In/Spectre – Mid Season Anime Review
Synopsis: Iwanaga Kotoko became the god of wisdom to the supernatural beings and spends her days solving problems for them. However, the boy who she fell head over heels for, Sakuragawa Kuro, is someone that is feared by all supernatural creatures. The two of them face various mysterious incidents involving the supernatural in this love x romance x mystery series. Where will these fantastical incidents lead them and what will happen with Kotoko’s crush? (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: In/Spectre started off with an episodic(-ish) format, spending an episode or two on a ‘mystery of the week’ type ordeal, before moving on to the next. But then it dives into a much bigger and longer overarching plot, one that’s hinted at heavily in its opening credits and has been ongoing for the last 3 episodes with no signs of wrapping up. This could potentially be a huge downside for viewers who were enjoying the more compact stories. Especially because this new arc contains lengthy discussion episodes that feel like they drag on forever as we watch three characters carrying on one long conversation.
Tom: It’s a gamble to take what begins as episodic and shift into a long running narrative. There’s always a chance that this more meaty narrative isn’t gripping enough, and if it runs too long you could lose the whole audience. Thankfully the fight against Steel Lady Nanase is gripping, full of mystery, and dotted with character work, making it one of the more successful jumps from episodic to serialized. It also helps that In/Spectre’s visuals are solid thus far, letting action sequences, as few and far between as they are, impress, and craft engaging flashbacks whenever the show sits down to discuss events, which happens often. These cut aways help to keep the conversation interesting, even when it’s really still just characters discussing what’s happened or what to do next.
Linny: It also helps that In/Spectre has an interesting and charming pair leading the helm. While Kotoko takes centre stage hands down with her wit and personality, watching Kuro’s exasperated or stone faced reactions to her antics and her attempts at wooing him make for some great subtle comedy. It’s understandable if some viewers are/were apprehensive of how Kotoko looks much younger than Kuro and seems to be actively pursuing a romantic relationship with him. Maybe you were further turned off when the anime hinted at an explanation for Kotoko’s youthful looks that felt cliche and even cringey, i.e she has slowed down/stopped physically aging due to supernatural reasons. Thankfully, the show never wanders anywhere close to inappropriate content making it clear that Kuro does not return any such feelings. There are also no accidental breast groping or upskirting, etc. and the show keeps things very chaste that way.
Tom: I want to go back and touch on something Linny brought up concerning lengthy discussions. For as interesting as the show’s supernatural mysteries are, In/Spectre falls into a number of pitfall common among mystery titles. In/Spectre sometimes because bogged down in ‘over discussion.’ The best example is a lengthy sequence in Episode 6, where Kotoko, Kuro and another character sit down to discuss Steel Lady Nanase. While the show sometimes repeats information, it more so becomes caught up in discussing every little detail or possibility concerning Steel Lady Nanase and the mystery at hand. It’s a good ten minutes of what amounts to talking heads, although the animation does try to alleviate this with cut aways to visualization for the points characters are making. It’s a problem with any mystery based title, as you want the audience to feel like the mystery is actually being thought through, and that the work has been done to explain why certain ideas don’t work, or certain answers are out of the realm of possibility. You want to make it feel thorough. But if you’re too thorough, and don’t have the characters take actual actions to move the plot or discussion along, you end up with lengthy sequences like this, where everyone sits around for ages and it can feel like no progress is being made. Thankfully In/Spectre hasn’t fallen into this trap too often, with Episode 6 being the most egregious example, but fall into that trap too many times and it kills the excitement the series has been building.
Linny: In/Spectre hinted early on that it’s a somewhat dark story. From Kotoko having lost an eye and leg in exchange for her current ability/position as the God of wisdom to the brutal showdown that caps off episode 1. While the show has a playful tone thanks to Kotoko’s perky personality and the reactions she causes in others, it has been getting darker and darker. The mysteries of the show have violent tendencies, usually to do with gruesome or tragic deaths. Learning about Kuro’s past puts him in a new light while also showcasing his own tragedy. This mix of supernatural mystery and dark themes makes for an intriguing and gripping show, one that should have lovers of both or either genre invested and interested.
Tom: While the content of Kuro’s flashback is superb and grim, the road there is awkward. In/Spectre’s other big issue is not knowing how to naturally build toward reveals for its characters, particularly Kuro. Kuro’s backstory is sort of randomly included at one point, throwing us into a flashback just to get that aspect of the story explained and out of the way. The same can be said for the explanation of his powers, with the discussion for how they work just kind of included at wherever it seemed to fit. This gives In/Spectre an awkward, haphazard, feel, like the story is a jigsaw puzzle with pieces that have been forced together. They don’t actually go together, but we’ve made them ‘fit’ and connect anyway.
Linny: In/Spectre is another show I was eagerly looking forward to this Winter as I’ve been following the manga for a while and its anime adaptation hasn’t disappointed thus far. For those familiar with the manga, the anime offers solid animation for the most part, doing justice to its source material and helping to add a tinge of dynamic visualization to what was ostensibly a text heavy story. For those completely unfamiliar with the property, it’s a must try if you like your mysteries to be of the dark and supernatural kind. I can’t deny that In/Spectre can feel slow sometimes so it may not be the best fit for those who prefer something more action packed but if you’re intrigued by the premise of characters solving and tackling all kinds of supernatural or everyday mysteries with the help of supernatural beings, In/Spectre is worth checking out this season.
Tom: Despite my issues, I still think In/Spectre is worth watching. If you like supernatural mysteries there’s still a lot of cool ideas at play in here. The characters are fun, likable and play well off each other. Topping things off with solid animation these aspects keep In/Spectre a joy to watch, even if it’s sometimes rough around the edges. It may not become Best of the Winter season in my eyes, but it’s still undeniably one of the stronger Winter offerings to date.
In/Spectre is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.