by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 7 of
That pesky Steel Lady has gone and smashed a cop's face in. While Saki expresses genuine sadness and regret towards her failure to protect her colleague, I think it's kind of amusing that the larger narrative treats this as an annoying hiccup to the gang's original plan. With Kotoko knocked back to square one, this episode mostly recapitulates the existing predicaments and arguments revolving around their struggle to combat the tide of rumor. The big difference now is that they have less time to accomplish an even more difficult task.
While the stakes are escalated, this episode doesn't really cover much new philosophical ground. Some aspects are articulated with more clarity, like Saki's internal moral struggle with their plan of attack. She joined the police at least partly out of a belief in the rule of law and justice, both of which rely on the pursuit and power of an immutable truth. Kotoko's efforts require an acknowledgement that “truth” is a fundamentally fungible concept that can never be divorced from people's individual and subjective experiences. Saki still balks at this contradiction welling up inside of her, but her acceptance is tied into her own complicated moral arc. After all, her ultimate goal is protecting people, and if Kotoko's method is the surest way of stopping Nanase from killing anyone else, then she has to go along with it.
Elsewise, I've already more or less covered the main subjects of this episode's dialogue. Her latest murder has complicated things by solidifying the public's perception of the Steel Lady into an even deadlier version of herself, but the core predicament remains the same. Kotoko's big breakthrough is that she doesn't need a single magic bullet story to counter the Steel Lady rumors. Rumors, by nature, are nebulous things that change as they're passed from person to person, so Kotoko can take advantage of that by throwing in several different explanations and letting the strong points from each rise to the top. The water is already muddied, so it's not like she needs a complete and airtight story. She just needs something that's appealing enough to do the job.
The dialogue remains sharp overall, but some of Kotoko and Kuro's banter here feels a bottom-of-the-barrel (especially the boob chat) in a way that In/Spectre had, to this point, mercifully avoided. This is the first time where it feels like the narrative is spinning its wheels purely for the sake of it. The story with the snake was intentionally drawn-out and frustrating to get the larger point across about the interplay between mysteries and their audiences. This development with Terada's death, conversely, feels like it's vamping for time. I don't think that's necessarily an intrinsic fault, and to its credit, In/Spectre still refuses to be boring even during its indulgent stretches of dialogue. The storyboarding especially deserves credit here for knowing how to utilize angles and blocking to prevent these scenes from feeling too static, and for switching over to imaginary visual references when it's appropriate. However, if I'm grading on a curve, this installment lacks the dramatic and thematic propulsion of its predecessors.
I'm also a little bit disappointed at the injection of an actual “villain” into this story. I had a hunch that Kuro's sickly and unseen cousin alluded to in the first episode would be of narrative significance somehow, and I do have to admit to a certain degree of satisfaction in being proven right. And to be fair, we also barely know anything about her at this point, except her relation to Kuro, and Kuro's apparent fixation on her. We can't even be sure if she's alive or not, but considering Kuro's family history, that might involve a more complicated answer than yes or no. I digress, though, because my main issue is that it feels kind of hokey for there to be a “mastermind” who's related to Kotoko and Kuro. It's not like this came out of the blue; In/Spectre dropped a few hints regarding the fact that somebody had to have been the creator of the progenitor website. But I think the implication that the Steel Lady is some kind of retaliation directed at our heroes is a lot less narratively satisfying than if she were a product of happenstance. Maybe that sounds contradictory, but In/Spectre has been saying a lot of neat things about how the internet, and social media specifically, functions in a way that inherently exacerbates pretty much everything. The Internet being the culprit is a lot more interesting than Kuro's spooky cousin, in my humble estimation. Regardless, I'm perfectly willing to change my tune depending on what we learn about Rikka next week.
Perhaps it was inevitable, but In/Spectre finally delivered an episode lacking in the clever inertia that has so far sustained this deliberately quirky mystery series. While I cannot in good faith call it a bad episode, it's certainly more tepid than I've come to expect. Still, it had its moments. It was nice to see Kuro and Saki have a little moment alone, both of them exhibiting a new and welcome degree of comfort in the weirdness of their situation. I also love that the foley team added an impeccably gross little [squick] sound as Kotoko placed her false eye back in. Overall, I'm still quite charmed by In/Spectre's offbeat premise and style. I just hope we get a bit more to chew on next week.
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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