moe nishinosono

Knowing Shiki Magata: Four Perspectives

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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.

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

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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.

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Comparing and Contrasting Moe Nishinosono and Dr. Shiki Magata of The Perfect Insider

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Strong visual direction doesn’t simply look beautiful, although that’s certainly an aim. The strongest of visuals lead one’s eye down a specific path, telling a story just as well as any dialogue or script. In some cases, like that of The Perfect Insider, they do the heavy narrative lifting, making parts of the script seem rote and tedious in comparison.

In spite of a few animation and perspective struggles,  The Perfect Insider is a slow burn of an anime series that relies more on its visual direction and cinematography than its writing or dialogue, which is somewhat surprising considering that it’s based on a mystery novel. Where one would expect the series to focus primarily on the verbal sparring between two would-be detectives – Professor Souhei Saikawa and his student, Moe Nishinosono – the audience’s eye is instead drawn to the aforementioned Moe and Dr. Shiki Magata.

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The Cinematography of The Perfect Insider Episode 1

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As the recognizable arpeggiated chords of Bach’s Prelude from Suite No. 1 for the cello deliberately and slowly play, the premiere episode of The Perfect Insider introduces us to two women. The first, Shiki Magata, is introduced through one scene and a monologue. The second, Moe Nishinosono, through specific framing of in-between spaces.

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