A play on word “Inspector”, In/Spectre is a Sherlock Holmes-esque detective show with a Japanese spirit world infusion. Kotoko was kidnaped by spirits when she was eleven years old and in return for taking an eye and a leg from her, they granted her the title of “God of Wisdom.” She meets Kuro during her time in the hospital and falls in love with him. Little does she know that Kuro is more familiar with the spirit world than she thinks he is. This unlikely pair travels Japan to solve issues between spirits and humans.
Kotoko Iwanaga is the Japanese Sherlock Holmes, if Sherlock was a 4’11 five-dimensional chess player who didn’t actually care if her answers were right. I can’t tell if she is brilliant, delusional, or just a fantastic storyteller. Her long winded talking can come across as a bit boring, but it complimented the second hand embarrassment you get from the innuendos she assaults Kuro with constantly. If not a bit cliche, her pouty and possessive attitude around Kuro is a nice shift of pace from her monologues. I just wish they had highlighted her personality more and stayed away from her huge speeches to make her feel more fun.
Kuro Sakuragawa hardly felt like a character. In the first arc he was not very talkative because the show was being explained to the viewer, it made sense. But then, our Walmart Watson went on to contribute almost nothing to the show. He has a very specific power that he pairs with Kotoko’s deduction but it feels so disconnected that he might as well be a pet or some kind of tool. Some of the comedy comes from his lack of reaction to any of Kotoko’s advances, but he really has no discernible personality outside of dialog bouncing off of him. So sure, he creates some funny moments by not reacting, but he could have easily been given a personality that affected the show beyond that.
Saki Yumihara is Kuro’s ex-girlfriend. Because how else do you bring out jealous Kotoko without competition? Saki is a traffic police officer, which makes her involvement in the issues Kotoko and Kuro deal with even more confusing. She is terrified of spirits, which brings a bottom of the barrel kind of humor to situations that perhaps warrants a chuckle or two. Beyond that, she feels temporary. I kept waiting for the second arc to end and for us to move on from her but we never did. Her conversations with Kotoko were amusing and lined with tension but I would have loved to see more of her being independent and useful instead of being a tag-along.
I have mentioned this before, but I love to read. I read classics, sci-fi, and fantasy mostly. The girl I dated during my senior year in high school gave me a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories as a parting gift before she moved back to Germany. While detective storylines are nothing I would pick up on my own, this gift was special to me. But I think I never truly appreciated the book until watching this series. Sherlock Holmes does a couple things right that In/Spectre fails at. Sherlock gives you the breadcrumbs to be successful. He brings you closer to the truth. He works in tandem with someone the audience can relate to and who is used as the audience’s voice. This is why the stories can seem both elementary and engaging.
In/Spectre fails to have a solution. Sherlock works backwards from the solution, following a trail. Kotoko has the trail pieces and creates a solution. To me, this was not nearly as satisfying. Half of the mental puzzle in detective stories is the race to beat the detective, or at least to catch up if you are a little slow like I am… But if the target is moving, how do you hit it? Kotoko creates moving targets because the truth of the solution to the issue is inconsequential for the issues she solves. This comes across really flat and unsatisfying and creates huge monologues to actually get the viewer up to speed with what is going on in the brain of the detective. Where Sherlock connected the dots and the explanation fell into place, Kotoko talked at us a lot and we had to watch her build the story instead of building it with her. Is it fair to compare the most storied detective to a horny university student? Maybe not. But I did.
The comparison between Sherlock and Kotoko continues in this section. Where Sherlock pursues the truth, Kotoko knows that the truth isn’t always that interesting and often people do not want the truth. I wish that I could say that this is a new phenomena, but I feel like that would be falling into the trap of thinking our time is special when usually it is not. So the question asked is do people want the truth or do people want an answer that satisfies them? In a world so large and with so many experiences, can there be universal truths that satisfy? Will we ever decide if waffles are better than pancakes or if the dress was blue or gold? These aren’t ideas that the show brings up, these are ideas that I thought about. The show very clearly sits on the side of the truth matters very little and people just need to be satisfied. The truth holds no value to our sluthes if the resolution offers no solace to those involved.
The last two elections have taught us two major things: anonymity leaves room for falsehoods and being a public figure leaves room for lying. We see people on both sides of popularity go unchecked by the masses. Even in a world where people put their names on their accounts, so few people act like their actions reflect on them as a person. Often people use pseudonyms, alt-accounts, etc, to say things they would never say in person. On the flip side, some people are so public that it seems like they themselves are a persona. They seem like they are not real enough to our lives that they can say that they want, often spewing hatred or falsehoods from their position. How much did the show devote to this topic? Not even an episode.
I wish that I could bring you something substantial from this show. I love condensing the ideas into a nice little juice for you to sip on but there really wasn’t much here and we ended with more pulp than non-fiction.
Two years. Two years passed without mention between the first three episodes and the remaining nine. Why did that happen? Not explained. I could pack the first three episodes into a neat little arc and excuse the time jump, but if I was to do that, I would expect there to be some critical development that occurred during that time that would be referenced later as a big reveal. Or perhaps for the show to follow a pattern of time skipping between arcs. Yet, neither occurred. So while the pacing was not a hindrance, they set the stage to do something and failed to deliver a reason for something they made an effort to point out. Thus, they have violated the law of making a big deal out of nothing.
I am a huge color guy. Like I swear my body took all the energy from my nose growing up and put it into the good old rods and cones. I was the kid who screwed around in art class until the paints came out, then shocked everyone with my ability to mix colors. Naturally, when I see different color palettes I get excited. Like, really excited. In/Spectre did one of two things that I can’t quite put my finger on. The animator either lit a fat cigar and let it burn until the haze completely covered the show, or the animators fell in love with pastel and forgot to turn it off. Perhaps the animators would read this and say, “No shit, Sherlock. It’s a show about spirits, there are going to be spirit-y themes.” I get that, but when the show was a little flat on intrigue and the animation was a little flat on intrigue, I failed to get invested. I didn’t take away any scenes that I wanted to talk to people about or caused me to wonder how it is made. Felt pretty uninspired but not so awful as to be bottom tier.
Spirits have so much potential. There are so many wonderful folklore stories to use and create interesting interactions with someone who is a “God of Wisdom”. Yet, most of the spirits in the show were relegated to bird chirping in the ear of Kotoko, decorative spectators, or villain figures. Beyond the ability to attract spirits, the world was the same one that we live in. Unable to interweave the spirit world and the real world, the show’s grand world feels cheaply decorated.
The music and sounds play a lot more like a horror show than a detective show. We get lots of the ethereal sounding strings, ominous wind, and something that creepy guitar that plucks every once in a while for maximum effect. The music and sounds do wonders for the show. The whole point is not for the music to take over. The spirit world themes just need to be lurking in the background to make you feel a little on edge as you are watching. Normally you see me rate music and sounds highly because I find the music so good I would add it to a playlist. But In/Spectre gets high marks because the music and sounds further the mood they are going for. The soundscape only compliments what is happening on the screen.
|Category||Points Given||Points Possible|
|I am interested in the characters in the story||2||6|
|I liked the emotion the story made me feel||3||6|
|The story brings up interesting ideas||2||6|
|I felt the pacing of the show was appropriate||2||4|
|The animation in the show is beautiful||3||4|
|I am interested in the world that the story takes place in||3||3|
|I felt that the music added to the story in a meaningful way||2||3|
In/Spectre was a wild ride, start to finish. For a show I could see a lot of promise in, they didn’t do anything particularly well. While a detective story is not often told in anime, the viewer was set up with expectations that were never met and characters that needed more personality than long speeches.