Ei Aoki's original anime series throws a detective into the literal unconsciousness of serial killers in hopes of bringing them to justice...except our detective is a killer too? Steve and Nick breakdown why this sci-fi serial is just weird enough to work.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
You can read our Daily Streaming reviews of ID: INVADED here
Nick, we're not even a full month into this year, and I cannot think of a better way to encapsulate 2020 than this.
Ah come on Steve, even when times are tough it's important to think positive. Pull yourself together!
Actually I am quite thankful to have a show like ID: INVADED and its multiple main cast members sporting literal brain damage. Feels like the representation we need right now.
If nothing else I commend director Ei Aoki
for always trying something new with his projects. Last time we saw him he was having light novel characters murder their own authors, and now he's brought that daring creative flair to the table and given us Inception: The Animation
Oh I'm always on board for an Ei Aoki
adventure! And while ID
sadly lacks the shark-toothed character designs of Rei Hiroe
(#TeamMagane, best Re:CREATORS
is no slouch in the conceptual department. Though, admittedly, the question "what if cops could predict CRIME with SUPER-SCIENCE?" is not quite as fresh a concept as it once was.
Hey let's not be uncharitable. This isn't about predicting
crime. It's about using a PlayStation
Move controller to find brain particles that smell like murder to create elaborate Freudian dreamscapes that allow an amnesiac detective to look for vague metaphors that will lead to identifying serial killers. So it's way dumber than Psycho-Pass
or Minority Report
True, you've got me there!
Dunking aside though, ID: INVADED gets points from me for putting a different spin on a very, very tired TV narrative. I cannot count how many forensic crime dramas have littered the airwaves for my entire life, so I welcome a show where at least the characters are looking for something besides DNA swabs and gunshot residue.
And I actually do like how ID's specific central conceit operates. Like, it's literally only good for prolific serial killers, so while dumb, it does focus the story and subject matter in a way crime procedurals often don't.
Much like fellow serial-killer-hunter show Criminal Minds
, it's a premise that allows for a repeatable formula while also letting the show turn its episodic criminals into more fleshed out characters in their own right. Even when they occupy little screen time, the elaborate mind palaces we spend each episode in means we at least know something about even the least important ones.
The Id Wells in general are just a really good idea for spicing up a massively formulaic genre. Like can you imagine how boring this show would be if it was just the real world all the time, and every episode was watching cops stare at computer screens for 20 minutes?
I already think there are too many incidental shots of filler cop characters spouting computer and psychoanalytical jargon, so I shudder to consider that.
Having half-watched enough episodes of Criminal Minds and CSI to kill a lesser man, I am firmly in support of just making all detective serials be about the cops solving murders by getting exploded Source Code style for at least the next decade.
Yeah so let's just lay out what happens here: a man wakes up with no memory in a serial killer's unconscious, soon remembers that he's the brilliant detective Sakaido and has to solve the murder of a young girl named Kaeru, and thus "investigates" the killer's mind for clues that the IRL cops use to track down the killer's actual hideout/victims/M.O./etc.
All things considered it's a pretty roundabout way of being detectives, but that's kind of what makes it work. Instead of searching for basic clues or witnesses, it's about testing different interpretations of whatever stream of consciousness logic each Id Well follows. All told it's a clever way of dolling out mysteries that the audience can speculate with alongside the characters. Though it does lead to some awkward moments when Sakaido manages to figure things out before everyone else.
I really like that ID
has consistently emphasized the discontinuity between the dream logic of the subconscious and what happens in reality. The above example is a cute little absurd observation, but it's exhibited much more cruelly in episode four, where Sakaido rescues a smiling young girl while her actual body has been decaying in a barrel for weeks.
Ah yes, that wonderful bit of twisting the knife. Like hey Sakaido, thought you would get to be the hero saving a victim from a terrible, meaningless death? Too bad! Turns out sometimes YouTubers just lie.
Oh right, I guess we should mention that ID
isn't interested in just any run of the mill serial killers. It's chiefly interested in the flamboyant asshole kind who livestream their victims suffocating to death or make glitterbomb explosions to destroy skyscrapers.
I appreciate the unspoken detail that there's never a question of YouTube
pulling down snuff streams, because YouTube
is the worst even in fiction.
On the one hand, it's literally monetizing murder. On the other, it's a least COPPA compliant so who's to judge? Anyway, while the premise of overall execution of ID is pretty solid, where I think it's far shakier is with its characters. In that there are precisely 3 of them with anything resembling a personality and the rest are blank-faced cops in suits who stand around watching other people do interesting things.
I suppose we should begin with the fact that the disconnect between Id Wells and the real world doesn't just apply to the serial killers—turns out Sakaido himself is just one half of an Expectations vs. Reality meme
Listen man, if you kept getting plugged into The Matrix For Assholes as your day job you wouldn't look too great either.
It runs a little
deeper than that. Turns out the brilliant detective Sakaido is just a heavily idealized version of former detective (and wife guy) Narihisago.
ID: INVADED is really ID: Innovating by having its gruff, gravel-voiced detective be motivated by the brutal murder of his wife and daughter. Never seen that before. Never. Nope.
What it lacks in originality it certainly makes up for in the surface area of this blood splatter, sheesh.
Are we sure Narihisago didn't have 3 or 4 daughters he's forgetting because there's no way that much people juice fit inside one anime girl.
My experience with anime blood speaks otherwise.
Anyway, the "twist" is that, in order to dive into a killer's Id Well, you have to be a killer yourself (why? because.), and Narihisago seems to have made a new living for himself doing the Dexter
Cliche backstory notwithstanding, that's a pretty interesting place to take our protagonist. Narihisago is a messed up, broken person and the longer we spend with him in the real world, the more obvious it becomes that Sakaido is a projection of what he wishes he could be - the brilliant sleuth who always solves things in the end and makes things right. Also I'd be remiss not to mention how much of the character is carried by Kenjiro Tsuda
's voice. Dude sounds like he's been gargling nitric acid for this role and it's sublime.
I feel like this is the fifth time in a year Tsuda has played some variation of this character, and I don't mind because the dude has a voice tailor-made for jaded crime-adjacent fellows. And I'm most intrigued by the double-edged wish-fulfillment of his time spent as Sakaido. The more time he spends as the the good detective, the more that presence encroaches upon his own memories and haunts him with his own inadequacies. That's a good angle!
It's an effectively layered character that basically carries the show for me. The moment that actually hooked me was episode 2's coda, where we see him in his isolation cell, surrounded by pictures of the past, imagining actions he wished he'd taken in the Id Well and hoping that maybe Sakaido will figure out his wishes next time.
Meanwhile, the next two people most closely resembling major characters don't even look like they belong to the same show.
Ah yes, the Take Your Daughter To Work buddy cop duo. Seriously, I'm actually a fan of most of ID's
stylized character designs but who in the world decided that our naive young detective needed to look like a middle schooler who put her mom's dry-clean-only suit through the wash?
It is a constant source of hilarity to me to see her lined up against Generic Anime Cop #257, so I can't say I don't like it She also solves crime by drilling holes into her head, so at the end of the day I gotta hand it Hondomachi ("it," however, not being a drill)
What gets my goat is that they try to bullshit me with this:
Some people are just baby, and that's valid.
Listen. I've seen plenty of shorter people who looked younger than they actually are. I have a friend who was mistaken for a middle schooler in college. But they didn't wear a pink plastic flower hair clip and a school backpack to work. ID: INVADED is blatantly trying to skirt child labor laws and I will not let it get away with it.
Well it's already been skirting human anatomy quite a bit and getting away with it, so,
By the way, I love that there have now been so many crimes tied to people with holes in their heads, that the cops keep a guy called the Perforator around to be an on-call expert about having a hole in your head.
Hell, when Narihisago is off getting punished for driving his 5th serial killer to suicide, they even bring this dude in as a temp, only to find out he sucks ass at it.
AND it gave us one of the funniest lines in the whole show.
Dude is living his best cranially-aerated life.
Now Steve that's an outright lie. The funniest line in the whole show comes in episode five when they investigate the OTHER serial killer with a skull hole.
C'mon man, that's just how brains work.
I fucking lost it at that line man. ID was always straining credulity with all its Freudian influence but having somebody become a serial killer because his scrambled egg brain gets L's and S's confused is so stupid I'm surprised Tow Ubakata didn't come up with it.
He's doing shockingly well if that's ALL he mixes up after having a drill bored through his skull. Truly a medical marvel. My favorite part though is that ultimately that drill-induced brainfart doesn't even matter, because he's actually just killing people to impress his sociopath gf.
And I mean, whom amongst us, but still.
Props to Hondomachi being the only detective in the entire Mind Police squad with a lick of intuition. Probably doesn't say much good about these guys that the 10-year-old with literal brain damage is their sharpest eye.
Sadly, however, even a gun doesn't make her look the least bit intimidating.
But yeah, as a potential deuteragonist she's not exactly pulling her weight. There are hints at her experience with the Perforator (and subsequent perforation) having more lasting consequences than she realizes, but so far she's decidedly less engaging that Narihisago.
And the only other persisting plotline has been the mystery of why and how a certain scotch whisky mascot has been creating serial killers.
Part of me is begging for the final revelation of ID
to be that the only way to prevent serial killers is with prohibition. Like I dunno who decided to design and NAME their Laughing Man equivalent after century old booze mascot but props for making it memorable.
It's something at least! But ultimately I'd agree that Narihisago's whole deal remains the most compelling component of ID. But even if I don't consider the whole package necessarily "good," I've still been enjoying the way it delights in toggling back and forth between high-concept ideas and the dumbest schlock imaginable. It's fun!
Sakaido really is the glue holding this whole thing together. Without him to anchor it I don't think I'd have any patience for the vague sci-fi nonsense or all the cop show cliches. But as-is there's just enough tethering me to keep up with it. Though I was definitely tested in ep 4 when everything started to uh...melt.
The overworked anime industry surely contains the most twisted Id Well of them all.