Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 01 (First Impressions)

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Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? is the title of a painting by Paul Gaugain, painted in Tahiti.  He considered the work his magnum opus, and he intended, tried, and failed to take his own life upon its completion. The title is an inscription in the top left corner of the piece, and may have been painted only after the attempted suicide. The three questions paraphrase those asked in a lesson by his liturgy teacher in school, which clearly stuck with the painter.

Those same three basic questions are asked several times in Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider, an intriguing mystery show full of precise compositions, dramatic lighting, subtle facial expressions, complicated emotions, philosophical discussion, a striking opening image of a girl sitting beside a beached and decaying shipwreck, and a cute college student who drives an slick new Alfa Romeo 4C to work at the office of her professor, whom she is pretty obviously in love with.

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The cute college student with the bob is Nishinosono Moe. The object of her attentions and affection is Saikawa Souhei. We first see “Where They Were” separately: Saikawa in some kind of awful meeting, Moe getting up and driving to work. Then we see “Where They Are”: simply coexisting in the office; Saikawa reading something on his computer and smoking while Moe makes coffee and waters the plants. Then we go back to “Where Moe Was”, when she “meets” the enigmatic Professor Magata Shiki.

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I say “meet” because Magata communicates through a video feed. But Moe’s encounter with her establishes Moe as academically and philosophically sharp. She’s in over her head with someone of Magata’s towering academic stature, but she comes in confident and with a plan of action, and Magata notices.

Back in the present, Saikawa goes off somewhere, and a lady named Gido arrives whom Moe is pretty sure is her romantic competition, and her mood changes considerably as a result when Saikawa returns. She tries to hash it out with him, but is interrupted by another student, Kunieda.

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When Saikawa goes out to lunch, he invites Moe, who reveals she spoke to Magata, something Saikawa hasn’t done, despite his esteem for the famous professor. Magata also happens to be infamous, due to the allegations she murdered both of her parents (she tells Moe what she told authorities: “A doll did it,” but then she does look very doll-like).

Once again Moe’s alone time with Saikawa is disrupted by interlopers (students Hamanaka and Kushieda). But Moe exploits their presence to plan a trip to the very island where Magata self-exiled herself and now studies at her lab in seclusion. And so now we know “Where They’re Going.”

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Once there, they’re sure to learn more about Magata, who asked the big existential questions—and asked some of her own—when she was only five. Normally, that’d be an indication Magata now has a brain the size of a planet, were it not for Saikawa’s continuing assertion throughout the episode that everyone is born a genius, and grows progressively stupider as they age and learn to interact with others.

Magata, who is a hermit, may have avoided some of that society-driven degradation, and hence Saikawa considers everything he’s accomplished (and he’s a top young mind himself) to only be a drop in the ocean of Magata’s greatness. In other words, the perfect rival for Saikawa’s intellect, as well as Moe’s rival for Saikawa’s attention.

A quiet, mature, contemplative show about very smart adults, morality, mortality, intrigue, and a weird love triangle?—I like where Subete ga F ni Naru is. Will I like where it’s going?

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 04

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SgS keeps pace with Dandelion this week, as we come to love the characters in both shows the more time we spend with them. It has occured to me that Sore is very much a love letter to the seiyu industry and the people in it, almost playing like a documentary of these girls’ lives, yet avoids being over-indulgent or extra-congratulatory.

With the highs come the lows, and the lows suck when you’re in them, regardless of vocation. That’s what this episode captures best: Futaba at first believing she’s all alone in her doubt and despair, when in fact, everyone goes those emotions. That knowledge brings comfort and motivation to strive harder.

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With Bodhisattvon wraping and all three girls failing to pass auditions for the next show (doubly upsetting since we saw Futaba part with most of her petty cash to buy the manga), they’re feeling uneasy about the future. Futaba in particular is sure she’ll get more work before the Bodhi recording and radio show both wrap, but she’s incorrect on both counts.

All it takes to clear Futaba’s clouds of despair and worry is to bump into a legend like Ginga Banjou, who has died many more times than she on screen. Because of that, he can lend her valuable words of supportive advice that apply not only to dealing with the deaths of one’s characters, but in dealing with the serial rejection all seiyus (and indeed, artists) must endure. Futaba is not alone.

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When their radio show ends, it looks like Futaba is about to stare down the long, dusty road of non-employment in her chosen field (though she still has the part-time job), but their boss springs another surprise on them: not only has their radio show been extended, but he’s putting them in a unit, to record the theme song to the show and perhaps eventually become a full-on idol group.

This is a lot for Futaba and even Rin to take in, though it’s exactly what Ichigo has been dreaming of. I like how they all react by paying more attention to themselves, whether it’s Futaba being broken out of her daydream by her jiggly arm, Rin training herself to wear miniskirts, or Ichigo’s overdone yet somehow appropriate ringlets.

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Really, I should have seen this development coming: Futaba, Rin and Ichigo already had the built-in look of characters who wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi magical girl or music anime. Now, they could be on the road to just those kinds of roles, if it all pans out. Everyone’s nervous, like they were when the radio show first started. But with time, they got better at that, and they’ll eventually get better at all this unit stuff, too.

ED request: The theme to Sailor Moon Crystal.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 03

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Before they begin their own web radio show, they go on Futaba’s senpai Shidome’s bigger radio show to promote it. Flanked by the venerable Tamura Yukari, the trio are literally petrified in front of the mics, as any newbies would be under the circumstances. Despite this, Tamura-san thinks they’re funny, and wishes them good luck.

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When the day of their first recording arrives, the three gather at a much smaller studio with a much smaller staff of one, and a script of only a few pages, with the particularly scary “free talk” mixed in. There’s no rehearsals or practices; they’re thrust right into the studio and onto a live show where every moment of hesitation is a moment of dead air.

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The pressure under the girls is palpable, and things start out pretty rough, but while they show is “all over the place”, they do get into a nice rhythm towards the end, and their boss says they have potential. All they need to do is gather the confidence to converse the way they normally do in front of the mics, and they’ll be golden.

By the same measure, when the three girls watch (and listen) to the anime they had roles in, they’re all a little disappointed in themselves, but that just inspires them to keep working harder to become great. It doesn’t happen overnight.

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Psycho-Pass – 20

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Note: I had planned to finish the first season of Psycho-Pass before the new one arrived, but I didn’t want to rush things…and procrastinated! -H.

Psycho-Pass has gotten noticeably talkier in the episodes leading up to what I can only imagine to be a mind-blowing finale, but when the talking being done (and the talkers themselves) are this compelling, I can hardly complain. This time, Akane’s own Dominator speaks to her. As I suspected, she’s firmly on Sybil’s radar, and they’ve decided to tell her the truth, in hopes it will motivated her to help them acquire Makishima.

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Action-wise, there’s not much to speak of here, at least early on: lots of standing around listening to the voice of Sybil, as Akane continually calls bullshit. We also have Akane having conversations in her head with Kagari, Makishima, and Yuki. By scanning her mind, Sybil believes Akane shares their desire to maintain social harmony, and the belief that society as it is would break down if Sybil were brought down.

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These conversations serve to reinforce the kernal of the idea that first took root in her mind the first day she joined the MWPSB: that the system is not absolute as she thought. It is not perfect, which means it cannot claim absolute authority over society. Sybil basically expels what little regard she still had for it by revealing their true nature as puppet-masters. But because they can still decide whether Kogami lives or dies, she makes a deal with them.

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Once that deal is made—with her pointing a Dominator at her chest and telling Sybil to make its damn move—it gave me every confidence that she’d hold up her end of the bargain, but it probably isn’t wise to take Sybil at its word. Her flashbacks also reminded us that unlike most of the population, her immense natural talent in many disciplines (or luck with tests as she calls it) gave her a choice they didn’t have.

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In effect, that choice from a variety of futures afforded her a measure of free will. Sybil indeed cleared up a great many things for Akane, and it’s like a fire was lit beneath her. At the home of the murdered agricultural official, she breaks out her super-sleuth skills, channeling Kogami to Ginoza as she talks. Kogami is already at the granary where Makishima intents to poison the crops.

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Akane showed us a lot this week, like just how much she’s grown and matured. I love how disappointed and disgusted she gets the more Sybil tells her. But it also confirmed to us that she’s far from the cold and emotionless automaton she feared she was, or that her clear hue would seem to indicate. Why else would she agree to giving Sybil exactly what they want, essentially serving as their pawn, for Kogami’s sake?

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