There’s something about a detective story that just immediately brings up a story’s score for me. Maybe it’s my childhood obsession with Batman or my fondness for men in long coats, or that time a Columbo-looking motherfucker brought my sister and me back home after we walked a little too far from home as kids.
Any story willing to abandon even one ounce of its seriousness for the sake of introducing some grandiose “brilliant detective” immediately earns style points in my book. And this week’s review is of a show that never ceases to hype up the brilliance of its detectives to the point of shameless self-aggrandizement.
Id: Invaded is a sci-fi mystery show from the studio that brought you DRAMAtical Murder and that one Pharrell Williams music video It Girl… I can’t believe I’m privileged enough to get to type that sentence. Having come out at the start of the year, it’s one of several cool-looking shows that lulled us into thinking the year would be “pretty alright.” Getting around to watching it now, I think it’s safe to say I shouldn’t be too disappointed that I didn’t hop on the bandwagon earlier.
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The premise is either the stupidest or coolest thing you’ve heard in at least the last couple of days. Even if you think it’s cool (like me), it’s hard not to admit it’s preposterous. In this modern depiction of Japan, the Kura organization of the government investigates murders and tracks down serial killers using an advanced technology known as the Mizuhanome.
By collecting the “cognition particles” of a criminal’s drive to kill at their crime scenes, a team of detectives can create a simulation of the killer’s mental state, called the Idwell. Akihito Narihisago is a former detective who dives into these simulations and solves the mystery within. He doesn’t know his real name upon entering, but he is programmed with an objective. He is known as “Sakaido” and he is a brilliant detective, there to solve a mystery.
Every killer’s mind is different, with its own rules, aesthetics, and unique mystery to solve. Each time Narihisago enters, he has to re-establish his identity and his objective again. Regardless of the killer, the victim is always portrayed by a girl named Kaeru, whome the detective always recognizes no matter what. Some minds are more dangerous than others, and each time Narihisago dies, he has to start all over again, like loading a save in a game.
Observing his every movement is a team of expository side characters. Their job is to not only explain the premise but also to interpret information learned in the simulation and use it to find the killer. It’s psycho-analysis given tangible form and weaponized to track down criminals. As soon as the show has cleared the hurdle of explaining the science, its utility becomes an exciting narrative possibility.
Similarly, it opens up the story for some great character studies, not only of the killers but the detectives. The most important being Narihisago, who is qualified to enter Idwells not just because of his mental capabilities, but because he has taken a life. He’s an ex-cop who fell from grace and now has the unfortunate reputation of having driven many serial killers to kill themselves by dissecting their motives and deconstructing them, breaking the person in the process.
The most interesting part of the show is how it hones in on the occasionally broken and often unstable criminals at the heart of the story. We are introduced to Narihisago after he has already achieved vengeance for a tragedy that befell him. The story rarely pulls punches in displaying how he has let himself become a killer of killers and how it has warped him. He is a flawed protagonist in the company of other flawed “brilliant detectives.”
The second protagonist is rookie investigator Koharu Hondoumachi. She begins as a rather unassuming recruit, primarily working in the field with Kokuryuu Matsuoka, tracking down the killers Sakaido dives into. After a run-in with the show’s first killer, Tamotsu Fukuda, she begins to prove herself to be a fearless and somewhat bold investigator, if somewhat reckless to a degree.
Her partnership with Matsuoka was one of my favorite aspects, mostly because of how it appeared to become more tense. Hondoumachi’s increased qualifications to be a Brilliant Detective herself is an exciting prospect, but also one with frightening implications. After all, only those who have killed someone can dive into an Idwell.
Narihisago is a protagonist who has already fallen from grace and embraced a job that gives him an equal opportunity to indulge in his bad habits as well as try to redeem himself. On the flipside, Hondoumachi is a headstrong sleuth who worries about losing herself in the process of becoming a better reader of the minds of killers.
She also has a complicated relationship with Fukuda, a killer with whom she shared a personal, if disturbing encounter, that connected them. This show never pretends that Narihisago or Fukuda are good or are worthy of forgiveness, but proposes that by exploring their mental state, they can finally feel complete, and begin the road to rehabilitation.
I wish I could say that the rest of the cast is this interesting but they aren’t. I think this is reflected perfectly in the effort put into the English Dub. The performances by Josh Grelle as Narihisago and Monica Rial as Hondoumachi are incredible (arguably some of my favorites of theirs). Even Justin Cook as Fukuda does a great job, him and Grelle both doing their deepest, coolest voices.
But everyone else? They were phoning it in hard. And in their defense, there wasn’t a whole lot to work with in the first place. Even if the Japanese performances had been a bit more passable, the characters in the control room are too numerous for the show to fully explore them.
The through-line plot of the show is the existence of a man named John Walker, who appears in several killer’s Idwells, leading the members of Kura to conclude that someone is creating serial killers. One of the major hooks of this plotline involves one of the secondary characters being severely compromised as a result of this investigation. The problem is, I couldn’t bring myself to care.
More time is dedicated to paying off Narihisago’s tale of vengeance and acceptance than hyping up John Walker as a villain. It’s never really explained how he turned presumably normal people into serial killers and it never felt like the story needed to tie everything to just one villain.
This comes through in the finale, which at times felt rushed. It favored action spectacle over a mystery. Furthermore, the revelations that come to light about the Mizuhanome introduce some jarring elements of the supernatural. For a show with so much emphasis on brilliant detectives, the show doesn’t nearly go in on the mystery side of things enough. However, I’m glad that part of the process of defeating the villain was about pyscho-analyzing them, keeping in tradition with the show’s most compelling quality.
This show should have been longer, at least double the number of episodes. With more standalone stories, they could have had a few multi-part stories that could have dived into the supporting cast a bit more. This could have allowed for a greater connection to be built between the audience and characters like Momoki, Narihisago’s old partner. The audience needed more time to get to know him and expand on his relationship with Narihisago.
I will give it to Id: Invaded that the show is well directed. Ei Aoki, known for such shows as Fate/ Zero, Hourou Musuko, and the first Kara no Kyoukai, is playing to his strengths here. A darker, more violent drama, rich in aesthetics. Penning the series was Outarou Maijou, the writer of the original Dragon Dentist short and Hammerhead, both featured in the Japan Animator Expo.
Given that both of those shorts were entertaining concept films that while watching I thought “wow I’d love to see more,” it doesn’t surprise me that Id: Invaded left me wanting for more. I will say that they had a solid premise and some great production value. I made the joke at the beginning about Studio NAZ’s previous work, but the aesthetics and character designs here are top-notch.
Blood Lad‘s creator Yuuki Kodama is credited with the original character design, but more broadly credited with the designs is Atsushi Ikariya. He’s the guy who did the designs for Fate/ Zero, Unlimited Blade Works, the first Heaven’s Feel film only (oddly), and Devil is a Part-Timer. So yeah, the characters look great.
Finally, there is the music. The ending theme by Miyavi is a jam that I sat through almost every episode. The soundtrack throughout was surprising. There were a lot of vocal tracks that I wasn’t expecting, many of them in English. Polish composer Slavek Kowalewski is responsible for the music, another artist with an interesting history that stands out.
My only complaint with the music was that sometimes the English lyrics felt corny and killed my enjoyment of what was supposed to be intense or emotional scenes. That said, I’ll give the soundtrack to this show a pass for how different it was from the norm.
Id: Invaded didn’t scratch the itch I thought it would. I certainly got something out of it if the music and artwork were anything to go by, but the story faltered towards the end. It was too short, and yet, with the conclusion having implied a continuation of the character’s duties, I’m not sure what other meaningful tales could be gleaned from a continuation.
For a study of unstable and complex characters, Id: Invaded is worth checking out. However, it’s no mystery that it couldn’t follow through with its story.
Id: Invaded is available through FunimationNow.
What did you think of Id: Invaded? Does it sound interesting enough to give it a look? Leave a comment below and tell me what you think. While you’re at it, tell me what other shows have good mystery plots. I’m on a detective kick lately, and I need my fix.
Thanks for reading, and as always, I’ll see you next week!