Episode 19 – In/Spectre Season 2

© Kyo Shirodaira, Chasiba Katase, KODANSHA / “In/Spectre” Production Committee

Kotoko stops Pinocchio’s electric rampage, but not before carefully spelling out all the twists and turns in this tale of indirect revenge by way of wooden boy. In other words, it’s business as usual in In/Spectre. Kuro gets an extra crispy fight scene. Kotoko brags to complete strangers about how much sex she has. And the client of the week walks away with a little more appreciation for what she has in life. Which includes a talking cat.

This arc ends up being a real bummer—in a good way! When you look at the big picture, the “culprit” is the combined grief, anger, fear, and suicidal ideation of two village elders, both of whom were victims of terrible tragedies. This story, then, is about the loneliness that can come with age, and how paralyzing it can be. ZENTA, lacking his family, imprints on an inanimate object that he then turns into a vessel of indirect vengeance. Its ultimate ineffectiveness makes his lot all the more pitiable. Tae fares better; she’s more social to begin with, and she bonds with the Bakeneko, who, while not human, is still a better companion than a chunk of space rock. She’s frank about her pain and weaknesses, but I think this experience and Kotoko’s pearls of wisdom help snap her out of her funk.

The Pinocchio allusions ended up being almost entirely red herrings, which I should have seen coming, given In/Spectre‘s history of subversion. And after the fuss it made distinguishing the original tale from the Disney adaptation, I suppose it’s also appropriately wry that the most important connection stems from the animated film’s soundtrack, specifically “When You Wish Upon a Star.” Not only does the episode title allude to it, a meteorite (i.e. a fallen star) turns out to be the source of the doll’s galvanism. Kotoko imagines a few extraterrestrial scenarios that don’t have any bearing on the actual solution, but this series is at its best when she’s casually bullshitting. It’s fun to think about space yokai, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the series revisits that idea at a later point.

I want to take a moment, too, to reflect on the strangeness of In/Spectre‘s structure, at least as far as the anime is concerned. The first season revolved entirely around the Steel Lady Nanase case, a slow-burn paranormal procedural that provided scaffolding for the larger thesis statement about the paramount role of narrative in the digital age. It did with detective fiction what Gatchaman Crowds did with sentai series—namely, embrace the genre’s idiosyncrasies and use them to comment on the terrifying complexities of the internet. I love it, but that’s a polarizing way to kick off your anime! I was surprised to see In/Spectre get picked up for a second season, and I’m more surprised to see the second season become considerably friendlier, with shorter arcs and more likable supporting characters. In/Spectre might even prove to be an anime better digested backwards, with season 1 following season 2. That reversal feels on-brand too.

While this is another short and simple mystery, it continues the second season’s pattern of prioritizing character over concept. Kotoko uses some clever tricks to subdue the wannabe Pinocchio, but the resolution of the case is more about what it means for both ZENTA and Tae. One perhaps manages to find some posthumous absolution, with his plan thwarted, while the other finds a renewed sense of purpose beyond mere self-sacrifice. The resolution is satisfying because of those personal connections, and as I said with the Yuki-Onna’s case, I like this direction for In/Spectre. It gives us more chances to see Kotoko and Kuro through different people’s eyes (I love Tae’s “elegant yet wicked” descriptor for her), and it gives the series more room to play. That said, I’m still waiting for themes as chewy as the ones that were covered in the Steel Lady Nanase arc, so if the remainder of this season can bring some of that into the mix, then this will easily top my winter recommendations.


In/Spectre Season 2 is currently streaming on

Steve is on Twitter while it lasts. Please send him any good pictures of Kotoko in funny hats that you find. Otherwise, catch him chatting about trash and treasure alike on This Week in Anime.

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