Episode 1, 2, 3, 4

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 1 of

How would you rate episode 2 of

How would you rate episode 3 of

How would you rate episode 4 of

If nothing else, ID: INVADED wears a lot of its influences on its sleeve. The most obvious within the first two episodes is a short story by the series' writer Otaro Maijo, “Drill Hole in the Brain,” which was included in the first of Del Rey's two Faust anthologies (assuming I'm not the only person who read them), and that in turn leads us to the real-life story of Phineas Gage, the American railroad worker who survived a tamping iron through the skull (and brain) in the mid-19th century and became a landmark case study of brain trauma. Episode four, meanwhile, uses a villain who featured in the TV series Bones in seasons two – six: the Gravedigger, who buries victims alive and challenges authorities (or anyone, really) to find them before they die. Add to all of this a healthy dose of Psycho-Pass-style pseudopsychology and you've got four episodes of varying intensity that seem equally interested in being a police procedural with a sci-fi twist and a commentary on the basic structure of the detective novel.

Obviously that's a lot to be going on in a single show, and it doesn't always work as well as it might. A large part of its saving grace is the way that the story is slowly doling out pieces of the larger framework in each episode, carefully bringing everything back to the fact that our Brilliant Detective is a disgraced police officer who fell from grace in a spectacular way after the murders of his wife and child. Narihisago, whose alter ego is Sakaido, is both a perfect example of the quirky detective who populates so much investigative fiction and a grim warning about taking the law into your own hands, something that many a fictional detective has done in order to more perfectly catch a killer. His willingness to embody both of these tropes of the Brilliant Detective, as well as his actual police training, makes it possible for him to dive into the “ID Wells” of killers to solve the symbolic puzzles within their psyches.

That there's always a symbolic element to the cases is another element that helps save the show from its own ambition. It ranges from the very obvious – people in the ID Well of the first killer are missing pieces of their bodies, just like he, the Perforator, is missing some of his – to the more obscure, like the sniper in episode three taking “shots” the same way a photographer does because the killer (the Pyrotechnician) likes photographing dead bodies. Perhaps more interesting, however, is the girl named “Kaeru” whose murder Sakaido has to solve in every single case, at least as far as he's aware. Apart from the fact that she can be interpreted to look a bit like Narihisago's wife and daughter, her name is the Japanese verb “to return,” as you may remember hearing as “okaeri” when characters return home in other series. Therefore the idea is that if he can discover who killed Kaeru, he can return from the ID Well – and maybe even from the nightmare that his life has become.

That he's aware that he's not right (or rather, that he's done wrong) doesn't truly become obvious until episode four, when he mentions to Momoki, his former co-worker and now his supervisor, that he's not sure he still counts as human. Even the flashbacks to his life before his family's (utterly horrific) murders don't quite get that across, although we do see that there's no joy or inflection at all when he's talking the Pyrotechnician into hanging himself. That's a theme that's going to be worth paying attention to as the series moves forward, especially since gutsy young detective Hondomachi may be starting her own dangerous descent as of episode four. She's the one who forced the Perforator to drill a hole in her head in the premier in order to give the cops a leg up in the investigation, and even though she's pretty blasé about the whole thing now, there's an unsettling feeling that maybe she's too comfortable with the actions she took and their outcome. That gives her meeting with a formerly missing victim of the Perforator at the end of episode four a very sinister feeling indeed.

Of these opening four episodes, the fourth is really the strongest, not just because of the good mix of degrees of symbolism, but also because the bitter ending truly catches you off guard. That's not the case for the first three, and it shows that ID: INVADED is getting a better grip on how to tell its story with each new murderer that Sakaido is set to investigate. Sure, every killer has a catchy nickname like someone's been hitting the CSI too hard and yes, the character designs are unfortunately unattractive, but the stories are getting tighter and the use of a song in the middle of episode four shows a better idea of how to effectively use sight and sound together than the first three episodes. Simply put, I think this show may be going places, and it should be interesting to see it move forward.


ID: INVADED is currently streaming on FUNimation.

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