I admit that I have a different approach to anime reviews. I like to add critical analysis and self reflection to the shows I watch, as opposed to a standard evaluation. Furthermore, I also realize that this particular series leaves people with more questions than answers. Well, since I have a reputation to uphold, allow me to add to the confusion as I attempt to explain this series under my area of study: Philosophy!
In this review, I will be explaining the discourse in three parts that I believe are important to this anime. These sections will help in deconstructing “Seven is a lonely number,” “Everything becomes F,” and the unanswered questions. If you like a standard summary of what to expect, I will provide a brief exposition leading up to these points. I will also try to keep this review free of plot spoilers, but I will also be explaining some key elements in the series that can reveal spoilers. But before approaching this review (and the show, if you haven’t watched it yet), I find that these 3 principles help in understanding the series:
- While it is tempting to have an analytical approach for this series, I find it helpful to have a dialectical approach.
- Suspend your use of language in this series, especially when dealing with Dr. Magata. It’s better to try to understand her semantics rather than assume yours.
- Suspend your moral leanings. While they are still important, they are more likely to add more confusions to the discourse.
Well, if I haven’t lost you yet, let’s get this mystery started!
Everything Becomes F (Subete ga F ni Naru): The Perfect Insider is a murder mystery centered around the infamous computer scientist/logician, Dr. Shiki Magata. She had earned her PhD in the field when she was still a child, and shortly thereafter had killed her parents. For fifteen years, she confined herself to a private island where she would continue her practice. A very select few people ever get a chance to meet her, and those select few include fellow computer scientist Sōhei Saikawa and his assistant Moe Nishinosono.
But before this pair could meet the illustrious logician, it seems that Dr. Magata has been killed, and there are no clues as to who killed her! As witnesses to this confidential murder case, Saikawa uses analytical intuitions while Nishinosono relies more on empirical observations to solve the mystery. But before they can do so, they have to put both of their talents together to unpack the complex mind and history of Dr. Magata.
While there are plenty of lies and distractions, the entire series is logical. There are no magical loopholes to explain any of the actions in this series. Anything that seems “unreal” is treated as a ideal state or possible world. The timeline of the series bounces back and forth between past and present to explain events leading up to the final act.
For the purposes of this review, Dr. Magata is treated as the central character. But this anime is Moe Nishinosono’s narrative. This is her chance for Sensei to notice her. And as Nishinosono tries to figure out Dr. Magata, she in turn grows from this experience.
That’s it for the exposition. From here on, there will be SPOILERS.
Seven is a Lonely Number
To the average person, Dr. Magata comes across as a genius. Having said that, a lot of what she says or believes sounds to us like riddles. But to her, she means exactly what she says. So when she says something like “Seven is a lonely number,” she is referring to some property about “seven” that isn’t apparent to us until we understand her sense of it.
Dr. Magata explains this point to Nishinosono as a hypothetical calculation, but I have a different way that might help to unpack some of the further ideas that come up in The Perfect Insider. Bear in mind, it’s not her argument, but mine to try to illustrate what she means.
Consider the set of natural numbers 1 through 10. For each number, list their factors. Then list their multiples from numbers within the set. Then put the list of factors and multiples together for each number and eliminate repeated numbers. Since 1 is virtually a factor for every number, eliminate 1 from all sets and eliminate the set for 1 as well. What you get is this list:
From just these natural numbers, 7 only contains itself as a factor and a multiple, and you will not find 7 in any other set of factors and multiples. Every other number is contained in at least one other set of numbers, and each set other than the set for 7 has a cardinality of greater than 1. But the set for 7 has a cardinality of exactly 1, meaning it only contains one member: itself. Thus, seven is not only a lonely number, but in this group, it is the loneliest number.
But what Dr. Magata says after declaring seven as a lonely number baffles this numeric system. While she says seven is a lonely number, she also makes the claim that so are B and D.
In this case, she’s not talking about a standard decimal system that we are used to seeing in our numbers, but a hexadecimal one. Dr. Magata is familiar with a base that contains 16 numbers instead of 10, since hexadecimals are common in computer language. In this case, we take a set of natural numbers 0 through F (or 0 through 15, if you prefer) and do the same analysis as we had done with the set of numbers 1 through 10. However this time, we are also excluding 0 since 0 is contained in every set as a multiple. These are the results:
But wait! B and D may be lonely numbers in a set of hexadecimals, but 7 is not! In this set of sets, 7 contains the number E (equal to 14) as a multiple, and E contains 7 as a factor. So in a hexadecimal system, 7 is not a lonely number. Has Dr. Magata contradicted herself?
This is why I find it helpful to have a dialectical approach. When Dr. Magata says that “Seven is a lonely number and so are B and D,” she is not talking about the same set of numbers. In fact, Seven is a very special case if you were to juxtapose these systems together. In that case, Seven is both lonely and not lonely, something unique to any other number in these two modules. Because it is unique in that regard, it is the loneliest number.
Dr. Magata compares herself to Seven, suggesting that she is “lonely.” But what lonely means to her isn’t a state of being by herself or longing to be with others. At least, not in the physical sense. Observers who have monitored Dr. Magata have reported that she also has multiple personalities, each taking on a different name and behavior pattern than her own. I will get back to this point later, but for now, let’s suspend the psychological implications of Dr. Magata’s condition.
Everything Becomes F
If you figured out that F means “fifteen” in “Everything becomes F” before reading this review and before the first time they stated it, congratulations! You’re a better computer scientist than I am! But even though F means fifteen, “fifteen” doesn’t just mean a simple number to Dr. Magata.
So what is meant by “Everything becomes F?” Nishinosono takes an empirical approach to solving the mysteries, meaning she takes from her experiences and tries to come up with a solution that way. Having said that, Nishinosono focuses on what is F and tries to figure out if the phrase makes any sense.
However in logic, F is just a placeholder for some predicate in that sentence. One interpretation can say “everything becomes free,” while another can say “everything becomes a unicorn!” If that’s the case, then any interpretation could work, so long as you can bend the truth to that end.
But Dr. Magata is a logical person. She has a reason for saying “Everything becomes F.”
Saikawa notes the claim of “everything” becoming F. This is a strong claim, since it suggests that all things in some universe of discourse becomes F, whatever that is. The alternative, “Some things become F,” is not as strong a claim. Now Saikawa is faced with a different problem: what is “everything” to Dr. Magata?
I think it’s also worth noting that the operation in this sentence is “becomes,” suggesting that there is a temporal element to it. When something becomes something, it suggests that it was not in that state before. The new property is added or modified to the subject. So in that sense, “Everything becomes F” suggests that everything was not previously F, adding another problem to Saikawa’s puzzle.
Dr. Magata applies this principle of “Everything becomes F” in at least two ways. In the short answer, she is referring to F as a number in the computer code. This is what she used to cause a malfunction in her own computer system to stage the murder mystery.
On the other hand, Dr. Magata also thinks of “Everything becomes F” in terms of years. Dr. Magata is convinced that all humans end their lives at fifteen. Again, what Dr. Magata is talking about is not a physical sense of humans, but an ideal one. She observes that at age 15, humans generally start to accept their world as it is, and thus assume a certain role in it. At this age, they stop asking questions about their world. The physical body of a human adult may function as if it were alive, but the mental state of that person would be dead. By accepting things as they are, Dr. Magata believes that humans stop functioning as humans, hence why she believes that they are no longer human past 15. Just like the computer example, “Everything becomes F” seems to have an end component to it, as if something is completed. Or perhaps destroyed.
We may think of “Everything Becomes F” as something that means multiple things in context, but Dr. Magata sees all of these as one. In her sense, F is complete when things are not yet complete. F comes to an end when things have not yet ended. And like the paradoxical nature of Seven becoming not lonely from a decimal to a hexadecimal set, F is something that becomes before it has yet been.
Thus Saikawa concludes that “Everything becomes F” refers to perfection. For it is human to strive for perfection when humans themselves are not perfect. Everything in this universe is imperfect. And when something becomes perfect, it ends at completion.
The Unanswered Questions
But as logical as Dr. Magata may be, the fact remains that she is still human. Thus, she is also prone to flaws. So where did she go wrong? By accepting her assumption that “Everything becomes F” is perfect and absolute.
For instance, it may be true for her that humans stop being human at 15, but that does not hold true for all humans. The one who made her realize her own mistake is none other than Moe Nishinosono, a girl who has yet turned 20, the Japanese age to legally become an adult. Dr. Magata may herself have been convinced that her world was complete once she turned 15, but Nishinosono’s seemingly simple question proved that there are still unanswered questions.
“Who are you?” is one of many such questions. Even a simple answer is not without more questions, since one’s self identity does not have a clear definition. Anyone who has a simple and complete answer to this, by the way, is pretty much not human on Dr. Magata’s view! So how exactly does Dr. Magata define who we are?
While it seems apparent to us that she has a multiple personality disorder, Saikawa doesn’t see this as an anomaly, but proof that she is more human. The physical human body is just a doll, a shell that houses one’s true self. Dr. Magata claims that her body contains other personalities as multiple perspectives. Whenever it seems like she’s talking to herself, Dr. Magata is just talking with these other perspectives, all within the same body.
But even though the human mind and body have this dichotomous relationship, Dr. Magata’s unifying force for them is her true self: the instantiator that controls actions of all the personalities in a single body. Dr. Magata finds that separating these multiple personalities is the most ideal fit for a human, for each one has a different experience to offer and challenge assumed truths. Without these other perspectives, it would be easier for us to accept things as they are and stop questioning. That’s when we arrive at what Dr. Magata means to be “human.”
For Dr. Magata, to be human is to seek answers. Every human wants to understand the world in order to find some control in it. This typically means one can have control for oneself, but its most destructive form is in control of others. The latter comes from finding an answer and accepting that as truth. But the former comes from finding an answer and not accepting that as the complete truth.
There are many unanswered questions, such as “who are you?” And truth be told, it is impossible to answer them. However, since being human means seeking answers, accepting that there is no answer to these unanswered questions is in fact an answer. Thus, it becomes necessary for a human to seek an answer for these tough questions, even if there are no answers to them.
Thus, we arrive at Dr. Magata’s definition of kindness.
It is necessary for humans to not understand everything in order to be kind. If humans knew everything, they would do nothing. And when they do nothing, there is no progress. When we convince ourselves that everything we know at present is how the world works, then we assume that we know everything. And when we assume that we know everything, there is no kindness.
Thus to be kind, we must always seek answers. We must continue to be curious about the world. To challenge authority and the status quo. When we find an answer for ourselves, we challenge it further to refine it to become closer to perfect. And when we realize that we cannot find these answers, we seek newer perspectives from others to figure it out. Thus, because we are seeking answers, we become kind. And when we can find these answers for ourselves and not accept them at face value, we have become our perfect insider.
So if you want a murder mystery that delves deep into a philosophy that challenges knowledge, truth, and the complex mind, then check out The Perfect Insider. And don’t be surprised. I am probably going to challenge this entire review in the future.