In/Spectre – Episode 1

By: Caitlin Moore January 15, 20200 Comments
Kotoko sits on a bus with a creepy ghost crawling on the roof

What’s it about? Ever since Iwanaga Kotoko stopped Sakuragawa Kuro from falling backwards at the hospital, she’s had a big crush on him. She’s not just drawn to his good looks, though – there’s something unnatural about him. Something… supernatural. She knows because when she was 11, a group of low-level ayakashi kidnapped her and took her leg and eye in exchange for deifying her. Just who is Kuro, and why are the spirits so afraid of him?

I have a confession: I didn’t notice the pun in the title until yesterday. Also, I forgot I was supposed to review it.

But I’m glad I remembered, because In/Spectre may not have been the best show to premiere this season, but it’s definitely upper-tier in a season full of mediocrity. It’s a rollicking bit of action with strong direction and snappy writing, with just enough mystery in the first episode to keep me highly intrigued and readily anticipating the next one.

Kotoko as a child surrounded by adorable ayakashi

Not the least of its strengths is its heroine, Kotoko. Her design, with her cute berets and bell-shaped skirts, bears a lot of visual similarity to today’s modern magical girls, especially Madoka Magica’s Mami. Also like many modern magical girls, her power came with a great cost, leaving her without her left leg and right eye since she was eleven years old. 

This is no magical girl suffering porn, however. Kotoko seems to be totally okay with her life. She’s exactly the kind of girl who would consider a leg and an eye an acceptable sacrifice for being part of both the physical and the spirit world. Physical disability has been associated with spiritual power in many cultures, she says, citing the kami Kuebiko from the Kojiki. The magical girl comparisons doesn’t mean I consider In/Spectre a magical girl series, except maybe to annoy my magical girl otaku friend, but it’s still refreshing to see a cutely-designed heroine who is comfortable in her own power.

Kotoko smashing a cow ayakashi on the head with a fire extinguisher

Not that Kotoko is totally collected and mature. I’ve seen people on social media express discomfort with her attempts to flirt with Kuro, since she’s 17 and he’s in college, but so far I’m not bothered by it. He doesn’t even recognize her when she first approaches him two years after their original encounter; it seems to be entirely one-sided.

What’s more, it seems like the exact kind of weird, obsessive crush a socially awkward high schooler would develop on an older boy. I suspect that being a lesser god of wisdom capable of communicating with spirits doesn’t exactly make a girl well-adjusted.

Kotoko and Kuro sitting on a bench with the text, "Regardless, you're single now"

There’s still the question of disability representation, and the first episode isn’t really much to go on. So far, it mostly seems like a bit of a gimmick, and an excuse for Kotoko to show off the strap around her thigh holding her prosthesis on.

She walks with a cane, but her movement in battle is totally unimpeded, and her knees even bend at times. Her right eye is an ocular prosthesis—she taps her cane on it to illustrate this—but still moves and tracks like normal, and she doesn’t act like she’s blind in one eye.

Kotoko's thighs

I’m not physically disabled myself, but I did check in with my husband, who is and watched the episode with me. He doesn’t feel strongly about the way disability is represented one way or another so far. He likes one-eyed characters, so he thought it was cool when she tapped her eyeball, but didn’t notice anything else that he especially loved or disliked about how she was written. I encourage people to sound off in the comments about their own feelings about the representation.

In/Spectre fills a particular niche that nothing else this season has been for me: a fun action show with a likable heroine and snappy writing. If that alone isn’t enough to make you want to check out the first episode, I don’t know what else will.

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