It also begins from the perspective of one watching the entire scene from another room, as Yumiko would have been.
Yumiko also gives an account of Shiki Magata’s multiple personalities and their supposed real life analogues, all of whom, with the exception of Michiru Magata, are dead. Throughout, Yumiko appears calm but somewhat addled, and her description of a “cute little niece” is at odds with what she herself saw the night that Shiki Magata’s parents died.
“Out of the numbers from one to ten, seven is the only lonely number. So the only personality inside me with a motive to kill my parents is Shiki Magata.”
-Moe Nishinosono quoting Shiki Magata, The Perfect Insider, Episode 4
Lastly, there is the Shiki Magata that Moe Nishinosono sees: a Shiki Magata who is filtered through her own self. Consciously or not – likely the latter, given how the series presents Moe’s character – Moe compares Shiki Magata to herself first and then tries to reconcile or understand the differences. The series itself also makes a point to compare the two women whenever possible through visual direction and dialogue.
When Moe condemns Shiki Magata’s perspective, she does so with her own in mind, and often sees the deceased Dr. Magata as a rival for Saikawa’s affections. In spite of this, she also displays personal curiosity regarding Shiki Magata, especially following their video conversation. When Moe fights with Saikawa over whether they should stay and solve the mystery or leave, she displays anger not only at Saikawa’s personal obsession with Shiki Magata but his perceived lack of curiosity surrounding her death.
Dr. Magata’s line of questioning around Moe’s deceased parents and Moe’s response hints at the fact that Moe sees Shiki Magata as somewhat of a kindred spirit, making it even more difficult for Moe to understand why Shiki would want to murder her own parents. Moe provides flashbacks of her conversation with Dr. Magata that come as frequently as the Director’s memories, giving a distant but concentrated image of Dr. Shiki Magata.
The Perfect Insider goes a long way in making Moe relatable but distinct, far from a self-insert who is piecing together the mystery alongside the audience. Moe asks Shiki Magata, “Who are you?” at the end of their conversation, and it’s the only question that gives her pause. Most likely, it’s the answer to this question that will also solve the mystery of Shiki Magata’s death.