by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Community score: 4.3
All stories must come to an end, and this tale of the Steel Lady is no exception. Kotoko already delivered her coup de grâce to Rikka's teen idol tulpa last week, so this finale mostly deals with tying a bow on its plot and character threads, while leaving plenty of room for further adventures in the grey space between fact and fiction. It's a low key and confidently executed conclusion, but audience members looking for a particularly meaty hook or justification for this arc's length won't find much in that regard. However, if you're still watching In/Spectre, I would hope you're at least somewhat on board with this show's eccentricities at this point, and since I clearly am, I found this to be a fine note to end on.
With the main plot out of the way, In/Spectre devotes most of its finale's time and space towards letting its characters take a metaphorical sigh of relief. The battle against Rikka and the Steel Lady took its toll on everyone and in unique ways, but it had arguably the profoundest effect on Saki. Unlike Kotoko and Kuro, Saki was never inundated in the world of the supernatural, and she only found herself uncomfortably grazing its surface thanks to her strained relationship with Kuro. She also suffered the most major loss in this arc, with her inquisitive colleague Terada getting his face caved in by Nanase. Nevertheless, she pulled herself together and proved to be both a useful ally and a formidable character able to hold her own against both her immortal ex and his bizarre new girlfriend.
In/Spectre remains quick to pounce on Saki's past relationship Kuro as a humorously exaggerated source of anxiety for Kotoko, but I appreciate that Saki's actual interactions with Kuro remain refreshingly adult and heartfelt. Saki had previously retained a fair amount of trauma from the end of their relationship—a consequence of her inability to deal with his inhumanity and the frightened yokai who came with it—but this finale sees her finally able to start moving on. She and Kuro accept their mutual incompatibility with a renewed sense of mutual understanding. Ironically, they're probably closer in this instance than they ever were when they were engaged, with Kuro no longer having to hide a huge part of himself, and Saki able to properly sort through her feelings. While they may not see each other again, I'm sure they'd both stick their necks out for each other should either of them need help in the future. I certainly do love me some melodrama, but it's also nice to see two exes with emotional intelligence calmly resolve to be friends.
After Saki gains a new friend (and a new bike) Kotoko wakes up from her day-long beauty nap, and the remainder of the episode fleshes out her relationship with Kuro, which proves to be much more heartwarming than their prior tsundere-laden interactions would have implied. Kuro's way of broaching the subject with a folk tale is charmingly obtuse (if appropriate for a story about storytelling), but his words and actions here reveal that he truly does care for this tiny horny gremlin. Kotoko, meanwhile, rides the high of her victory back into rare form, eagerly cracking dirty jokes and pouncing on her boyfriend while wearing nothing but a bath towel. I think, however, it's a wasted opportunity that she and Saki didn't get one last scene together; Saki muses to herself about Kotoko's formidable cleverness, but Kotoko just goes on a jealous mini-tirade. These were two wonderfully distinct female characters, and having them verbally spar one last time (perhaps with a newfound sense of mutual respect) would have sat a lot better with me than mining Kotoko's insecurity for cheap laughs again.
In/Spectre's presentation has been commendably consistent and competent, with enough flair to sustain such a dialogue-heavy story. In the end, however, I can't help but imagine what a more visually adventurous adaptation might have looked like. Something with the fearlessness and irreverence of the Monogatari series, for instance, might have gone a long way helping In/Spectre carve out a stronger identity for itself. Or perhaps the colorful pop-art approach of Gatchaman Crowds could have pulled In/Spectre's 21st century take on timeless philosophical issues into sharper relief. I certainly enjoyed the show as-is, and I think its writing alone is strong and clever enough to stand on its own, but the strength of that writing means it could have definitely supported a more adventurous adaptation. The soundtrack is still fantastic, though. Absolutely no changes needed to the soundtrack.
And truth be told, this finale in particular had some really wonderful moments of strong character acting. Kotoko's little seated curtsy with the laptop still on her lap is both extremely cute and amazingly insufferable. It contains all the energy and arrogance of someone posting “check and mate : )” at the end of thousand-post-long thread, and it suits her character perfectly. On a more tender note, I love and admire the storyboarding decision to hold a close-up on Kotoko and Kuro's hands as they slowly and gently intertwine. Even though they continue to talk as this scene plays out, the subtleties in this physical interaction speak the loudest. Their relationship is a unique and fraught one, born of both supernatural convenience and plain-old insecurity, but at the root, they have a genuine connection that they both want to nurture.
It's really difficult, at this particular moment in human history, to imagine any story originating on, and perpetuating within the internet as having a happy ending, but In/Spectre manages to make it work nevertheless. Perhaps the cognitive incongruity is itself a manifestation of the space between fact and fiction that Kotoko stakes as her battleground of choice. And I really hope we get further opportunities to follow her down that path. The episode certainly spends enough time broaching Rikka's motivation and determination to continue experimenting with the public's subconscious, and I know there's plenty of material left in this series to adapt, so ideally this won't the last we see of Kotoko and Kuro. But even if there's no sequel season, these twelve episodes of In/Spectre stand as a character-rich, offbeat, and thought-provoking mystery series concerned with human psychology in the age of the internet.
Alternatively, it's a show about a tiny smug gremlin who saves the day by lying online. And it's delightful.
In/Spectre is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Steve loves two things: writing about anime and retweeting good Fate GO fanart on his Twitter.
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