In/Spectre, Vol. 1

By Kyo Shirodaira and Chashiba Katase. Released in Japan as “Kyokou Suiri” by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Shonen Magazine R. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics. Translated by Alethea & Athena Nibley.

I admit somewhat shamefacedly that I haven’t really read any of this author’s prior works in North America, even though he’s put out quite a bit. Supernatural detectives seem to be a running theme, and both Spiral (out from Yen Press) and Record of a Fallen Vampire (Viz, though the digital reprint is from Yen) were fairly popular. Now we have his newest series, In/Spectre, based on a novel. If I was to describe its plot in a one or two sentence fashion, you likely would not be impressed. A young girl with a connection to the supernatural meets a young man with a tragic past who also has a connection with same. If they team up, they can fight against yokai who have gotten out of hand. We’ve seen this sort of thing before many times. Luckily, a manga is not just about its plot. It’s about characterization, dialogue, and art. And in those respects, In/Spectre hits it out of the park on the very first pitch.


Kotoko is our heroine, and the main reason I enjoyed this as much as I did. She’s a 17-year-old girl who, a few years back, made a deal with the yokai to be a sort of conduit for them in exchange for losing a leg and an eye. (Amazingly, the manga does not give her a fetishey eyepatch the way literally any other author would, but gives her a perfectly serviceable prosthetic – same with the leg, the cane is mostly to pacify her parents.) While at the hospital for her exams, she meets Kuro, a young man who’s there with his girlfriend Saki, and falls in love at first sight. Of course, he has a girlfriend. A couple of years later, she meets him again, only now he’s broken up, and she immediately takes the initiative. Kotoko’s brash, pushy charm is the main reason to read this – she’s a hoot, whether it’s proposing to Kuro within five seconds of meeting him, using him in order to pacify an out of control yokai (which doesn’t work), or cheerfully admitting that getting hit with a steel beam was nothing compared to the pain of losing her virginity, Kotoko is a brat in the best way.

I haven’t mentioned Kuro much, and to be honest he’s the weakest part of the book, being a stoic type who’s still brooding about his breakup at the start. The other reason I haven’t mentioned him is that halfway through the book takes an interesting right turn and time skips again a couple years, where we see Kuro’s ex-girlfriend Saki, now a police officer, dealing with the vengeful spirit of an ex-idol who was killed by a falling I-Beam, and now walks around the town with no face attacking people with the same beam. Saki too has not taken the breakup well, and curses her own human frailties – she’s still a bit terrified of what Kuro is, but realizes that she was in the wrong. She runs into Kotoko as well, and I suspect will end up being the “straight woman” in this series – certainly she does not react well when Kotoko admits she’s now dating Kuro.

This sort of series is hard to review, because so much of it depends on the words, and I don’t just want to quote dialogue at you. The art is good, too – I don’t think the artist has done any other series, but they can sell both comedic and eerie quite well. I really want to read more immediately, a nice change of pace from most Volume 1s, where you’re waiting for the series to find its feet. None of that here – Kotoko sacrificed a leg so the series could get on its feet right away. Highly recommended (unless you dislike brats, as Kotoko is absolutely a brat.)

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