#8 An Evening with Magata Shiki (The Perfect Insider)

The Perfect Insider is a rarity in today’s anime market. Atypical character designs, pale color palettes, and a noticeable absence of action or external conflict. Most of the story is driven by the characters via encounters and long discussions about various things. What we got out of this mix is a fascinating connection between a teacher/student duo and Magata Shiki, a genius who is shuttered on an island after killing her own parents. While Souhei and Moe are the two main characters of this story, it is Magata Shiki that is being sold to us, the audience, as the point of interest. Partly because of her circumstances and history, but also because of how oddly she thinks.

Anyone familiar with The Perfect Insider by now knows that it has a bad reputation for its supposed philosophies. That is, both Souhei and Shiki say a lot of pretentious statements about life, death, age, genius, and others such. I won’t bother with writing out all of them, but take it from me: a lot of them sound pretty ridiculous. The statements are so far removed from how people normally think, how people normally behave, that we wonder how either of the two ever made it to their current positions without getting punched at least ten times over their lifespan. In a word, these philosophies are vague. Obtuse. Ludicrous. Pretentious, even. I make no effort to defend the validity of any of their statements on the subject. But, they help me understand that Souhei and Shiki share some sort of intellectual connection with each other. Not in terms of their actual intellegence, but in the way the two of them think.

I actually think their mindsets are easy enough to follow, as evidenced by Moe’s attempts to follow along with her teacher’s numerous pretensions, but I wouldn’t agree with any of it, nor would I actually sit down and think about the ways by which their statements could be true. But I would at least understand that their mentalities are a product of feeling “trapped” somehow by society. While I wouldn’t really understand the thought process by which someone so disenfranchised would end up thinking this way, I am at least given a cause.  Connecting the dots from there, and understanding where Moe is coming from with her responses, is how we come to eventually understand Souhei and Shiki.

When Souhei enters that VR capsule and imagines Shiki being in an opposite chair not unlike a talk show or recorded seminar, they became two individuals who are very removed from real life. Both Souhei and Shiki even acknowledge this, that their way of thinking is exclusively theirs to think, and that no one else necessarily holds their beliefs to be true. So instead of being somehow offended by their pretentious statements, I just see two unfortunate souls feeding on each others’ ignorance of the real world. To me, that’s simply fascinating. Because by confining these beliefs to these two characters, The Perfect Insider shows an awareness of how flawed that belief system is.

So, I wouldn’t mind spending an evening with Magata Shiki. Not as the person in the chair opposite of hers, but instead as someone in the audience who is interested in how she thinks. I’ll leave any attempt at understanding her headspace to anyone else more willing to do it, or perhaps even thinks the same. I don’t think I’ll ever understand perfectly where Magata is coming from with the odd philosophies this show is so keen on sharing, but what I do understand about this show is that it uses the mere act of being pretentious as a vehicle to connect two individuals, and I’m disappointed to see people conflate the characters’ pretensions to be the show’s pretensions, as if everything a main character says is something the story 100% supports. Which is, also, vague. Obtuse. Ludicrous. Pretentious, even.

Addendum

  • Besides, if the show actually thought Magata’s and Souhei’s way of thinking is correct in the manner everyone seems to say it does, then the show would also be condoning her actions. And we all know better than to condone the actions of Magata Shiki.
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