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This Week in Anime
Who Inspects the IN/SPECTRE?

by Andy Pfeiffer & Steve Jones,

In a season full of ghosts and ghouls, In/Spectre sets itself apart by focusing on the power of words. Our tiny Odin protagonist, Kotoko, mediates concerns of the local yokai but when things get serious she might have to alter the rumor that gave birth to them in the first place, before someone dies.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

You can read our Daily Streaming coverage of In/Spectre here!

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet

Andy, after all this time (and some weird old shows about immortal birds), I'm very excited to finally talk about this season's GOAT anime.

In/Spectre, a title that works much better in print, really is in the running for king of this season's anime barnyard. I'm gonna jump right into the goats being one of the reasons why, because fuck if I'm not a complete mark for a tiny behatted Odin looking for the goat to pull her chariot.
P.S. I know it's actually Thor who has the goat chariot but In/Spectre has earned that leeway so don't @ me.
I certainly think the show has plenty of merits, but for sure a huge one is the immediately magnetic charisma of our very small and cycloptic protagonist.
Let's be upfront about this. The majority of this show is dialogue. It happens to be really intriguing and fun dialogue! But that's still not exactly a visual treat. Therefore it must be balanced with as many shitty Kotoko faces as possible and boy does it provide.
Honestly In/Spectre could amount to nothing more than a vehicle for increasingly insufferable gremlin faces from Kotoko, and it'd still probably come out to be one of my favorites of the season. She's that powerful.

My crops are watered and the granary has been filled. She's very bully-able and earns every bit of it, and you're right that that dynamic alone could probably carry the show to a decent spot. That there's more to it than that is what really held my attention.
Indeed! What we have here is a unique supernatural mystery series revolving around threats made to and/or by the various yokai haunting Japan. And while that summary on its own might not sound unique, I'm pretty sure I already used my "budget Monogatari" joke in the Bunny Girl Senpai TWIA, so I can't in good conscience reuse it here. Seriously and thankfully, though, I do think In/Spectre does plenty to distinguish itself from its peers in this genre.
While on the surface it's ostensibly about yokai, it does so in a way that's very different than what I'd describe as other mythology focused shows. Where others are focused on the subjects of those stories, In/Spectre is firmly focused on the story part. Who and how someone tells it, and how it's understood when heard is just as, if not more, important that what is being said. This becomes more and more apparent as the show has gone on, but one of the moments in the first episode is where it shows the first hint of this and dug its claws into me.

I gotta applaud the translations for this show, because it plain wouldn't work without a certain level of detail. This holds true for most mysteries, but In/Spectre revels in peppering this kind of stuff into every conversation.

Personally I'm a little concerned about this gritty Saranzanmai reboot.
The tiny teeth are so upsetting.
Not to put too fine a point on it, In/Spectre ends up being one of those stories about the importance of stories—namely how they're framed, who they're told by, etc. So as long as you're not immediately turned off by the sound of an author patting themselves on the back, you should find a lot to have fun with here.
Look, sometimes there's terrifying Kappa mouths but other times there's fun trendy kappas! There's something for everyone!
I do gotta say that I love the creepy-cute aesthetic of most of the show's depictions of various yokai.

Feudal soldier ghost is #afterlifegoals.
He's absolutely living his best life. Er, not-living, I mean.
My daily life is wishing I could sit back and consume whatever content I want, but that's constantly waylaid by having to keep myself alive. Props to him for ascending to the next level.
True, there's something uniquely comforting in the thought that I might finally be able to finish my book backlog once I'm dead.
Mine would increase towards infinity and become a kind of purgatory that prevents me from ever moving on. Though speaking of perpetual hells here's Kuro!
Yeahhhh, so both he and Kotoko got "inducted" into the world of the supernatural when they were very young and in very traumatic ways. But whereas Kotoko did it more or less of her own volition (and the trauma only really being physical), Kuro was the unwitting victim of one very bad grandmother.

If there's one thing old people get upset about it's that damn three day forecast being wrong, and grandma ain't about to look like a fool and carry an umbrella when she don't need one.
You joke, but the family's reason for researching and ingesting yokai meat across generations pretty much amounts to wanting to know the lotto numbers. Not exactly the noblest cause.
I imagine at least one head of the family saw Back to the Future 2 and raged about how THAT SHOULD BE ME! It really is kind of amazing that this stupid family somehow found the key to immortality, and instead of any of them using it for, ya know, I M M O R T A L I T Y, instead kept dying off of old age and exterminating generations of their young as they failed to make children that could beat Vegas odds.
You could certainly read some pretty blatant commentary about intergenerational power dynamics here if you wanted to! But suffice to say, Kuro clearly has a lot of unresolved shit to work through, and his resultant standoffishness makes him an excellent foil for the bubbly and self-assured Kotoko.
I mean, have you seen a happier couple?
The man can't die but he can still be dead inside, and isn't that what being human is really about?

It really is interesting how they each deal with the events that dragged them into the supernatural world. While Kuro's is understandably traumatizing, that's not to say Kotoko's shouldn't be. I don't know that if I were kidnapped by monsters at 11 years old and lost an eye and a leg, and then be forced into a god damn job that I'd be super into it.
The framing itself is entirely different too. Kuro gets a somber black-and-white flashback, while Kotoko looks like she tumbled down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. Kotoko still has to pay a price, but it's a "fair" one rooted in mythology. It's the difference between being invited into the natural world, versus trying to wrangle it under your command, and the costs are wildly different.

The lil guys are honestly too cute and stupid to really scheme, and at the end of the day they were asking for help in order to maintain balance, which Kotoko agrees to before knowing the price. Meanwhile Kuro's family sought a way to disrupt the natural order and forced him into a role he never wanted.
Oh yeah I also love that the grandiosity of her "Goddess of Wisdom" title, in practice, mostly whittles down to mediating petty arguments.
Or telling lies to a big ass snake so that it calms down and takes a nap.
The first episode's good, don't get me wrong, but THAT'S what sold me on In/Spectre. She spends an entire episode (and then some) arguing back-and-forth with a petulant snake, and it's sublimely gripping and hilarious television.
Also this happens:
Kuro keeps a clean house.
I think you're absolutely right that the serpent is a good gauge of whether or not the show is for you. By the end the mystery is unsolved because it was never about the truth, but about what makes a compelling and believable story to the intended audience. I can see how that could be intensely frustrating, but that acknowledgement and the fun of watching the process unfold is immensely entertaining to me.
Also from what I understand, the snake story actually shows up in the novels much later than the following Steel Lady arc, but it's really smart to put it here since it lays down the show's entire thesis. Like all mystery series, In/Spectre is concerned with the pursuit of the truth, but it also recognizes that the truth alone is rarely sufficient to satisfactorily "solve" a mystery, which is in itself a problematic concept. It's a very dare-I-say-it postmodern take on the genre. It's also, like I said, extremely funny to me how the show deliberately messes with the audience's patience, and even goes as far as throwing in a cliffhanger for a resolution that Kotoko privately concedes might not even be true in the end.
The pacing of the show is purposely weird and I totally respect and love it. While the plot moves rather slowly, the show itself has a steady cadence of question/answer dialogue. The episodes seem to end before you know it and in such intentionally troll-y places.
I am a staunch defender of all anime's right to troll its target audience.

The blurred line between fact and fiction ends up being a key point in the case of the Steel Lady Nanase ghost, who only exists because of the root of all evil.
Gotta say I didn't expect the villain to be the SCP-Wiki by way of horny idol fans but I'm not surprised that's all it takes to make a murder ghost.
To be fair, the show that seems to have inspired this grisly monster looks really good.

You left out the clear best character.
I'd watch the hell out of this.
Get on it Netflix.
The conceit of the arc is that while most urban legends grow and fade as their stories spread, in this case someone took advantage of the untimely and questionable death of an idol in order to manufacture their own soulless goalless murder ghost. While we still don't know why, the show has done a great job of showcasing the 'how' and it's a really neat take on the kind of Candyman shit that you don't really see many stories delve hard into.
I especially like when it calls out that any idea of a ghost taking revenge on society is undercut by the fact the ghost conforms to exactly what society wanted out of her to begin with, to be a faceless boob object that they can project into whatever scenario they want.
And it even plays up all the conspiratorial details surrounding Nanase's death in a bid to make you, the viewer, try to solve the mystery yourself. Of course, when Kotoko and the gang finally get around to doing so, both the answer and the method of learning it end up being deliberately anticlimactic.

And then goes on to say that finding out the truth was nice, but ultimately irrelevant because it's not entertaining enough to sway the masses. Kotoko could be a hell of a media baron.
As consumers of mystery stories, we want there to be juicy, lurid, sensationalist details that we can plug into our own theories. In/Spectre totally subverts all of that, while emphasizing that the actual details themselves pale in comparison to the public's perception of them. It's a really subtly clever way of handling a story about a heavily-buxomed idol specter.
It knows what the people care about it.

Though I guess some people are more into this:
Couldn't be me.
I just love that Kotoko's ultimate weapon as a supernatural detective isn't an eye for the truth, but a knack for storytelling. Word are her power. That's exactly the kind of bullshit that makes the writer within me grin.
It's so cool! I guess this is what it feels like to be seen and I can't say I dislike it. That Kotoko's plan is basically to astroturf a new story over the other fake story is still dependent on trying to wrangle the chaos that is the internet and I don't blame the story at all for having to introduce a supernatural element in order to do that black magic. It also brilliantly sets up the most obvious series of red flags where everyone repeats, "This will work perfectly since she hasn't managed to kill anyone yet" for about 20 whole minutes.
Well it wouldn't be a good detective novel if the police didn't somehow manage to bungle things up.
Fair point. It also works really well as a reminder that just because we're only watching one set of characters doesn't mean that others are idle.
A part of me was expecting this arc to wrap up this week, but everything just got thornier instead, and honestly I couldn't be more pleased. In/Spectre has proven itself adept at spinning a yarn, and I'm strapped in to see how this one untangles.
I'm so hyped for the wikipedia edit war between Kotoko and our mysterious artist antagonist and I can't believe that's the logical battleground to stop a ghost from crushing people with a steel beam. I can't wait to see how it resolves and what else is in store. And of course more dunking on Kotoko.
I love this small Touhou gremlin and I hope she never finds peace.

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