Welcome to Episode 34 of Anime Pocket Reviews!
As I’m sure you can imagine, I’ve been dying to get this episode out for a while now. I mean, what are the chances that Attack on Titan’s second season finishes just as one of our anime lulls begins?!
I should note here that my review of Attack on Titan was actually written almost instantly after the final episode aired, so while it is late online it was not written late. That’s coming up later, but first we have a really intriguing mystery story for you to have a look at:
Everything Becomes F: The Perfect Insider (2015, S1, 11x24mins)
Mystery, Psychological, Sci-Fi
“No one fears death, they fear the life that leads to death. If one could die without suffering no one would fear death, right?”
The story centres around Dr. Shiki Magata (left), a genius programmer who killed her parents when she was 14. She avoided prison due to her mental state, and has lived in isolation ever since in the centre of the Magata Research Institute, located on a remote island. Professor Saikawa (right) is a genius himself, working in a university in Tokyo with his mentor’s daughter Moe (far right). The only person Saikawa looks up to in the world is Dr. Magata, envying her detachment from life. One day, Moe gets the opportunity to interview Magata over videocall. Eager for the opportunity the meet her himself, Saikawa and Moe agree to take a seminar camping trip to the remote island where she is based. Saikawa and Moe are visiting the institute when the AI system that operates the facility malfunctions. Suddenly, Dr. Magata’s double-locked door opens for the first time since it closed behind her, and a cart rolls out of the room, carrying Dr. Magata’s amputated corpse. Saikawa and Moe stay on the island as they try to figure out the history of Dr. Shiki Magata, and who managed to kill someone who had lived in perfect isolation ever since she was a child.
Basically Plot: When the enigmatic Dr. Magata, living in complete isolation, is somehow murdered, genius professor Saikawa and his assistant Moe are determined to find out who did it, and how, while looking through the life of the enigmatic genius who killed her parents as a child.
The Perfect Insider is actually a novel, written in Japan in 1996, and has since spawned nine extra books under the ‘Saikawa & Moe’ tag, along with a manga adaptation, PlayStation videogame and live-action series. The latest adaptation of this award-winning novel is this anime series. What I’ve noticed often separates anime series adapted from manga (comics) and novels is the depth of its writing, and The Perfect Insider must be one of the most complex series I’ve ever seen. Unsurprisingly for a series which follows three geniuses, this is an extremely well-spoken series. There is not much depth to anybody else in the story, but the three leads – Saikawa, Moe and Magata – are all enigmatic characters with their own beliefs and ideas. At times watching this series felt like receiving a philosophy lecture, which helps to create a mystery that is almost too complex for its own good. The quote at the top of this review, for example, is one of the more understandable, easily digested statements of the series.
The mystery in this series – who killed Dr. Magata – is ultimately an excellent development, although I think there are some impossible holes that it has traversed for the sake of its result, though I may be wrong about that because despite the excellent answer, the route it takes is far too complicated. It’s one thing taking you down a dead-end road, it’s another thing to spiral almost incomprehensibly through different ideas to the point that with one episode to go, and the answer all-but laid out, I was still unsure about what was real and what was fake. The show even tries to explain it more clearly in the final episode, but as I write this now I’m still not 100% convinced I know the answer.
However, there will be people who are excited by the thought of a mystery so complex and so strangely portrayed that you’ll never quite know what happened, and past that there is a lot of positives from this series. The mystery is deepened throughout by excellent direction, where the present-time story – Saikawa and Moe trying to solve the mystery – is interjected by what appears to be Dr. Magata, alive and free somewhere else. This, along with the character’s doubts over the murder and the lack of information on Dr. Magata, sells the idea that she isn’t dead at all, and that is all down to a well-plotted story with fantastic direction. The animation in this series is solid, but it is really brought to life by some excellently plotted scenes that create plenty of snapshot moments that you will remember for a long time.
The Perfect Insider is something I would refer to as an ‘experience series’ – not necessarily the most well-rounded series, and certainly not easy watching, but something that excels at portraying its unique and transcending story. The show is a beautiful thing to watch play out, both from a visual standpoint and in how it makes you think. Intelligent writing leads to genuinely intelligent characters playing out what appears to be a game that we could never solve by ourselves. There are problems – the writing is often so complex it becomes boring and incomprehensible, while not much effort is put into anything else except the mystery and the three characters as individuals – however I would still recommend this series as it is fairly short at 11 episodes and is something pretty unique, with enough memorable moments to make it worth your while.
ANIME RANKING: #36 – This was almost an impossibly hard series to rank. In some ways it could have been near the top 20, and in others it could have been below 40! In the end it lands almost exactly halfway, ahead of series such as No Game No Life and Occultic;Nine, and just behind Death Parade and ACCA 13.
If you liked this you’ll love: Steins;Gate – Starring a slightly more eccentric genius than in The Perfect Insider, both these stories share a small group of exciting intellectuals who are determined to solve an intriguing mystery. I was going to recommend Terror in Resonance, as this is another ‘experience anime’ that is beautiful and thought-provoking in itself, however if you enjoyed the sci-fi elements and light-hearted side to The Perfect Insider then you will find the same balance in Steins;Gate, only with a much deeper and well-told mystery story that I’m sure you’ll enjoy!
Attack on Titan (2017, S2, 12x24mins)
Wait! Check out our bumper review of season one here!
Following on from the events at the end of season one, season two follows several members of the Scout Regiment and Survey Corps as they continue to try to fend off the Titans, while humanity attempts to take strides forward with improved knowledge of the monsters that terrorise them. However, the fall of Wall Rose and the appearance of the mysterious beast titan (top left), an ape-like being with seemingly fluent speech and superior intelligence creates a new challenge and a terrifying thought – the idea that there might be many more humans with the ability to transform into titans, both inside the walls and outside.
Basically Plot: Continuing the story of mankind’s struggle against the titans. Now, as the people try to reclaim lost land from the giant monsters they are greeted by titans with almost human levels of intelligence, promoting the idea that there may be many more humans somewhere with the power to turn into them.
Attack on Titan is one of the most successful and most acclaimed franchises of this century. 2013’s season one is seen by many as the best anime series of all time, us included. That made creating a new second season, coming four years after its legendary predecessor, and making it blend fluidly to satisfy hardcore fans of S1 something of an impossible task.
The first big problem was the story. Cited by many as a sign of the increased costs in terms of creating anime over recent years, season two is less than half the length of season one. With only twelve episodes, there wasn’t the time for the series to contemplate any huge issues, and for a long time at the start it felt like we were watching something of a spin-off. The main trio gets a strangely small amount of screen time, the series instead focusing primarily on the relationship between Krista and Ymir and the idea of foreign lands. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – Attack on Titan has one of the best character sets I’ve ever seen, highlighted by the ability for two minor characters to take centre stage – but it did leave me a bit disappointed. I wanted to know more about the major cliff-hangers at the end of season one – Annie being encased in crystal, and the titans in the walls. Both are touched on at the start, but that’s as far as it goes. There are some big revelations at the end, but the story this time around certainly doesn’t have the epic sense of tragedy and discovery that was present throughout season one.
As you would expect for one of the biggest anime series in recent years, the production of Attack on Titan season two is incredible. It feels like a lot of money and manpower has been put into it, and it shows in some incredible visuals. Vivid colours and fast, flowing animation bring the action scenes to life, while the extra care taken on backgrounds and some fantastic direction make the more sombre scenes full of humanity, despite the A-star sheen over the whole production. The voice acting is also up to the standard of the production – not only do Krista and Ymir sound strong and real, but in their important moments the main trio still possess the ability to captivate.
However, you can have all the money and talent in the world, but if the story isn’t up to scratch then it won’t succeed. Attack on Titan S2 certainly hasn’t failed – thanks in no small part to an absolutely barnstorming final episode, one of the best single episodes of anime I’ve seen in a long time – but its story, potentially the victim of modern production values, has lost some of its weight since the first season, both in terms of tangible airtime and the emotional sense of tragedy. If I was recommending anime to a friend I would still certainly recommend Attack on Titan season one, but I might shy away from season two for now, just until 2018’s season three which will hopefully bring that sense of fight-for-your-life back!
ANIME RANKING: #2 – A sign of how tight the race for first place has been all this time, the slightest of dips for the fantastic Attack of Titan has finally opened the door for Durarara, who becomes our new number one series! It’s been super close between these two series, and part of me has always felt that Durarara’s longevity – over 60 episodes without any noticeable lull – means it deserves to be ahead of Attack on Titan, and this latest series has affirmed that thought. Attack on Titan is still a fantastic series, though, and whose to say it won’t take its mantle back next year?!
If you liked this you’ll love: Tokyo Ghoul – It’s really hard to think of a recommendation for the show that usually is the recommendation, a show that has been my favourite series for so long! An obvious series is Kabaneri of the Iron fortress – an identical story made by the same people – but for fans of season two’s beautiful animation and relationship-led action series I recommend Tokyo Ghoul. A story with plenty of tragedy and excellent animation, Tokyo Ghoul has a slight difference in that the lead is almost there against his will at the start instead of sprinting forward with heart and passion, but the story is strongly led by his relationship with his female comrade, and that makes for an excellent YA narrative that fans of season two’s Ymir/Krista story will love.
Despite my slight unhappiness from AoT S2, it appears that many more fans online loved the series, which makes me feel as if I’ve missed something! I wonder if you didn’t watch season one and jumped straight into season two, whether you would love the series – my instincts tell me you would. Maybe I’ve been too harsh, but I like to think I’m setting a high bar for a bar-setting series!
Make sure you follow The Culture Cove to see the best anime reviews before anybody else! Look out for episode 35 of Anime Pocket Reviews, featuring season one of musical sensation Sound! Euphonium!