Original anime series are generally a hit or miss in the industry. The misses usually stem from lacking a key component in the storytelling process, having an uninteresting concept, or the anime being affected by questionable animation decisions. ID:Invaded manages to avoid these pitfalls by having Ei Aoki (Fate/Zero, Re:Creators) as the director and mystery-genre writer Otaro Maijo serving as the lynchpin and the creative front of this series. As a fan of Ei Aoki’s previous works and a sucker for psychological thrillers around moral decisions, I just had to give this series a go.
ID:Invaded opens with the introduction of a serial murder case. In this world, the premeditated actions of a serial killer can be anticipated using the key technologies of the wakumusubi and the mizuhanome. However, to effectively use these technologies and fully read a killer’s mind, another killer must be the one to “dive” into the serial killer’s subconscious. Akihito Narihisago, a former detective-turned convict, assists the police in solving these serial murders as a means to atone for his sins. By diving into each subconscious as his alternative persona “Sakaido”, Narihisago picks apart the reality, dreams, and desires of every person related to the case, all while trying to maintain his own sanity.
One of the best things about ID:Invaded is the cast. Most mystery anime contain either the buddy-cop trope or the angsty intelligent detective being offset by their foil trope, namely a newbie who’s green around the ears and brings a sense of morality into the show. Sakaido’s successor doesn’t come close to any of those tropes. Koharu Hondomachi is an equal with her own brand of intuition that allows her to think outside the box and react quickly to life-or-death situations, which is very different from the typical naive and pure-hearted subordinate. She is followed by the homicidal yet quirky “Perforator,” a serial-killer who provides a deranged perspective to the cases. Together, the three of them independently contribute new findings to the serial cases and piece together ID:Invaded’s overall mystery.
Because each character is essential to the plot, their interactions and chemistry with one another must reflect that. Both Aoki and Maijo have a very good grasp on the “show-not-tell” principle in story writing, and they reflect that by allowing the characters to constantly communicate with each other in order to glean information or come to new conclusions. It also provides room to flesh out the characters — Sakaido is surprisingly very pure-hearted and venerable despite the actions that landed him as a convict, the Perforator is much less the Joker-type and simply comes along for the thrill of things, and Hondomachi is far less innocent than her character design implies.
Even with these brilliant interactions, there is very little talk and explanation about the world itself, such as the mizuhanome, wakumusbi, and the mysterious figure “Kaeru” that are integral to the progression of the plot. Some may argue that the vagueness of the technology and plot is intentional to make the audience think. But at the same time, ID:Invaded can come off as very confusing, especially during the first half and near the end of the show. If there was a bit more explanation about the technology and Kaeru, then the story could have been clearer.
While the world-building is muddled, ID:Invaded has absolutely gorgeous scenery. Each time Sakaido and his crew dive into a new subconscious, the art changes radically to reflect the respective minds of each serial killer. In a span of thirteen episodes, you are exposed to a world of digitized bisected parts, a world where lightning strikes people standing in specific squares, and a world where railway trains slam into people and kill them. Depth perception is completely irrelevant in these domains, which makes it even more jarring to look at these sceneries and anticipate what is coming. I was very glad that the staff did not skimp out on the details and made sure to design each subconscious with as much diversity as possible.
Slavek Kowalewski’s soundtrack and Kisuke Koizumi’s sound direction elevate ID:Invaded with a combination of delicate strings, piano, and electric riffs. There is a sense of eeriness, danger, and the sadness with every single dive into the subconscious. Oddly enough, the openings “Mr. Fixer” by Sou and “Other Side” by Miyavi don’t quite play up to the series’ seriousness but they still mesh well anyway. Miyavi’s more pop-like insert songs “Samurai 45,” “Butterfly,” and “UP” liven up the anime so it becomes part-adventure and part-mystery rather than a depressing psychological thriller.
Despite the few bumps in the series’ storytelling, ID:Invaded is a Winter 2020 gem. I have a special place in my heart for films about premeditated murders and ID:Invaded hits that sweet spot with an interesting premise, a well-developed cast, wonderfully designed scenes, and defining musical scores. Some people might think that ID:Invaded is a rip off of other films that deal with premeditating criminal activity, namely Minority Report. But I can assure you that this anime is a different beast of its own, and its ending may not be what you expect it to be.