In/Spectre The Complete Season promises a combination of supernatural thriller smashed together with amateur detectives and a fair whack of bloody violence. All of which sounds delightfully entertaining, but with a lot out there to compete against it will be a challenge to stand out from the crowd.
Set in modern day Japan, In/Spectre The Complete Season focuses on Kotoko Iwanaga, a mysterious young woman who serves as an arbiter of conflict between supernatural Japanese spirits. Her role had been gifted to her at a young age when a spiriting away of her to a world dominated by otherworldly creatures saw her exchange aspects of her physicality (specifically her right eye and left leg) to gain the power and insight to help resolve conflict between the spirits she has now befriended. Now 17, the story kicks off with Kotoko making a move on Kuro, an older boy she’s had a crush on for several years, who happens to share his own unique connection to the supernatural world Kotoko is so heavily invested in. Together they work to solve mysteries and dissolve conflict manifesting as phenomena in the real world through the use of their unique gifts.
I had very little to go in prior to jumping into watching In/Spectre The Complete Season. The premise seemed interesting and looking at anime I’ve been consuming of late suggests I have a bit of a fascination for supernatural thrillers and detective dramas like B: The Beginning, Elfen Lied, Wicked City and Cop Craft. Going back further, I absolutely loved anime like Vampire Princess Miyu (especially the TV series), Phantom Quest Corp and the first Patlabor movie. I think anime can put an interesting and really engaging twist on this mashing of genres, but I equally think I’m a bit easy to please here as well which always makes me double-guess myself when I review something in this vein!
Unsurprisingly I very much enjoyed In/Spectre The Complete Season, but it doesn’t mean I wasn’t surprised by some of the angles they used to explore the premise. Kotoko and Kuro are university students for the majority of the season, so it was great to have this as the background with Kuro’s past relationships finding their way into the story in different ways. It also meant the weird chemistry between the two of them doesn’t come off quite as twee with an amusing assortment of sexual innuendo throughout.
For me personally though, what absolutely blew my mind with the warm fuzzies is how they treat Kotoko’s adaptation to her life as an amputee. As someone missing a leg, it’s incredibly rare to find something like this reflected in popular culture, especially anime, and in a way that attaches some great action sequences with an actual understanding of the physiology of life as an amp. While the team could have probably tweaked her walk cycles a little, they treat her staff as a walking aide with dignity and the sequences where she’s adjusting her prosthesis’ hydraulic components had an impressive amount of detail that reminds me of pulling parts of my own leg apart for cleaning and what-not.
I recognise this particular element is incredibly subjective (and may be something I’ll write about in a bit more detail in a feature at some stage down the line), but it made me happy and appreciate the value of representation in popular culture, obscure as this anime may well be.
Despite all the things I enjoyed with In/Spectre The Complete Season, it’s not without it’s flaws though.
Towards the end of the third episode the whole series takes an abrupt leap two years into the future with Kotoko and Kuro dealing with the main antagonist for this series, the rampaging spectre known as Steel Lady Nanase. The narrative elements around this build off what’s established in the first few episodes (which is good), but it eventually boils down to a shounen battle anime trope except it predominantly falls to Kotoko outwitting her opponents through the manipulation of information. In itself this also proved interesting with a less-than-subtle slice of social commentary on the dangers of weaponising misinformation, but the drawn out nature of it felt like a potential cost saving measure compared to some of the earlier episodes.
There’s also not quite enough time to really iron out the relationship between Kuro and Kotoko – while there’s affection in there, it does feel a little one-sided and I think Kuro’s character didn’t get the dimensionality he deserves.
In terms of the local release, this one’s authored locally but branded as Crunchyroll, likely reflective of the recent sweep of changes currently in progress at Madman. In/Spectre The Complete Series is spread across two discs and is bilingual. Extras include storyboards with commentary from the localising team which was interesting, as well as an art gallery and trailers. It feels a little restrained, but the content’s solid and, importantly, the encoding is excellent.
In/Spectre The Complete Season has some really interesting elements to the production and to a degree gets off to a solid start. A second season has been announced (recently pushed back to a 2023 release) and I’m really interested to see where the next chapter takes the characters and storyline. As an amp I absolutely loved watching Kotoko being awesome and not letting her lack of a left leg hold her back, but I think there’s some solid supernatural detective thriller stuff going on here to keep things entertaining.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.