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In/Spectre Season 2
Episode 16

by Steve Jones,

How would you rate episode 16 of
In/Spectre (TV 2) ?
Community score: 4.5

© Kyo Shirodaira, Chasiba Katase, KODANSHA / "In/Spectre" Production Committee
Someone on the In/Spectre crew is spying on me. Last week, I bemoaned the new OP's lack of Kotoko doing goofy poses on top of the title's kanji. This week, they updated the OP animation to include Kotoko posing on top of the title's kanji. This can only be a brazen attempt to court my favor and keep these episode ratings high. However, while I appreciate their thoughtfulness, it's quite unnecessary, because I am already a huge mark for this series.

In/Spectre ends its most captivating arc yet with a strong flourish of its unique charms alongside a characteristically long-winded explanation from our small Sherlock of the supernatural. She solves the cute couple's mystery with a flourish of her cane. However, I think it's important to clarify what kind of mystery its author Kyo Shirodaira likes to deal with, because he takes a different tack than the usual genre expectations. Most people probably go into a mystery angling to solve it themselves before the protagonist. Shirodaira, on the other hand, believes that the pleasure of a mystery lies not in the lone correct solution, but in the many plausible solutions a clever person can come up with. While I'm sure plenty of viewers guessed that Iizuka was the culprit, that's just one thread in a larger and more colorful tapestry. This is why 75% of this episode is just Kotoko talking and spitballing. This is the good part!

In/Spectre's approach to its mysteries might seem inverted and frustrating to fans of the genre, but I like it for two important reasons: I find Shirodaira to be a strong enough writer to make it work, and this framework supports the series' overall thesis on the power of a compelling lie. Kotoko's aptitude for spinning a yarn is her most formidable trait. That's why the climax of this arc already happened last week, when she used a lie to get Masayuki to get over his cold feet and jump into Yuki-Onna's cold arms instead. This week's episode is only a victory lap, tying up the loose ends in the murder case. The truth simply isn't that interesting on its own. Kotoko gets the scoop from yokai eyewitnesses, and it's played off with a nudge to the audience's ribs. Of course the main character figured it out. That's supposed to happen in detective stories. While I can understand how this tongue-in-cheek genre savviness might be insufferable to some people, it works for me, because it fits In/Spectre's M.O. In this story, the crime is of lesser importance than the romantic resolution, although that doesn't mean we don't have a little twisted fun with the case. I still get a huge kick out of hearing grisly criminal details come out of Kotoko's infallibly effervescent face. Listen to the lilt in her voice as she talks about removing a corpse's teeth. Akari Kitō is an incredible talent.

Given how much I've come to care about Yuki-Onna and Masayuki, I am also very happy they come out of this arc stronger together. He might be doomed to attract dangerous women for the rest of his life, but I think getting to date a tempura-loving and booze-swilling mountain yokai is a pretty substantial perk. I appreciate, too, that Kotoko is quite candid about the transience of their relationship. Even the best-case scenario will end in heartbreak eventually. The same, however, can be said of all romance, and that's no reason for any of us to deny ourselves as many moments of mutual happiness as we can find. Mortality doesn't strip meaning away; it creates meaning. So I sure do hope they followed Kotoko's advice and immediately commenced boning (with protection). After all, if a goddess of wisdom tells you to do something, it's in your best interests to listen.

That “vulgarity,” as Masayuki puts it, is another reason why I like In/Spectre so much. If you ignore all the stuff about communing with the spirit world and solving crimes, Kotoko is a faithful facsimile of a college student. She jokes about sex and terrorizes her boyfriend like any one of us would. Speaking of which, Kuro is a fun presence in this episode. He's even more of a supporting character than usual in this arc, but Yuki-Onna's reaction reminds us how much of a monstrous entity he is behind his bland exterior. Having him and Kotoko appear together, though, reminds us that if their relationship can work, then there's every reason that Yuki-Onna and Masayuki can survive the inherent difficulties of their arrangement. As the two couples fly off in opposite directions, Kuro also gives Kotoko a private sounding board against which she can relay Iizuka's likely motivations. This lie of omission is the final gift she gives Masayuki, which again hammers In/Spectre's whole point even more firmly into the audience. Truth is a plastic thing controlled by the people most skilled at manipulating it to their own ends. We can be thankful that Iizuka is no criminal mastermind and that Kotoko is a benevolent goddess, but as the season progresses, I'm sure she'll run into adversaries that are more adept at molding facts.

I said as much last week, but this strong ending cements the Yuki-Onna arc as my favorite story in In/Spectre to date. By focusing more on the clients' situation and chemistry before the incident, the narrative pulled me into the drama of the situation more effectively than any of the prior arcs. I think Kotoko's reduced presence also let her shine more in the climax and resolution. This isn't a structure that will work for every story, but it's a sign of the series honing its appeal, and I'm excited to see what kind of lies Kotoko will spin next.


In/Spectre Season 2 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Steve is on Twitter while it lasts. Please send him any good pictures of Kotoko in funny hats that you find. Otherwise, catch him chatting about trash and treasure alike on This Week in Anime.

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