「灰色の境界」 (Haiiro no Kyōkai)
“Grey Boundary”

What a strange episode of Subete ga F ni Naru. It’s definitely a bit unusual by anime standards, and, certainly, it runs against the style of that the show has established thus far. Generally speaking, some indulgences about genius computer science aside, Subete ga F ni Naru has, for the most part, fallen on the side of realism, and this episode may detract somewhat from the authenticity. At the same time, it was at least an interesting directorial choice; I wonder about the way it was done in the original novel, how much of it is a transliteration of the original text and how much of it was generous interpretation.

I am talking, of course, about the English conversation.

Is Magata Miki not fluent in Japanese?

No, compared to the English, Lego-mania was as tame as a puppy on Prozac. I mean, an entire act of the episode, the entire important conversation, in English! Proper English! Evidently, they were pressing home the fact that Magata Miki also received the same fancy foreign American education that her sister did. And that Souhei is also apparently fluent as well, because in fiction smart guy = polyglot. Unfortunately, we, the Western audience who are actually fluent in English (at least I’m assuming my readers have a comfortable level of English because… how are we communicating? The pictures? You like the pictures? Enjoy the pictures) will have a harder time suspending our belief because of the obvious stiffness in the performance; they seiyuu are trying hard, even sometimes too hard, but it’s not easy acting while using a language one lacks mastery in. But it’s better than pidgin, or comedic gobbledygook, and it’s definitely no worse than what was tried in the PSYCHO-PASS Movie (where they made their poor seiyuu play Asians quoting French philosophers in English). I’m sure if I was the average Japanese viewer I would already be suitably impressed, or at least not have enough English comprehension to care (in the same way that I’m not going to appreciate the acting in Japanese voices from the get go). Hey, proper dialogue. It’s all that can be asked for.

Trippier than the Lego was an expressive Souhei

I suppose the lab’s cyronic coffin creepy rape machine virtual reality unit also deserves a mention (just because it’s the main development of the episode and the mid-series climax? Meh). You may remember me mentioning in episode 01 that Subete ga F ni Naru was very much like Owarimonogatari played straight, but now it seems we’ve come full circle. Woo, 3D backgrounds as metaphor! You can tell that Subete ga F ni Naru‘s source is a bit old, because in the modern age the proper metaphor for a virtual reality constructed out of blocks is Minecraft i.e. not a metaphor at all. Dr Magata/Michiru can be a Creeper. In more ways than one.

So it seems Dr Magata was creating some cross between the Singularity and Inception, and one of her personalities, Michiru, lives inside it. Interestingly, if you remember back to the messages left on Dr Magata’s computer, Michiru was described as the only one who isn’t ‘free’. Hmm. Between Souhei’s conversation with Miki and Moe’s conversation with Michiru it’s pretty clear how Magata Shiki views the bag of meat that is the human body (with one conversation being more positive than the other), and this virtual world does seem to be right up Shiki’s alley. Reality controlled by thoughts, superior information storage than human memory, wear your bathing suit everywhere; there’s certainly many charms to such an existence. At the same time though, one has cause to be suspicious about the entire exchange Moe experienced. Why did she forget what was arguably the defining moment of her life? Or the Saikawa-sensei who sat with her? Is there something deeper to it than trauma? Can these memories be fully trusted? And is it really an advantage for her to remember?

Looking ahead ~ out, damn spot

In all seriousness, I think Moe in Legoland was a great scene, with some interesting camerawork and the frenetic strings carrying the drama in the background (Kenji Kawai sure does good music). Since we’re halfway through the series, it’s appropriate we’re starting to get these big reveals—reveals not only give further insight, but also promote the greater mystery. Such is the purpose of well-done mid-narrative climax; they give us a temporary high to maintain the energy in the story, but also build towards something even bigger in the finale. For Subete ga F ni Naru, which has a story within a story, it’s more obvious. The tale of young Magata Shiki murdering her parents has come to a close, but it leaves us with an air of suspense still. With Shiki shifting between emotions rapidly, it makes us wonder which one of her personae was in the pilot seat at any given point. And she also foretells the ‘death’ of both herself and the director, and indeed it does seem to rung true. It has, right?

Well, more answers should be forthcoming from this point, especially since the diary that we were first shown in episode 01 has re-emerged (is it the same one? It has the same curious capitalisation and all). If this episode was but a taste of how the finale will play out, I think we’re in for a treat.


  1. I don’t think the diary is the same one, if only because the diary Miki had is apparently one she wrote in herself, whereas I was under the impression that the diary in episode one was being written by the director as a sort of ‘letter’ to someone else, presumably describing how Shiki got to where she is now (and the bits that get narrated by him are the lines he has written, or rather, some of them). But that being said….maybe the diary he wrote is for Miki to read from…….so that she could better understand her sister, especially as they apparently only met a few times?
    And that revelation, about Shiki and Miki’s relationship, now that’s a whole different issue.I REALLY want to know the specifics of the family circumstances that meant that two sisters were virtually strangers. I’d always assumed it was something to do with Shiki always being abroad and not having the same education….but if Miki had also been in the US….Ahh, I don’t know. It seems like each episode of The Perfect Insider is more confusing than the last.

    On a completely unrelated issue, seeing Moe relive the night her parents died was really rather visceral. And the bits where it showed that Saikawa was by her side were just a sucker-punch to the gut. Very well done, those bits.

  2. Almost skipped 1/3 of the episode due to the Engrish. Sounded more jarring than chalk screeching on chalkboard. That aside, for some bizarre reason, during the lego scene, I thought Noshinosono kun was one of the Doctor’s personalities. But then there’s the “I’m Michiru”, basically signaling that the girl on screen = Michiru = Magata’s musume? Don’t know. Couldn’t think straight after hearing so much Engrish… I fell into some kind of trance.

  3. Forgot to ask… does Noshisono’s mansion not have a washing machine? Blood is not that hard to wash off -_-. And that murasaki dress doesn’t look like it’s made of silk or anything too hard to deal with.

      1. Why do you keep coming up with excuses for her based on stereotypical assumptions of what you think a rich girl does and does not do?
        I don’t wash my clothes either, the washing machine washes them. Surely Noshinosono knows of their existence? If not, surely her butler can point out their existence? Or more logical yet, bring her clothes to the cleaners for her?

      2. It’s not me, mate, it’s what Moe says herself. I’m simply not trying as hard to deny her characterisation. She had just assaulted a family friend and gotten his blood on her dress; I’m sure she had all sorts of reasons for wanting to wash it off herself, even if she’s evidently not very versed at it.

      3. @Passerby

        There has be a logic to defending a character or its writer. Or advocating the devil, for that matter.
        So far, I’ve failed to find it in yours.

        *Apparently, she’s a prodigy but can’t figure out fundamental tools that facilitate the completion of simple duties.
        *Her parents are dead but she acts entitled and “spoiled” – as you’ve kindly pointed out for ep. 5 – although she has had no one to spoil her.
        *She has violent and manipulative tendencies to people who are close to her in settings that should not have triggered those tendencies.

        There’s just a lot going on with her that makes her character inconsistent.

      4. @Indigo
        Are you saying my arguments are fallacious? Oh, how you hurt me! I am wounded.

        Here’s the thing: It’s all a matter of interpretation, and I look at things differently from you. When I see characters acting in certain ways, my reflex is to wonder why they act that way, rather than why they shouldn’t. As I may have mentioned before, it’s about benefit of the doubt. You’ll never find satisfaction if you take issue with characters not behaving as you personally think they should.

        For example, to address your points:
        1. Moe is smart and good at maths, but why should that translate into life skills? Especially when she was just a little girl? If she had never had cause to interact with a washing machine before, I wouldn’t expect her to be use one.

        2. She was born into wealth and luxury, was she not? And her parents surely didn’t start off dead. Furthermore, we have seen that in the present her butler worries after a fair deal. The point is that she does act spoilt, and there can be any number of reasons for it, whether it be environment or a matter of personality, and I haven’t seen enough of her life to immediately conclude that it’s something inconsistent.

        3. Whether her tendencies are violent and manipulative, and whether those actions are warranted, are a subjective matter. I will note, though, humans behave as they do for any number of reasons, and just because you wouldn’t behave in the some way doesn’t mean any particular individual will not. There are so many value systems in this world.

      5. You are wounded? Lol, cut the act. My comment was, is, and will never intend to be personal.

        But I believe you’re confusing an intelligent person with an autistic savant. These are two very different things. Noshinosono-kun is the former: she is eloquent, firm in her ideologies, confident in her abilities, and understands her social standing. Any intelligent person by age four should understand the concept of a washing machine.

        But what really irks me so far is that she has made little use of herself in the situation besides forcing Saikawa-sensei to stay and help solve the mystery. Her first contribution was seeing the elevator floor numbers change. And even then she didn’t go to the next level.

        Apparently, many people seem to be fine with, or apathetic about, Noshinosono-kun’s character. But what I see are writers not fully utilizing her character to its fullest capacity. Just compare and contrast her development to the thorough development Hyouka’s writers provide to their characters.

      6. I’m the most genuine person you can ask for! Please don’t break my heart.

        As for whether every intelligent four-year-old should ‘understand the concept of washing machines’ (is that the same as knowing how to use it?), that’s simply more assumptions, no? Intelligence aside, it’s still about exposure, right? There’s no reason why we must deny her the benefit of the doubt about this. And even if we accept your point—which I’ll refrain from conceding—it still doesn’t translate to some strict requirement for her to use a washing machine. There’s any number of reasons why she wouldn’t use a washing machine/use a sink, starting with personal preference. I certainly wouldn’t count it as an inconsistency.

        From where I stand, it seems the main issue you have with Moe is that she is not conforming with your expectations for her. But there is really no onus on her to do so. And if you speak of development, a good chunk of this episode was development for her. If you’re looking for something like Hyouka i’m afraid that, although I’m a big fan myself, Subete ga F ni Naru is a very different kind of story.

      7. @Passerby

        Hyouka is a very different series, I concur, but good character development standards are ubiquitous. In this series, her character development is there to move the plot along. In Hyouka, the movement of the plot is there to unfold character development. There is a difference.

        The writer’s intention was to make Noshinosono-kun intelligent. I expect her to act intelligently. Is that so wrong an expectation?

        Please also note how I wrote “understand the concept of a washing machine”. Not use it. Butler-san and maid-san could have taken care of the rest, I’m sure.

      8. I’m afraid there really is no such thing as ubiquitous ‘good character development standards’. What would that even mean? There are plenty of stories that aren’t even character-centric, and even ones that are treat their characters in myriads of different ways.

        In any case, judging the writing by saying, ‘the writer intended X, but it does not conform to my expectations of X’ is a poor way of enjoying an anime. For one, you would be committing the intentional fallacy. You would also, again, be trying to force your standards of behaviour on another, standards which may not be as universal as you may believe. What is ‘intelligent’ behaviour, for example, still depends on values and circumstances.

        So I would suggest looking at a character’s actions and draw conclusions from that, instead of doing it the other way around. Why worry about the butler washing the dress, especially when you were wondering about Moe’s knowledge of washing machines? It’s evident that she wanted to wash it herself. Per my suggestion, trying thinking about it like this: what did she do? Try to wash a dress in a sink. Why did she do it? Maybe she’s not proud of her assault, and just wanted to get rid of the mark. Whether it makes her look ‘intelligent’ is irrelevant. ‘Good character development’ usually extends beyond describing people in one word.

    1. Well, let’s not forget the fact that she had just lost her parents, then she went to the traumatizing event of having to identify their dead bodies; and in the end the memento that symbolized her mother’s love got stained with blood… I can understand why someone would not be able to rationalize that a washing machine would be better than trying to do it for oneself.

    2. We’ve seen her be willful as a college student, so if, as a child, she decided she was going to wash the dress herself, I doubt any amount of persuasion by servants would get through. Also, she probably felt guilty, as in the Macbeth scene Passerby referenced, and was symbolically trying to wash that away with the blood.

  4. I am 99% sure now Miki is somehow involved with the whole murders series.
    Either she is Shiki herself trying to get away from her prison (but then who is the dead body?), or she has decided to kill Shiki and the director to avenge her parents. At the very least she is extremely suspicious character who acts in conspiracy with the killer.

  5. The English was worse than Engrish for me. 🙁 It sounded like Google Talk. Kudos for making the grammar correct, but if the “point” was emphasizing that Magata Miki was well-schooled and lived in America, I felt like there could be better ways to go about it.

    I guess it shows how much prosody influences our understanding of language, because even though the English was pretty much grammatically accurate, I really had to strain myself to understand the content of the dialogue (even “backwards translating” some of the phrases into Japanese) because it was so robotic.

    1. I got the idea that Nishinosono and the other woman got into a sensory deprivation tank, if you check them on google they are like the ones we saw in the episode…
      In those cases you get a natural trip due to the fact that the absence of sensory sensations/input causes your brain to create some sort of hallucinations, so you can’t choose what you’ll see, it’s normally like a dream or an acid related trip, anything may come!
      Given the fact that she is obsessed with the case, seeing Dr Magata after a psychedelic stroll with her favorite sensei seems plausible!

  6. The stiff delivery of the English conversation was a shame, because the grammar was spot-on. It would make sense for Saikawa-sensei to speak with a Japanese accent, but not for Miki.

    I do believe it’s credible for Saikawa-sensei to have a good grasp of the English language. Being an academic, he’d likely need to read English documents from time to time.

    1. By anime standards, it could certainly have had been a lot worse. Even the pronunciation was a lot better than what I’m used to i.e. not just a mess of katakana conversions. Fluent speakers will not be fooled, but I’m sure for the Japanese audience it worked well enough.

      I also think it’s credible for Saikawa-sensei to have a good grasp of English, but one problem with that scene was that he was obviously using some advanced words that he had some difficulty with actually saying. Mostly a problem with delivery and, again, probably not an issue for the majority of the show’s viewers.

  7. Ditto on the english conversation. That was some awful sounding line readings.

    Moe in the dream machine. She didn’t bother to think of her parents?!

    And yeah, my bet is on Magata being the sister now. She’s way too old to be the kid and the supposed “dead” Magata looks like the girl from the flashbacks. It didn’t help that her sister made note of her “not aging” in her terribly stilted line reading. So agreed with theory from last week that she raised her kid in there and killed her to make it look like she died, and Moe was probably talking to her kid the while time.

    Bamboo Blade Cat
  8. I was reading Enzo’s review of this episode, and even though he found the english conversation to be distracting as well, he thought it was an “artistic choice”. Lol. Even while criticizing it, he can’t help but defend it.

    Bamboo Blade Cat
  9. I’m reading the comments on the English and I can’t stop wondering if there’s something quite sinister going on in the subconscious minds of everyone who posted about it. Or am I fuming over nothing but water vapor here? I dunno, I guess it awoke the Asian inside of me. Yeah, definitely that. Heck, I actually feel more amused or irritated at the way my countrymen reproduce the English language than anything else. It’s like I’m trying to force myself to not sound like a Texan or a surfer bro when speaking English with them.

    Anyway, at least the grammar was spot on even though there were parts where the vocal stress or inflection was wrong. Japanese people should probably learn Spanish diction first then branch out slowly just to get them accustomed to foreign languages and pronunciation. It’s been a recent idea of mine, so I have no idea if it’ll even work. It probably would if maniacal red tape wasn’t a thing and open-mindedness was.

    Nishizawa Mihashi
    1. Also, if my grammar appears to be faltering, just know that I’m constantly surrounded by willfully ignorant people who cannot seem for the life of them upgrade their grammar. Oh boy, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. There’s just nothing more exasperating than people who’ve got the basics of comprehension, vocabulary and colloquial expression down but their grammar and syntax are at a consistent “WTF” level despite hours upon hours of exposure and training, refusing to even up their skills ever more slightly in at least ONE language.

      Nishizawa Mihashi
      1. I’m afraid that grammar gets very little respect in general, and is one of those subjects that are universally acceptable to hate, like maths.

        @Bamboo Blade Cat
        On my part, it was evident to me that the seiyuu were trying and were even, at times, over-acting. They were trying to simulate a normal English conversation, but since I doubt they’ve ever had a normal English conversation. Combined with there being words they probably aren’t familiar with, it certainly seemed difficult for them. The optimal thing is to find a Japanese who also has had substantial English experience—you don’t want them too fluent either—but I suppose they considered this a close enough approximation. As I’ve said before, I’m sure the average Japanese viewer will have no issue with the scene.

      2. That seems pretty common when it comes to the voice actors. In fact, my very namesake anime had a supposed english speaker that came off as extremely overacted and stiff. Very rare is the case where there’s an actual fluent speaker who’s a fluent speaker, Zenkyou No Terror comes to mind, and I remember it in something more recent, though can’t for the life of me remember right now, but for the most part, yeah it comes of as artificial, since as natives, we can differentiate between fluency and imitation. I could pick up on the long pauses they used due to the commas in the scripting which caused it to come off as delayed.

        It’s also not unusual in live-action either. I believe Antonio Banderas in Desperado spoke all of his lines phonetically as well. I think Zhang Ziyi did as well in something she was in.

        Bamboo Blade Cat
      3. What really bothered me with the english conversation was the complete lack of emotion, i mean it was almost as if the entire thing was made with something like google translator sounds, and the result was mechanic and not at all organic. Also i could understand that sensei speaks like that because he is japanese but not someone who lived a long time in America!

    2. One of the issues with the english conversation I had was, at least for me, it was clearly just two people reading the script phonetically. Particularly Dr. Magata’s sister. As someone aptly described it, it was like listening to Google Talk. Why they don’t just hire a fluent speaker is something that’s probably just standard industry practice in most cases.

      Bamboo Blade Cat
  10. Eh, the English didn’t really bother me, though that might be because I know and have talked with people speaking like that. Considering the way Japanese is much more regular than English in terms of phonetics, I’d wager that very few could manage to sound natural unless they actually grew up speaking English or a similar language (i.e. In an English-speaking country). English is a rather difficult language with a broad range of sounds that just aren’t found in Japanese. Honestly, even the “English” teachers in Japan sound pretty stilted, so I feel like this is as good as reasonably expected. Consider that people supposedly fluent in English confuse so many phrases such as, “I could couldn’t care less” or “For all intensive intents and purposes,” and I’d much rather listen to robotic but correct English then some of the mess that comes out of people’s mouths.

    Also, I don’t know about you guys specifically, but I’ve heard some people with no Japanese background try to say stuff in Japanese, and it often falls into the “please never try that again” category.

    1. I read an interesting article from BBC Future about learning other languages, and fluency has much to do with trying to imitate the native speaker’s facial expressions and ticks while speaking (ie pouting your lips while trying to speak French). It works for adults more since children pick up on the facial nuances of speech without realizing it, but adults speak from their own cultural perspective, so imitating the facial ticks help convey tone that the language is spoken in. Another helpful tip was when imitating, exaggerate the tone to try and get it right then tone it down once you do. Pretty interesting stuff, and a lot of it was also to show that as adults, language fluency isn’t as far out of reach as previously thought.

      Bamboo Blade Cat
      1. Do you think you could post a link to that article? Or if not, at least maybe give me a little more direction on where to find it myself (like, any specific section of the BBC website, how long ago it was published or anything like that)?? I think I’d like to have a read of that article myself 🙂

  11. Was i the only one that got the idea that Nishinosono and the other woman, got into a sensory deprivation tank? If you check them on google they are like the ones we saw in the episode…
    In those cases you get hallucinations of a sort, it’s almost like taking LSD in a way, so you can’t choose what you’ll see, it’s normally like a dream, anything may come! And given the fact that she is obsessed with the case, seeing Magata after a psychedelic stroll with her favorite sensei seems plausible :p


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