The Japanese really have a thing for locked room mysteries that I just don’t understand. Sure, they’re a staple of murder mysteries, but this borders on obsession. So here we have another mystery series that is entirely made up of locked room mysteries.
Or is it? Let’s see what we can make of The Perfect Insider.
Architecture Professor Saikawa and his student Moe Nishinosono travel to see a scientific experiment in a low temperature lab, but while there, two researchers are murdered in an apparent locked room. When Moe is also attacked and almost killed, they join forces to solve the case and then move on to other cases that they always seem to be caught in the middle of.
The series is based on a 1996 mystery novel by Hiroshi Mori. While this is really pushed as being a locked room series, I thing it’s funny that none of the mysteries rely on the locked room. Saikawa even says “the locked room isn’t really important to this case” on more than one occasion and he’s right. The locked rooms are mostly just a setting, not a mystery and for that I’m honestly thankful. Shows like Detective Conan and Casefiles of Young Kindaichi play the locked room mystery to the hilt, to the point that they’re often just ludicrously involved and ultimately silly.
The characters work together great for the most part. Moe and Saikawa have some good chemistry and even though we start the series with Moe admitting that she has feelings for Saikawa, it never really goes anywhere outside of some scenes where Moe is jealous of Saikawa’s female acquaintances. There’s also a stranger relationship between both Moe and Saikawa and the crazed super-genius, Doctor Magata Shiki, whom we meet in the opening moments of the series and then becomes a recurring character throughout. She’s crazy but she sees things she likes in both Moe and Saikawa and spends time trying to alternately convert them and kill them.
Ayano Go stars as Saikawa and while he’s been a long-time J-drama actor, I know him mostly from movies, including NANA, Shibuya, Rurouni Kenshin, Gatchaman and the most recent Lupin III film. Takei Emi plays Moe and she’s been in some of the Rurouni Kenshin films, as well as Otomen, her earliest J-drama role. Then you’ve got Hayami Akari, who plays the insane criminal Dr. Magata Shiki. She seems to be more a comedy player, I haven’t seen her before, but I think she played the role very well. Finally, we have Totsugi Shigeyuki, who was the tireless detective Ukai Daisuke and he’s been in a ton, from a currently running show that we’re waiting to watch, Rinshou Hanzai Gakusha Himura Hideo no Suiri to Nazotoki wa Dinner no Ato de to 33pun Tantei and Galileo. He was even a voice in Howl’s Moving Castle.
This is a much more serious show than a lot of J-drama mysteries I’ve seen lately. Nothing is really ever played for laughs, there is a lot of blood and gore and violence throughout, people don’t just die, they get shredded. They get beat up and ripped apart and that serves to up the ante on the cases. We never really feel that Moe or Saikawa are in particular danger, outside of a few quick scenes, but there are plenty of others around to be potential murder fodder so it keeps you on your toes. I did like the series, but it isn’t typical of what I look for, that being the detective with the weird quirk or the odd couple partners who somehow work together. There were a few instances where Saikawa went into a mystery-solving trance, reminiscent of shows like Trick and Galileo, which I thought was great, but it wasn’t really used consistently enough for my tastes.
If you want a good mystery series that doesn’t play it for laughs, with some good characters and extended cases (every case is 2 episodes), you could do a lot worse than The Perfect Insider. Give it a shot, who knows, you might like it!