4 out of 5

Directed by: Ei Aoki

covers season 1

This one has a huge learning curve.

I have gotten used to – I think – some of the core differences in the way anime vs. American animated series tend to be sequenced, one of which being that anime isn’t necessarily reliant on an explanation up front for “how things are,” or even any explanations at all. An English-centric show might prioritize laying out borders for its featured fantastic elements, or at least clearly hinting that the writers are aware that they’re fantastic, and suggesting that there are answers to come; meanwhile, anime can present some of the most outlandish concepts because they’re tropes of the scene – they’re not outlandish if you watch a fair spread of anime – or, again, because the priorities are different, and the idea is to use the setup as a springboard for characters, plot, and action that stems from that, and leave the “how things are” to your imagination. To be clear, I don’t mean to suggest that one style is inherently better, or more respectful of its audience’s intelligence, or etc., but I do think that anime has a stronger chance of going to wild places, because it’s allowed to start from wild places.

Sometimes, though, I’m so damn far behind at that starting point, and I can’t tell if I’m supposed to already be caught up, or just going along for the ride and filling it in later. And that’s the main hitch with Id: Invaded. Some of its Inception-y concept is relatively easy enough to figure – criminals are injected into other criminals’ thoughts in order to suss out more details on their crimes – but a lot of specifics around that process are discussed as known quantities from the get-go, and, unfortunately, these specifics are actually very relevant to the story. That it has quite a large cast, and an expansive backstory that’s preceded everything we’re seeing and that you have to include in your learnings along with the logistical ins and outs… it puts you (or, at least, me) on the back foot for several episodes. Thankfully, that Inception stuff is fun and weird enough to keep us focused, and within that, there’s a clear enough goal: to catch a killer. And then about halfway through the 13-episode season – which is an enjoyable sprint, due to the varied realms we explore, and the fascinating personalities spread across that cast, and an instantly intriguing core mystery of a cloudy figure appearing across different people’s dreams – when it all starts to fit together, the reward is being pulled intensely into the story, interested in all of its moving parts and appreciating that they do affect the whole. It’s a tricky thing to pull off, and though I’m not entirely convinced that initial steep uphill climb is necessary, it’s definitely worth it.

Id: Invaded is – the obvious Freudian terminology reference aside – referred to as such because our criminal’s thoughts are referred to as Id Wells, which are “captured” by devices at scenes-of-the-crime and then used to inject a person into them via a machine called a Mizuhanome, which resides in the Kura facility. Something about the mysterious structure of this technology requires the person injected to also have killed, and to be of a certain inquisitive caliber, and ideally ideologically aligned with whatever purposes for which you’re exploring the Well. It’s good then that the Kura Department has Akihito Narihisago in their employ; or, rather, has him imprisoned – Narihisago was a detective, who murdered a serial killer known as The Challenger after losing his family to the killer. The Challenger is one of several killers Kura Department is/was tracking, and whom has that shared fuzzy figure in his Id Well. Just to add some further imaginative layers to how this is structure, whenever someone is injected into a Well, they have no memories of the outside world, and take on the persona of a brilliant detective, investigating the death of a girl – Kaeru – who’s always found rather brutually murdered at the onset of an given Well. Clues surrounding her death are what fill in further clues on the Well owner’s persona, which those in the Kura Department can study and interpret and apply to ongoing cases…

Now take all of this, and put it behind a “you already know this, yeah?” story wall for several episodes, and add on top several other spinning plotlines and character arcs… It’s a lot. But director Ei Aoki and writer Ōtarō Maijō stay the course on tone the whole while, which helps to give a viewer confidence that things will work out, and they do. NAZ studio’s angular, spacious animiation also helps the show breathe, not over-stuffing the screen and letting us focus on the already bizarre settings and twisted storyline.

And I’m probably overcomplicating this. Id:Invaded likely can be watched as just a sci-fi procedural, and the Inception link is easy enough to guide on through, waiting for mysterious dream man’s identity to be revealed. But at the same time, all of the complexity, once subsumed and processed, enhances the effectiveness of that mystery, and the impact of its characters’ journeys.