Season aired: Winter 2020
Number of episodes: 12
Genres: Mystery, Supernatural, Romance
Thoughts: In/Spectre is an anime series of goddesses and yokai. Kotoko Iwanaga at a young age lost her eye and leg in order to become the Goddess of Wisdom for the spirit world. When she accepted her position, she became the bridge between the ayakashi and the humans, and she spends her days resolving conflicts for spirits or between spirits. During one of her visits to the hospital for a checkup on her prosthetic leg, she fell in love with Kuro Sakuragawa, a college student who reminded her of a goat. However, more than anything else, she found his reactions strange. After all, they met when he slipped and fell backwards, where his head could’ve split against the hard hospital floor, yet he barely reacted to the fact that he was falling. Turns out, Kuro has his own secret regarding spirits, and Iwanaga soon forces Kuro to team up with her as they face the ayakashi and the human world.
I had the opportunity to see the first episode nearly two seasons ago back when it premiered during Anime Expo 2019 alongside Miyano Mamoru who hosted a panel regarding his character, Kuro. The first episode did a good job in its purpose: it introduced the characters, it introduced the world, and then ended with a cliffhanger that had audience members dying for the next episode. I was instantly hooked. So, how did the full series compare to just the first episode?
The characters remained consistent, but the plot ended up faltering near the end.
Definitely one of the best points of the series, Iwanaga doesn’t exist as your typical anime loli for boys to fawn over. For one, she’s actually drawn quite maturely when the cameras do a close up of her face. Iwanaga has a pretty way she likes to dress, but in the end, you realize she’s just a petite woman and not actually here to fulfill some anime trope.
On the other hand, it’s her personality guaranteed to win you over. For one, she’s very straightforward on what she wants, especially when it comes to chasing after Kuro’s affections. She flirts in a way that is often reserved for the sexy characters, and there’s no end to her mentions of sex and virginity, and she does it all so confidently without hesitating for a second. This personality could not have come through without the brilliant work of Akari Kito, whose spunky yet extraordinarily logical tone of voice remains strong through all twelve episodes. The voice actress began her career in 2014, and already, she has proven herself quite capable of voicing leads.
And while Kuro nor Saki, Kuro’s ex-girlfriend who plays an important role in the story, stand out as much as Iwanaga, two do not hold her back either. They’re complex characters in their own right, and in that regard, work well for the story. Kuro and Iwanaga’s relationship, on the other hand, is another big highlight of the series, and it’s their relationship that also hooked a lot of audiences to watch the series in the first place. As Iwanaga continues to purposefully annoy Kuro with her dirty jokes and sexual innuendos and also blabbing about their sex life, Kuro retaliates in dismissiveness, embarrassment, and exasperation. Yet, it’s clear early on that the two do care a lot for each other, and I have seen my own fair share of comments who find the relationship to be quite realistic. After all, long-term relationships are not defined by their constant romanticism, chivalry, and gift-giving. Long term relationships are often defined by jokes, sarcasm, and bantering as a sign of true comfort the significant others have around each other. They aren’t forced to always act polite or romantic. They can get testy and stressed around each other, and the relationship still holds strong.
Unfortunately, the series just doesn’t show enough of this relationship aspect. Instead, most of the twelve episodes are dedicated to a single, strange ayakashi case that results in a lot of exposition and dialogue that could feel too much to listen and watch through. This becomes problematic at the end, because while the beginning had just as much dialogue, there was still an element of mystery that made audience members wonder what was happening.
However, by the last three episodes, the main characters had already figured out the mystery, and it became a problem of solving the conflict, which entailed almost three complete episodes of nothing but typing and talking. The heavy dialogue even felt too much for someone like me, who has an issue with writing too many details when it comes to any form of writing. I think this is a situation where the format makes a difference. Readers can skim paragraphs when the description or the dialogue becomes too unnecessary, but when it’s watching an episode, viewers have no choice but to sit through every second of the narration. As a result, while I can see the manga and novel working just fine with this type of plot, it doesn’t translate as well when animated.
This flaw ends up hitting hard for the series, because it even overwrites one of the most exciting and unexpected aspect of the anime: violence. Kuro goes through some very bloody moments, all incredibly animated in a way that satisfied me so much, I would rewind and watch the scenes on repeats (and even made gifs out of). Yet, by the end of the arc, I wanted nothing more but to fast forward through all the violence if it means just skipping the talking.
Which is just so unfortunate, because I actually like a lot of the themes of what In/Spectre was exploring. It warns of the danger of the internet, of how conspiracy theories often spiral completely out of control, and how internet drama often translates into actual violence and murders in the real world that could’ve otherwise been avoided if people were more logical or didn’t actively seek such drama. If the series just somehow found a way to decrease the amount of dialogue or even increase the pacing of the resolution, this series would have much more positive feedback to the story than it ends up having in the end.
In summary, In/Spectre is a niche anime for a particular fanbase. It’s not just for anyone who enjoys mysteries and psychological stories due to the way the main characters solve and discuss the cases. It has to be people invested in dialogue and the idea that the resolution is ultimately even more interesting than the original mystery. The characters, relationship, and surprisingly gruesome animation keep me on board for all twelve episodes, but I admit that I find it hard to recommend to certain anime watchers if they didn’t have particular tastes.
Voice acting: 8
FINAL SCORE: 76