In/Spectre

3 out of 5

Directed by: Keiji Gotoh

covers season 1

Iwanaga-san can see yokai, ghosts, and etcetera.  Kurō is essentially immortal – he can heal from any injury – and he stands in the way of the more volatile yokai while Iwanaga-san figures out what’s making them so pissed off and thus how to calm them down and return things to the status quo.

I like this setup.  It’s a good formula for a monster-of-the-week format, which In/Spectre also fills with background details on our leads – how and why Iwanaga has these powers, why she has an artificial leg and fake eyes; why Kurō is the way he is – and carries a lot of personality thanks to Brain’s Base’s fluid, lithe animation style.  The entire latter half of the season goes much more linear, focusing on one particularly strong and violent ghost, but this is a good evolution on the formula: Iwanaga must suss out the how and why of the spirit’s strengths, and has to keep readjusting her approach while Kurō fights away in the background.  At the same time, this also exposes the limitation of stringing that out for too long, because that’s really all the two can do, preventing things from ever feeling too serious.  Yes, the ghost can continue to be violent, but we only really see it in relation to our leads, who don’t seem to be in much danger overall.  By season’s end, this extended battle is shown to be something of a dry run for something more serious, but that makes the show’s limited 12-episodes sans any kind of true climax; a full, 22-episode season may have allowed for more balance, as it could’ve included that “something more serious” and paced the lead-in to it more effectively.

To buffer the blow of not having much drama, In/Spectre fleshes out Iwanaga’s and Kurō’s unique relationship: they’re also a couple, with the former obsessed with the latter… but rejecting any kindness he shows her.  He also seems to have feelings for past loves – Rikka, and Saki, the latter a police officer who ends up assisting Iwanaga and Kurō on their big monster mystery – which intertwine with the season’s happenings, as well as add some humor to Iwanaga’s harumphing back-and-forths with Kurō.  …The relationships are also maybe problematic in terms of stereotyping the whole obsessive girlfriend trope… but just as with the lack of stakes in the plotting, In/Spectre doesn’t revel or ogle too much in its soap opera bits, either.

Which leaves us with a pleasant, well-animated and well-acted show, albeit one that leaves a lot of story promise on the table for a potential second season…