When she was little, Kotoko Iwanaga was given a chance to become the Goddess of Wisdom. Having held her position for many years now, Kotoko runs into Kurou Sakuragawa. Spirits are terrified of Kurou due to him having consumed the flesh of demons, which granted him unique powers such as immortality.
One day, Kotoko hears word of a particularly dangerous spirit dubbed Steel Lady Nanase.
Overall, I have to say I enjoyed In/Spectre. Although there were aspects of this series that felt off, there were also a handful of fundamental pillars that allowed this to be quite enjoyable. Among those pillars was this show’s sense of gamesmanship.
What do I mean by that?
I am hesitant to call In/Spectre a mystery story despite it having elements of one. Instead, this series played around with the classic who-done-it narrative. More often than not, characters knew what the truth was. So, instead of bringing it to light, they had to think of other likely scenarios that needed to be able to pass as the truth.
In this setup, the major challenge for protagonist Kotoko Iwanaga was coming up with possible solutions to problems that already had their answer. Not only that, these alternative fictions needed to take into account the facts of a particular case. Different interpretations of the available information were fair game, but that information had to be accessible to the general public to satisfy people’s urge to deduce their own conclusions.
In short, Kotoko needed to present scenarios that could have been true to be at all viable. If she – or more to the point, this story – failed to do that, then the whole premise of this show would have been invalid. In/Spectre’s fun came from its ability to adequately put all these pieces together, which was a notable accomplishment since there was another complication Kotoko had to consider.
The biggest challenge Kotoko faced was needing to outwit a rival who could not only predict the future, but they also could pick and choose what future would come to pass. Granted, the only futures available to this person already needed to be within the realm of possibility, so, at least, the risk of unexpected and ridiculous curveballs decreased. Be that as it may, that still meant Kotoko had to think multiple games, let alone steps ahead of her opponent. Admittedly, that shouldn’t have been too difficult for a character who was considered the Goddess of Wisdom. Unfortunately, that left this story with a real problem.
For In/Spectre to work, it needed to establish Kotoko as a legitimate Goddess of Wisdom; she couldn’t hold that title in-name-only. A stumble here would have spelled this series’s doom because any victory that would have been achieved would have felt hollow. However, this was also a chance for this show to do something quite impressive – which it did.
Kotoko was this story’s unquestionable Goddess of Wisdom, as well as the best thing about In/Spectre. She could have easily fallen into two different traps – an arrogant know-it-all who looked down on everyone around her or an overly naïve idealist who was unfit to represent the title she had been crowned. I am happy to say she was neither.
Kotoko could transition between the insecurity she felt in her relationship with Kurou Sakuragawa and her total control over her role as the Goddess of Wisdom. She was simultaneously a highly-skilled strategist who was held in the highest respect within the spirit world, as well as a lovestruck nineteen-year-old. Kotoko played both roles well, and she was the reason this series could be both humorous and dark.
That all being said, though, In/Spectre was the sort of series that couldn’t rely on a single character. Although Kotoko found a worthy challenger in Steel Lady Nanase, the help she had around her couldn’t match up.
For reasons, Kotoko couldn’t take on the obstacles of In/Spectre by herself. Whether it was because she needed access to critical information or because her boyfriend was the only person who could have a slugging match with a ghost, Kotoko did require assistance. But the assistance she got wasn’t great.
First, there was Saki Yumihara. To be fair, Saki wasn’t the worst character in the world. She did have a strong dynamic with Kotoko, and their back and forth banter could be a lot of fun. To tell you the truth, Saki would have been alright if it wasn’t for the fact that she was a huge scaredy-cat.
Naturally, I am not referring to Saki being freaked out over the life-or-death nature associated with Steel Lady Nanase. That was all understandable. What was less so was that after an entire anime’s worth of interactions, Saki couldn’t handle being in the presence of the different spirits that were always popping up around Kotoko. Although a giant spectral skeleton might be a bit freaky, none of the other ghosts were ever overtly threatening.
This weak-kneed juxtaposition to an otherwise no-nonsense character wasn’t funny, and it caused Saki to come off as whiny more than anything else. But at the very least, she still felt useful and necessary for this story’s progression.
The same cannot be said about Kurou Sakuragawa.
Kurou’s immortality did allow him to take a punch, so he wasn’t necessarily dispensable. But as a character, he was the definition of forgettable. He had neither charisma nor charm, and the only hint of personality he had was to be forever sulky. To be perfectly honest with you, I’m not sure what it was Kotoko saw in him.
To give you a sense of how dull he was, Kurou had an insanely violent battle with Steel Lady Nanase, and despite its brutality, it just kind of faded into the background. There were times that I forgot it was happening. This fight was completely overshadowed by what Kotoko was doing.
Now, you could argue Kurou was crucial to Kotoko’s victory strategy. That’s because he was. However, Kurou was Kotoko’s tool, not her partner.
The existence of both Saki and Kurou often called into question what type of series In/Spectre was trying to be. Neither of these characters could jump back and forth between comedy and drama, as Kotoko could. Therefore, whenever Saki or Kurou tried to transition the two extremes, it was awkward and sloppy. In turn, this sometimes made the rest of the show equally awkward and equally sloppy.
When it was focused, this story was hard to put down and a lot of fun to watch. This was all thanks to an outstanding main character who could pull off being both silly and serious.
Unfortunately, whenever anyone else had the spotlight for even a second, things would, sadly, slow down.
Nevertheless, I feel comfortable giving In/Spectre a recommendation.
In/Spectre Series Review: Mediation Within The Spirit World
Writing - 7/107/10
Plot - 7/107/10
Character Development - 7/107/10
Production - 7/107/10
Music - 7/107/10
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