Anime Best in Show

Review: In/Spectre Episode 2 Best in Show

Quick Summary

In In/Spectre episode 2, “What the Guardian Serpent Heard,” Kotoko Iwanaga received a request to help a mountain serpent spirit resolve a complex problem, and she asked Kurou Sakuragawa if he’d like to go with her. He declined, saying he had some pork miso soup that he’d been looking forward to eating. Understandably miffed, Kotoko decided to go to the mountain on her own. Was that a great idea? Should Kurou really let a high school girl visit a spirit — a huge serpent spirit — all alone at night? And just how good was that batch of soup?

Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious.

Best Moment in the Show

The serpent spirit gets points for honesty. Tact? Not so much… Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Before I share my favorite moment, it’s confession time. When I first watched this episode, I had no idea what to make of it. It was clear that the dialogue was intelligent. The actors did a great job (I could listen to Akari Kitou talk all day; her voice is lovely and her character, Kotoko, is whip-smart). The production values were nothing to sneeze at.

So why was I utterly confused?

I thought I was watching a supernatural detective-style show. I mean, I’d read that In/Spectre was a play on the English word Inspector — as in police inspector. So I was expecting a relentless push towards identifying the facts of the case with a goal of identifying the perpetrator — with a supernatural twist. I didn’t expect a theory to be the deliverable; not a story that matched the circumstances. I expected a focus on the actual facts of the case.

Then I came across this post by Reddit user mcziggy in this episode’s discussion thread:

Surprised people aren’t mentioning this, but the secondary title for this show is Invented Inference (which is where the localized title of In/Spectre pun comes from).

So it’s not necessarily about solving mysteries, it’s about coming up with a deduction that satisfies a third party (in this episode, the snake god), even if it is a fictitious one (hence, the Kyokou in the title). It’s similar to Umineko, where Battler has to come up with a valid solution to each scenario set up. So I think a thing to look out for is not necessarily the final true solution, but how Kotoko plays with and reacts with the third party in coming up with her presented deduction.

I just couldn‘t understand why anything except the actual facts of the case would matter. Until I read that Reddit post. Then, it all made sense. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

It’s less Columbo and more shared story time — with Kotoko on the spot to make up a compelling story that satisfies the listeners. Suddenly, everything clicked into place. I had missed a cultural expectation, so I’d been baffled. Now, I was ready to get back to enjoying the series!

To answer the serpent spirit’s question about why Tanio Aoi, the woman suspected of murder, had dumped the body into the serpent’s lake, Kotoko suggested that she’d wanted to make an offering to the lake’s god (the serpent) in the hopes he’d make it rain — and destroy any lingering evidence.

“You received prayers for rain in the past, didn’t you?” Kotoko asked (19:14).

The serpent was not convinced. He couldn’t remember anyone every dumping a body in the lake as a sacrifice/offering. Worst of all, the serpent spirit was indignant at the thought anyone could believe “the corpse of a filthy middle-aged man” (19:35) was an acceptable offering!

Kotoko seemed to relish her role as solo performer in the improv show. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

No, the serpent said he’d much prefer a “beautiful, living girl! Give me a girl as a sacrifice!”

Fortunately, the serpent spirit had enough respect for Kotoko that she was safe. Still, I thought this moment was a good reminder: Kotoko is dealing with wild spirits who are not human. Their goals, their mindsets — their perceived world — is alien to us. As comfortable as Kotoko seemed to be snacking and chatting with the serpent spirit, there was no telling what was going to happen.

And I think that’s a decent basis for a series!

What did you think of this episode? What was your Best in Show moment? Let me know in the comments!

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