The Winter 2020 Anime Preview Guide
- ID: INVADED
How would you rate episode 1 of
ID: INVADED ?
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How was the first episode?
From his time directing The Garden of Sinners and Fate/Zero onwards, Ei Aoki has dedicated his career to a specific style of action thrillers, generally with a dash of urban fantasy. His works possess a clean-lined look carried on from his ufotable days, and tend to prioritize narrative momentum over character or texture. Self-serious, propulsive, and ostentatiously cool, ID: INVADED falls neatly within Ei Aoki's modern wheelhouse, while offering his own take on the crime procedural genre.
ID: INVADED's premise is very neatly “The Cell,” but not everyone has seen The Cell, so I guess you could also place it somewhere between Inception, Psycho-Pass, and Minority Report. In these first two episodes, an amnesiac “great detective” named Sakaido attempts to deduce a serial killer's patterns from within the killer's “intent to kill,” a fanciful mental world where both terrain and characters are broken into scattered fragments. The sequence of Sakaido first reassembling his body was a particularly ghoulish highlight, but nearly every segment of these episodes that took place within the inception-world was inventive and engaging. Better still, the fragmentation of this specific world was framed as a specific invention of this particular killer - meaning that future episodes promise a wide array of their own personal nightmares, merging classic detective fiction fundamentals with psychological horror.
Outside of the killer's mental worlds, ID: INVADED proceeds as a fairly straightforward cop drama, as our pair of field agents end up getting a little too close to the killer. No one in the cast really stood out to me on a human level, but that's kinda expected from an Aoki production; his stories are about setting up narrative hooks and then yanking the audience through hell, and this premiere certainly set up plenty of potential hooks. ID: INVADED also possesses a generally polished look, and though there weren't too many standout cuts of animation, I loved the inventive nightmares of the show's mental worlds. On the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed ID: INVADED's first two episodes - Aoki's shows don't tend to be my sort of thing, but the allure of this one's personal universe conceit kept me intrigued from start to finish. I'd give it a shot.
If ID: INVADED seems familiar, there are two good reasons for it. One is, of course, the unmistakable Psycho-Pass vibes given off by the idea of a machine that can detect the intent to commit a crime (here limited to murder), but the other is that series writer Otaro Maijo had a short story published in the short-lived English translation of the Faust anthology, “Drill Hole in the Brain.” While I only vaguely remember the story and I'm not certain that there's a link beyond the title's conceit, the killer in these first two episodes himself has a hole drilled in his head – or rather, through it, like Phineas Gage, albeit not with a rail spike – and that's how he murders his victims. Interestingly, he sees it as helping them, because he feels that the hole in his head has helped him to see (think) more clearly, again linking him to Gage in terms of traumatic brain injury. Oddly that never really comes up in the episodes, but it feels strongly implied, especially since there is a link mentioned between the “Id Wells” used to send the detective into a killer's consciousness and Freud's concept of the id. The episodes seem unwilling to take it much further than that, but I'd definitely bet on this having some sort of (pop) psychology aspect going forward.
That's in part because of statements just sort of dropped into the show by the more reputable cop characters. One mentions that only someone who has killed before can enter an Id Well (so it's no real surprise when guards come to take Sakaido back to his cell at the end), and another says something about “master detectives” as characters always being a little bit off, with the implication that the two elements are possibly related. While Hercule Poirot might object to that characterization, it is true that they have to be able to figure out how a killer's mind works, which seems to be the angle the show is going for. (Again with the Psycho-Pass vibes…) In this respect, it feels as if ID: INVADED may be attempting to be a deconstruction of the way detective-led mystery stories play out – the detective who is brilliant but somehow handicapped in a social sense (true of many, but certainly not all, Golden Age detectives), the locked room mystery that clearly isn't in this case, the way Sakaido very literally puts pieces together…all of it screams that the writer is trying to do something with, or perhaps say something about, the basics of the genre.
Right now it feels a little too on the nose to really work, but it definitely deserves another episode or two to see if it is able to dial that back a little. These two episodes are trying very hard with both the visuals and the story to prove that they can say something about mystery fiction, and that could turn on it very quickly if it isn't careful. That the character designs are a little off-putting doesn't particularly help, although the difference between Id Well Sakaido and Real World Sakaido bears keeping an eye on, and it's also a plus that Funimation's simuldub is up and running right off the bat. I'm not sold yet, but this is worth keeping an eye on.
Man, I wanted to love ID: INVADED's first two episodes, and I genuinely thought I might in its opening scenes. I was fascinated to watch the anonymous, pink-haired hero of the story wake up in a bed, floating in a void of cobbled together rooms and doors, only to have his entire body split apart into fragments as well. As he pulls himself (mostly) back together and proceeds to investigate this strange world, he comes upon the body of a young girl, a bloody knife sticking out of her chest. He remembers now: He is the Brilliant Detective Sakaido, the dead girl is named Kaeru, and its his job to find out how she died. “All right!” I thought. “This could turn out to be a very interesting little mystery”.
Except, that isn't really the mystery, as ID reveals when the camera pans out to reveal a crew of investigators working in a super high-tech facility, with a hologram depicting Sakaido's misadventure at the center of it all. Through two entire episodes worth of barely comprehensible exposition and technobabble, we slowly piece together what ID: INVADED is actually about, or at least, we get enough to kind of make sense of what happens in these first two episodes. Long story short: Sakaido is really the avatar of a haggard and seemingly incarcerated man named Narihisago, and the virtual environment he finds himself in is called the Id Well. This vague cyber-dream space is concocted of the “cognitive particles” picked up at crime scenes (no, I have no idea what that means), and “Sakaido” is sent in to investigate the world made up of a muderder's “desire to kill” in order to piece together clues that the real-world officers use to catch the bad guy. In this introductory episode, the team is hunting a man who drills holes into his victims heads, who has been given the nickname of “The Perforator”. If you've seen movies like Tarsem Singh's The Cell, or Satoshi Kon's anime film Paprika, then this premise probably seems a bit familiar to you. The problem that ID: INVADED experiences compared to those other movies is that, for the ridiculous amount of time these episodes spend trying to explain what in the hell is exactly going on, it is very hard to make sense of the Id Well and Sakaido's side of the story in a way that feels very engaging or interesting. All you really get out of these opening episodes are questions, and there are few, if any satisfying answers to be had.
If the show had characters that you could care about, it would be easier to take all of these unresolved mystery-boxes in stride, but out of the many investigators, victims, and killers we meet, only two make an impression. The first is the “real” Sakaido, Narihisago, though we barely get to know him until the final minutes of the second episode; then there's Hondomachi, who might not even have much more screen time in the future after the events of this premiere. Given that the series is directed by Ei Aoki, of Aldnoah.Zero and Re:CREATORS fame, ID: INVADED is a well-produced series with some very neat visuals and themes. That said, the scripts are all over the place, and the story is a mess, so the show is going to have to seriously step up its game to become worth sticking with for the whole winter season.
Ei Aoki's last directorial effort – Re:CREATORS – would probably make my top 5 for Favorite Series of the '90s, and I consider Fate:Zero to be the best part of the Fate franchise, so there was no way I wasn't at least a bit interested in his newest directorial effort. This one is a substantial departure from either of those, but it still shares similar themes of crossing boundaries and examining how people are perceived both by themselves and others that are seen in most of his works. It just presents those themes in a dramatically different way.
The concept reminds me somewhat of the 2010 Leonardo DiCaprio movie Inception, where the protagonist can enter people's dreams in order to learn their secrets. In this case the device for doing so in instead the pseudo-scientific Id Well, which allows looking into someone's “intent to kill,” but, hey, whatever; the science here matters less than how the concept is used. Looking into how a person's mind works, and trying to interpret the visual cues therein, is inherently an interesting exercise if used right, and the first Id Well presented here – where people appear fragmented in body, though the parts can still be manipulated as if connected – certainly meets that criteria. The contrast between that and the second Id Well is also interesting; it certainly raises questions about the character who generated that.
Speaking of that, Hondomachi earns my early favor for Most Ballsy Move of the Year. We don't see enough of her in this episode to read how that fits into her persona, but damn, girl! At least she comes off better for being strapped to a table than a certain other recent character that I could name. . . Anyway, that she's one tough nut is good, because the cast so far has precious little character to distinguish themselves. The only other one who is even vaguely interesting so far is Sakaido, and that's more because of the surprise twist at the end about who he is and what kind of questions that raises about both why he's involved in this and what the murdered girl has to do with this; the pictures on the walls at the end imply that she's probably his daughter, but if so, does anything we've seen of her so far actually reflect how she died?
I'm not a big fan of police procedurals these days, and that's what this one feels like (even if it does get into some funky science), so I don't know if I'll keep up with it or not. At the least the cast is going to have to become more compelling, as that's the series weak point so far.
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