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In/Spectre Season 2
Episode 17

by Steve Jones,

How would you rate episode 17 of
In/Spectre (TV 2) ?
Community score: 4.3

Rikka is kind of like In/Spectre's Moriarty, if Watson and Moriarty were cousins who consumed the same cocktail of regenerative and precognitive yokai flesh, and further supposing that Moriarty wanted to break up Holmes and Watson in order to take Watson for himself. Don't forget that the Sherlock stories have entered the public domain this year. Anything is possible. Fanfiction ideas aside, however, this week's episode serves up a small interlude that primarily catches us up with KOTOKO and Kuro's archnemesis and occasional partner-in-crime.

KOTOKO and Rikka's scene proves the two of them have great chemistry despite hating each other's guts. I had forgotten that they had lived together for a spell, so it's a nice reminder that Rikka, KOTOKO, and Kuro make up one very intimate threesome. In fact, a threesome might do them all some good, because their sharp tongues betray a lot of mutual affection. The surest way to tell that one of these characters likes someone is to pay attention to how often they insult each other. In/Spectre also uses this opportunity to prod its narrative predilections; when Rikka chastises KOTOKO for jumping to the conclusion of her rakugo bit, I can hear her emulating critiques of the backwards way the series constructs its mysteries. Clearly, meta-humor like this isn't going to endear the show to people who already find its antics insufferable, but it gives converts like me a fittingly insufferable chuckle.

This episode continues the season's pattern of rotating protagonists, and spending a day in the life of Rikka gives us some valuable perspective on who she is when she isn't butting heads with KOTOKO. She's not evil (remember that her motive is undoing the gifts/curses her family forced on both her and Kuro); she's just a little extreme about her methods, and she doesn't have a partner to temper her bad habits. With no scheme on the horizon, however, Rikka makes for a gracious, if odd tenant to Kazuyuki and his girlfriend Marumi. She rents their haunted apartment. She takes up their offer of drinks. She pays him for the trouble when she has to skedaddle early. Landlords must love her.

Kazuyuki and Marumi are two of the most normal side characters In/Spectre has introduced, which makes them perfectly clueless counterparts to the weirdos in the main cast. It also makes for a pretty darn funny episode. There's subtle stuff, like the irony of Rikka renting a place notorious for suicides when her powers require her to kill and resurrect herself. It didn't even hit me until writing this review that Rikka let Truck-kun smash into her so she could choose the future with her winning horse. And then there's crass stuff like Kuro talking about his girlfriend's pubes in front of complete strangers while KOTOKO bemoans that they haven't tried wakamezake in the bedroom yet. They are so in love. Perhaps too in love.

(Incidentally, here's your Japanese lesson for the week: wakamezake is a compound word, with “wakame” meaning seaweed and “zake” being the rendaku'd form of sake. Traditionally, you're supposed to drink the sake from the “cup” formed between a woman's thighs and crotch when her legs are pressed together. Given that particular anatomical location, I'll let you figure out what the seaweed is supposed to be.)

Seriously, I wouldn't love this show nearly as much if not for the dirty jokes. They help make KOTOKO and Kuro feel like authentic people and authentic lovers—not just mouthpieces for the mysteries. On the more wholesome side, the anime also continues to be uncommonly good at depicting small, casual moments of intimacy. Mid-conversation, without either of them saying a word about it, Kuro gently picks KOTOKO up so she can see the fireworks better. That one gesture says more about the depth of their relationship than any amount of dialogue can. Or look at the way KOTOKO cups Kuro's head and leans into a kiss, using touch to steer the conversation away from the topic of her fears. This kind of nonverbal communication only arises when a couple is truly comfortable with each other.

Given the focus on what KOTOKO is and isn't afraid of, I wouldn't be surprised if the next arc digs into that more seriously. We know that she has an incredibly steely resolve. She's a guiding deity to all the paranormal creatures in spooky folklore, and she's a quick-witted logician at heart. She can ramble off a plausible and placatory explanation of the ex-boyfriend's suicide to the building manager, and later she can divulge to Kuro a more cynical interpretation of the events without any of it getting to her. But she's still human. She definitely has fears. And I think exploring her weaknesses could be a perfect opportunity to make her an even better and more compelling heroine. For now, though, I hope she and Kuro are enjoying their yokai arbitration vacation with some night-time libations.


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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