Wednesday, January 22, 2020

[New][January 2020] In/Spectre, a Refreshing Story and Characters

When the show just got done Sucker Punching you in the gut,
and you never saw it coming...

Last Seen: Episode 2

Summary: (Quoted from

At the young age of 11, Kotoko Iwanaga was abducted by youkai for two weeks and asked to become their "God of Wisdom," a mediator between the spirit and human worlds, to which the girl quickly agreed... but it came at a cost.
Now, six years later, whenever youkai wish for their problems to be solved, they make their way to Kotoko for consultation.
Meanwhile, Kuro Sakuragawa has just broken up with his girlfriend after he apparently fled alone when the two encountered a kappa. Seeing this as her chance to become closer with him, Kotoko immediately makes her move, hoping to marry Kuro one day. However, she quickly realizes there is something more to Kuro. With this knowledge, she asks for his help in solving the various issues presented by the supernatural, all the while wishing her newfound partner will eventually reciprocate her feelings.

First Impression: An amazing 180 flip of expectations! Even if most of that is because of Crunchyrolls Summary.

My Opinion: I wasn't expecting anything from this show, but that mostly has to do with Crunchyroll's summary making it sound like the entire show revolves around romance. It is literally the opposite.
The show is so...candid, for short.
Hell, they literally just spent the entire second episode on two characters doing nothing but talking about and deducing things about something that was already done in the past, just because one of them "wanted an answer they are satisfied with". In case that flew over your head, that means the show devoted almost all of twenty minutes to dialogue and it was still interesting.

In long: I have often praised shows for being "level-headed", which is to say, if the normal response in Anime when someone accidentally walks in on a person using the bathroom is for irrational anger and comedic violence, then the 'level-headed' response is only being angry if they stop and stare instead of immediately leaving and apologizing. Comedy is all well and great, but when comedy becomes the normal, the Status Quo, then its not funny anymore, and I've banged on about that quite enough I think.

In contrast, In/Spectre, (which is actually one of the most clever attempts to translate a title I've seen in recent years of Crunchyroll titles, if not the best, by the way), is not just level-headed. It feels...well, realistic, to say the least. That doesn't quite describe the whole impression I'm getting though. Ah, I know.
Down-to-Earth. That's it. The show feels very grounded in reality for all that it is clearly 100% supernatural right out of the gate. It's entirely possible that I find that highly appealing as part of a minority, but I'm going to pretend like I'm the majority anyway. The setting of the show is presented in such a way that it comes across as utterly mundane, the normal day-to-day just naturally features things we'd find utterly outlandish. I love it when stories and fiction of all kinds approach the supernatural as if it would have its own special natural laws and physics to obey, if not explicitly in a literal 1:1 ratio of the meaning of Physics. Since, usually, you bend if not break several Physics with supernatural settings and conditions almost as a default.

I put some extra emphasis on clarifying that last statement because its very relevant here. This show hasn't talked about anything from a scientific or Physics-based perspective at all, and yet it still feels very real. That has to do with the fact that a lot of times, people on both sides of the writing will mistake excessive details as lending realism. Much in the same way that you'll often find the mistake that making a story and its characters gritty and edgy will make it more Mature or better appeal to adults. In/Spectre is a very nice example of how to tell a viscerally candid and approachable supernatural settings story in a realistic perspective, without drowning the audience in enough scientific terminology to fill an astrophysicists term paper.

To talk about it in a much less vague way, despite how much effort I'm putting in to avoid spoilers, the romantic aspect of this show is doing everything absolutely right in my opinion. Without being at all in your face with it. If it wasn't for the fact that it is very clearly a core element of the show, you'd almost be forgiven for thinking it was a background sub-plot for non-main characters with how low-key the show treats it. Personally, as someone who has been an introvert all their life, I say with authority that the typical representation of the Shy, the Timid, the "Tsundere", and other such archetypes finding love by being vague, indirect, and misleading...well it's just straight hogwash. While I actively avoided human contact on purpose until my teenage years, (because children and especially teenagers are prone to stupid ideas, and being convinced they're great regardless), I spent a lot of time watching people. The bottom line is this: People are not Psychic mind-readers. Whatever you don't do, whatever you don't say, those things are forever unknown to others. The only way someone finds out that another person likes them, is if they damn well say it...or else are snooping, and that breaks ground into all kinds of especially sketchy territory that I'm not bothering with right now.

In/Spectre hits this nail on the head quite nicely. Kotoko isn't gushing at Kuro, nor is she stalking him. She's being politely forward and honest. Quite frankly, it's only after I watched the first episode that I've realized how de-sensitized to anime's standard romantic methods we've all become, how we naturally take it for granted that romantic interests are going to be comedic and over-the-top exaggerated affairs.

[Aside rant]
While that's fine in its own rights for a show that is meant to be a comedy, it's only now that I've taken a step back and seen the wider perspective of just how pervasive it is across the board. I mean, sure, Japan adores their comedy and anyone can see that just by watching some of their game shows. The bemusing part is how often I'll see a show praised for breaking from the exaggerated romantic tropes...but yet at the same time, without the show having been an anime and placed in that set of standards...would anyone have been commenting about the romantic elements of the shows at all? I can't help wondering that.
[rant end]
In short, with great joy I give In/Spectre, (a play on "Inspector", btw, something I only realized after I finished the first episode), a full and earnest:


You should be watching this show this season, it's gonna be good.

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