Without a doubt, coming into the season I viewed Subete ga F ni Naru as the appetizer for NoitaminA mystery, with next season’s Boku Dake ga Inai Machi as the main course. I still feel Boku Dake is going to be the real masterpiece if they don’t screw it up, but Subete no doubt represents a success for NoitaminA and for A-1 Pictures (which has become its de facto house studio). This is a show that belongs on NoitaiminA, and one we very likely wouldn’t have gotten without it – and that’s the kind of anime I really want to see on the block.
Right up to the end The Perfect Insider was a very effective combination of intriguing mystery and even more intriguing characters. I’ve seen it said that the cast of this series is more interesting than they are likeable, and that’s probably true (though I do rather like Souhei), but that’s fine. It ties in very neatly with the view I’ve espoused before, that it’s not necessarily the job of fiction to make you feel good so long as it makes you feel.
I like the fact that despite its short length (as usual per NoitaminA even shorter than the typical one cour) Subete ga F ni Naru still chose to wrap up the major plot points in the penultimate episode and use the finale as a coda – a time to reflect back. It’s an approach I dearly wish more series would take but few do. And it especially suits this series that was always more about the way the mystery impacted the behavior of the characters than it was about the mystery itself.
But I suppose in talking about the final episode one must begin by asking just exactly what happened in it. And as is usually the case with this show, much of that it left to interpretation. I think we can say with reasonable certainty that Magata Shiki in the flesh did come and speak with Saikawa-sensei. That conversation was one of the highlights of the episode – Souhei slipping into schoolboy nervousness around the woman he misguidedly sees as some sort of icon. I suppose the naysayers will dismiss most of it as self-absorbed navel-gazing – but where else in anime are you going to hear talk of how people don’t fear death, but the kind of life that leads to it? How death is the norm, and life itself the exception (true, when you think about it) – the “illness” curable only by death?
What happens after that conversation, though, is much less clear. Shiki seems to turn herself in to the police who’ve been guarding Souhei – but later we learn she was tracked to Tokyo. Did she outsmart the cops and escape again, or did something more metaphysical happen? And at the very end of the episode, she seems to be riding through the desert on a camel with her daughter, and her uncle shows up. The implication here is that she’s finally found her freedom and gone over to the other side, but she could just as easily be in the same VR network we saw her in earlier. If indeed she’s dead, how did that come to pass? Shiki states quite clearly that she wishes to be killed by someone else rather than killing herself, but who would have been left to show their “love” for her by doing so?
Then we have the conversation between Moe and Souhei, which is also fairly ambiguous but certainly implies that Souhei is ready to take his relationship with Moe to the next level. He reveals that Setsuko is in fact his little sister, and makes what sounds very much like a commitment to Moe. This is another of the best scenes in the episode, with Moe wrangling with her puzzlement at Souhei’s fascination with Shiki’s warped worldview and Souhei continuing to toy with her gleefully, if affectionately. I’m still not sold that this is a romantic relationship that can go anywhere, but there’s certainly a strong emotional connection between this two – and who knows, maybe that’s something that can be built around.
In the final analysis I don’t think Mori Hiroshi is attempting to give us any answers or judgments with Subete ga F ni Naru. Call it existentialism, call it nihilism, but I think the perspective of this series is decidedly fatalistic. It’s not that Mori is endorsing Shiki’s twisted morality – anything but. Rather, I think he’s saying that in an existence that’s ultimately devoid of any underlying meaning or universal morality, people cope with that void in ways that are unique to them. If there is any kind of larger truth in his universe it’s that one must live (and die) in a way that’s true to who they are, and perhaps there is a kind of grudging admiration for Shiki’s abhorrent choices in that. I don’t buy that way of thinking for a moment, but it makes for a fascinating character study.
I’ve been comparing this series to Murakami Haruki (whose works I still think would make wonderful anime) since the beginning – and I’m far from the only one. While the comparison isn’t perfect, I think there is some of that same feeling of watching the characters like rats in a maze – seeing them faced with bizarre and often fantastical events and being forced to react to them. Both Mori and Murakami are fundamentally surrealist writers who focus on human psychology – the strange places the mind goes to when the lines between reality and fantasy blur and disappear.
Anime certainly needs more shows like Subete ga F ni Naru – ones which dispense with tropes for the most part and challenge the audience to think hard about what they’re seeing and hearing. Mystery is not anime’s strongest genre it’s true, but this series soars above the typical anime mystery – and mystery is less important to its essential nature than character interplay. It’s shows like this that make me glad that NoitaminA is still around, and still able to occasionally take commercial risks – and that make me wish it was still an hour long.