In/Spectre is the anime adaptation of a decently popular light novel by Shirodaira Kyo. The anime debuted in January of 2020; throughout its run, it gained a pretty decent following while also getting renewed for a 2nd season. The anime currently sits at 24 episodes, with season 1 and season 2 sitting at 12 episodes each, with a total run-time of almost 8 hours.
While season 2 got good reviews overall and is entertaining, season 1 makes it difficult to suggest. So we decided to watch all of In/Spectre to help you decide whether to watch it. This In/Spectre review mainly focuses on season 1 while containing minor spoilers.
The first scene of the anime starts with the introduction of a petite girl sitting on a bench beside the rain; the girl then approaches a seemingly plain-looking guy named Kurou, sitting on the next bench. The guy then asks her who she might be, to which the girl replies that he could not remember someone who saved his life. The guy then tells her that he hadn’t been in any life-threatening situations in the past decade; the mysterious girl then reminds her of when she saved him from tripping over almost two years ago in a hospital while also asking him to remember her for it.
Incidentally, the girl had fallen for him and had been in love with him ever since. She then brings up his breakup with his girlfriend, whom she had seen almost two years prior. The girl then introduces herself as Iwanaga Kotoko, one of the two main of the story. Kotoko then abruptly asks him whether he has given any thought to starting a new relationship. Kurou, evidently confused by her questions, asks her to get to the point.
Kotoko then abruptly asks him whether he would consider dating her for marriage and that she had been holding onto her one-sided love in wait for this moment. Kurou then contemplates saying he legally cannot date a middle-schooler, seemingly deceived by Kotoko’s short and petite appearance. An agitated Kotoko then reveals that she’s seventeen years old, currently attending high school, and will apply to the same university that Kurou attends. Kurou then tells her how a high school girl confessing to him gives him hope for not being a lost cause.
Kotoko then enquires about his breakup with Saki-san, his girlfriend whom he had dated for almost five years. Kurou tells her that it can’t be helped and that he won’t be able to date someone new for quite some time. Unfriending their answer, Kotoko insists that Kurou give her a more concrete answer and asks for the details that led to the breakup.
Kurou then starts telling her about the incident that led to his breakup. Last year Kurou and Saki went on a trip to Kyoto; one night, they encountered a kappa, and their encounter with the Kappa ended up terrifying them to their cores. A frightened Saki tried to cling to Kurou for comfort, but Kurou fled from the scene without even looking at her. As a result, the relationship between them became awkward, and both of them broke up.
Kurou, knowing the absurdity of the story, tells Kokoto that whether she wants to believe him is totally up to her, she can even think of a college student who went crazy from the shock of getting dumped. He then tells her that he is not worthy of being her boyfriend. Saying this, Kurou starts to leave, but Kotoko stops him.
Kotoko then asks him to clarify the incident, asking who exactly ran away. She then asks him to confirm that the Kappa, not him, ran away that night. The Kappa saw Kurou next to Saki and ran away. Kotoko then sympathizes with the Kappa saying how awful of an experience it must’ve been for the Kappa to run into him in the middle of the night. Kotoko then reveals how Saki saw that terrifying yokai run away at Kurou’s sight, making her wonder who or what Kurou was.
Kurou then tries to refute her claims saying that Kappas don’t exist and he won’t reveal the details of his breakup to a girl he just met. Kotoko then tells Kurou that she’s only slightly acquainted with Kappas, but she’s knowledge about creatures similar to them. Ayakashi, yokai, specters, and demons are all real, and observe them while lurking in the shadows. Most of them mean no harm, but they do exist everywhere. They all see Kurou whisper to her about how he’s different and terrifying.
Kurou then angrily asks her who she is and how she knows about the existence of such beings; Kotoko then reveals that she had been kidnapped by these very creatures when she was eleven years old. They had taken her deep into the mountains and asked her to become their goddess of wisdom. Since most were creatures of low intellect, they sought someone to help them, quell their fighting, and make peace among them.
Kotoko had agreed to their demands, and as a result and ever since then, they come over from all over the country whenever they need Kotoko’s help. To ensure the legitimacy of her story, she tells Kurou to look up the newspaper article from six years ago about a girl named Iwanaga Kotoko who had disappeared from the town and then found two weeks later missing her right eye and left leg with no culprit to be found.
Kotoko leaves after their conversation and meets the ghost of a dead samurai on a bus who is worrying about Kurou harming or possibly eating Kotoko. Kotoko then ensures that he didn’t even lay a finger on her; the ghost then asks how and why she’s interested in that vile and smelly creature, referring to Kurou. Kotoko then angrily rebukes the ghost threatening to exorcise him forcibly. She then tells Kurou looks handsome to her.
The ghost then requests her to remove an ayakashi that had been terrorizing a library he frequents. Kotoko assured them she would take care of it by tomorrow, and it would be pretty easy if Kurou accompanied her.
Later Kurou is seen leaving a library right after researching Iwanaga Kotoko’s case that had happened six years ago. Kurou then comes face-to-face with Kotoko right as he leaves the library. Kurou then tells her there is no evidence about her becoming a god of wisdom for the ayakashis. Kotoko then tells him that it could all be just a fantasy of a girl that went crazy after being kidnapped by someone who messed with her body. But whether Kurou believes her or not, she’s the only one who can truly understand him.
Their conversation is cut short by a bake-tanuki who comes to Kotoko to inform her that the library’s barrier has been broken and will become troublesome if nothing is done. But before the tanuki anything else, he leaps into Kotoko’s arms, frightened due to Kurou’s presence. Kotoko then reprimands him for scaring the bake-tanuki. Kotoko then tries to recruit Kurou’s help in quelling the evil yokai in the library, saying that his doubts will be gone by engaging in an actual battle; Kurou tries to evade the situation, saying that he no longer doubts her after seeing yokai directly seeking her help.
Kotoko manages to recruit Kurou’s help after telling her how violent and evil the yokai in the library is and how tomorrow’s newspaper might end up featuring an article about the brutal murder of a one-eyed and one-legged girl. Kotoko even further tells him how tragic it would be for a girl who confessed to him, even though he has no interest in her. Kurou, in the end, decides to help her.
After reaching the library, Kotoko and Kurou come face-to-face with the yokai that had been terrorizing the library. Kotoko tries to reason with the yokai, but much to her surprise, it attacks her. Kurou manages to save her at the right moment. Kotoko then tries to subdue the Yokai by attacking it with a fire extinguisher but is repelled. Kurou then holds Kotok refusing to let her take any more reckless actions. The yokai then lunges toward them; Kurou then holds out his hand, only for the yokai to bite it off and eat it while completely unfazed by the ordeal.
Kotoko then asks him how to stay calm even though his arm is gone. Kurou then regrows his arm, much to Kotoko’s surprise, while stating that she should’ve figured it out by now. Later the yokai melts away due to the repercussion of eating Kurou’s flesh; Kurou then remarks how his flesh is poisonous to yokai.
Later Kurou decides to help and accompany Kotoko in solving mysteries and issues for ayakashi and yokai while also entering a romantic relationship with her.
In/Spectre is a story that distinguishes between good and decent while undermining its potential for greatness. In/Spectre is a story about a girl who sacrificed one of her eyes and one of her legs and became a god of wisdom for the yokai and the ayakashi. A goddess who would help them navigate the world of the living and answer any question they might have while also keeping order between the spiritual world of the yokai and the material world of the humans, and all this while trying to pursue a relationship with an equally mysterious upperclassman named Kurou.
On the surface level, the premise seems great, which it is. Where the anime fails is the execution. Animes like these tend to embrace an episodic nature, where the plot changes every episode or every few episodes focusing on different characters and stories; in contrast, a subtle main plot enveloping everything is hinted at every once-a-while. Animes like these tend to have an interesting but small cast of characters with strong personalities and clear goals.
Iwanaga Kotoko is a really interesting character, a petite girl who got kidnapped by yokai and was made into their god after losing one of her eyes and legs. Her knowledge and resourcefulness in solving or resolving mysteries make for a good watch.
Sakuragawa Kurou is also an interesting character, a descendant and one of the only survivors of a family that pursued the powers of the yokai and ayakashis by experimenting on their kin and feeding them different yokai meats to gain such powers. Kurous powers essentially made him disconnected from the world of humans as well as yokai to a pretty huge degree.
In/Spectre checks out almost every box of things that would’ve made it a great anime. An interesting premise, an overarching plot, and a small cast of interesting characters while having decent animation. But it still fails at the execution. /Spectre is a mystery story where the mystery’s truth doesn’t matter. Kotoko is the goddess of wisdom for the ayakashi and the yokai, and they seek her help whenever there is a predicament they can’t solve.
Kotoko’s job is to answer their questions and solve mysteries with an acceptable answer to the yokai. And Kotoko is very good at her job but in a different manner. Kotoko’s main way of dealing with these mysteries is to bunch together a string of lies mixed with guesses to reach an answer that satisfies the troubled yokai. It is a mystery anime where the mystery doesn’t even matter. But that isn’t even the problem.
The mysteries themselves are bland and almost generic. The main thing that makes them enjoyable is howes” them, either by inviting them and reaching the truth or by stringing together lies mixed with guesses and deductions to satisfy the yokai. The first few episodes of season 1 of In/Spectre follow the formula and end well.
But the cracks start to appear around episode 4, where the steel lady Nanase arc starts an arc that persists till the season finale. The whole arc focuses on steel lady Nanase. This vengeful story had taken form due to many people believing in its existence and Kotoko’s struggle to find a way to defeat this spirit. But the arc falls over on itself when the actual mystery of it is revealed almost around episode 6, with the rest arc eventually boiling down to Kurou fighting Nanase in the background with Kotoko arguing with a bunch of people in an internet forum to rebuke the existence of Nanase, which would eventually end up in Nanase vanishing.
Even the interesting backgrounds of the characters are not properly expanded upon. Kotoko’s meeting with the yokai, her sacrifice of one eye and one leg, and Kuro’s family that pursued the yokai’s powers for generations are good and interesting plot points. Still, they are almost abandoned till an episode that might or might not expand upon them.
This, paired with a boring arc that persisted till the end of season one, makes it a pretty disappointing anime. But season 2 picks up and tries to do right with everything that seasons 1 got wrong. But the only misstep is you need to watch season 1 in joy season 2, bringing this anime into the category of good anime that cannot be recommended.
Season 2 of In/Spectre is really good and mostly focuses on Kotoko and Iwanaga’s journey through the requests of different yokai while introducing new and interesting yokai. But the awful season 1 makes it difficult to suggest.
Overall, In/Spectre is a pretty good anime with an awful season 1.
In/Spectre Review: Where to watch?
In/Spectre Review: Final Verdict
In/Spectre is not a must-watch for anyone. Even though there are many interesting plot points and some interesting world-building here and there, it still inclines more toward being a niche anime. It’s not an anime many would watch or enjoy, but for a niche audience. The anime delve into the supernatural, mostly derived from Japanese mythology and folklore, making it a pretty interesting anime. But it’s an anime with a pretty good season 2 but an awful season 1. If anyone manages to endure season 1 of In/Spectre, season 2 would be a treat for them in every way possible.
Our Rating- ⭐(3.5/5)
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