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Literature / In/Spectre

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In/Spectre (虚構推理, meaning Kyokou Suiri or Invented Inference) is a series of light novels published by Kodansha in Japan with the story written by Kyo Shirodaira. It has two artists, with the first two editions of the first novel done by Hiro Kiyohara (Kodansha Novels/Kodansha Bunko) and the others by Chasiba Katase (Kodansha Taiga). It has an ongoing manga (also by Katase) and anime adaptation.

At the young age of 11, Kotoko Iwanaga was abducted by youkai for two weeks and asked to become their "God of Wisdom," a mediator between the spirit and human worlds, to which the girl quickly agreed but at the cost of her right eye and left leg. Now, six years later, whenever youkai wish for their problems to be solved, they make their way to Kotoko for consultation.

Meanwhile, Kurou Sakuragawa, a 22-year-old university student, has just broken up with his girlfriend after he fled alone when the two encountered a kappa. Seeing this as her chance to become closer to him, Kotoko immediately makes her move, hoping to get married to Kurou one day. However, she quickly realizes there is something more to Kurou when the youkai that come to her for help react to Kurou's presence the same way normal people typically react to theirs. With this knowledge, she asks for his help in solving the various issues presented by the supernatural, all the while wishing her newfound partner will eventually reciprocate her feelings.

The first 18 manga volumes are available in English through Kodansha comics.

An anime adaption produced by Brains Base began airing on January 11th, 2020. The second season aired in 2023.

This series provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Well, more like clan heads in the case of Kurou. The head of Sakuragawa family forced his family, including distant relatives, to be fed a combination of kudan and mermaid flesh. Most died and those that survived still had bad childhoods.
  • Accomplice by Inaction: Seems to be Rikka's plan to ruin Kotoko's reputation among Yokai since providing a non-supernatural solution to the Kirin's Curse case, as it stands, would mean she's covering for a would-be murderer that accidentally got involved in said case. It culminates with said murderer committing suicide.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: Kurou tries to imply that he was a coward that left Saki behind when they encountered the Kappa when he first tells the story to Kotoko. Kotoko sees clearly through this and even comments on it, stating that in truth, the Kappa ran away from him.
  • Animal Motifs: Kurou gets compared to a goat by both Saki and Kotoko. Maybe naive and simple-minded, but his tenacity should not be underestimated.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Kotoko always mentions that Kurou is her boyfriend even if he doesn't act like it, but by the end of volume 6 of the manga, it is clear he does love her back. More explicit in Vol 16, after Kurou consoles Kotoko after Rikka caused her to have a mental breakdown and force her into a deal.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: A sickly thin and nude Rikka is shown a handful of times in the manga. It’s not meant to be fanservice, instead showing her in relation to Steel Girder Nanase and the former’s powers.
  • Big Bad: Rikka, Kurou's older cousin.
  • The Blank: Steel Girder Nanase has no face. In part because the real Nanase had her head crushed by a girder, but also because Rikka depicts her as having no face in her paintings.
  • Blatant Lies: How Kurou (and Rikka) justifies walking off injuries that should've killed him to normal people. Even when taking a bullet to the head, Kurou simply says he got hit with the non-lethal side. Rikka herself does this when she's fatally hit by a delivery truck and recovering right away, saying she's ok because she was hit with the blunt end of it.
  • Blessed with Suck: Zigzags between this and Cursed with Awesome for Kurou. Not only is he immortal in the sense he can regenerate, even from fatal wounds, and he's also able to predict the future, but only as he's dying. It's a trait that is shared by Rikka.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Kotoko at times, particularly when it comes to protecting order. She doesn't hesitate to drag out the truth from the Otonashi family, even knowing the effects the aftermath may have on their family, to teach the Chairman a lesson for relying on supernatural powers to solve his problems. More than a few people comment on her ruthlessness when it comes to convictions.
  • Boom, Headshot!:
    • During the Steel Lady Nanase case, Kuro receives several fatal injuries to the head. Terada also tragically is killed by Steel Lady Nanase this way.
    • At the end of the Sleeping Murder case, Koya Fujinuma pulls out a gun and is determined to kill Iwanaga and Kuro because They Know Too Much. Kuro takes a shot to the head and is killed, but immediately comes back to life and disarms Koya.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Kotoko speculates that some Yokai might have this origin. Steel Lady Nanase is functionally a tulpa. Enough people believed the legend of the ghostly idol that would attack people with a steel girder that she actually materialized. Rikka is the one propagating the legend. So it's safe to assume that this is actually the case. It's also the reason she was hoping Rikka would not catch wind of the ghost giraffe that fatally attacked several hikers.
  • Classy Cane: Kotoko uses one, given she's an amputee and wears a prosthetic leg.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl:
    • Kotoko. Justified in that the Steel Girder Nanase case sees Saki Yumihara, Kurou's former fiance, dragged into it. And Rikka, Kurou's childhood crush, being the Big Bad behind Steel Girder Nanase.
    • Rikka. She laments to her landlord that her cousin has been stolen away by a "horrible girl" and her desire to break them up since Kurou should've been hers.
  • Comforting Comforter: During the Giraffe case, Rikka stays at a hotel room with Kotoko and Kurou. After she falls asleep on the couch, Kurou covers her with a blanket, making Kotoko jealous.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • Kotoko basically has to mix this with Insane Troll Logic to appease both Youkai and Humans alike whenever her wisdom is required and the order needs to be preserved.
    • Rikka weaponizes this to set up the stage for the events that lead to "Steel Girder Nanase" and the "Curse of the Kirin Ghost".
  • Cool Big Sis: Rikka to Kurou, which is one of the reasons why he's attached to her.
  • Death is Cheap: For Kurou and Rikka, the surviving Sakuragawa children.
  • Diving Save: In Chapter 23 of the manga, Rikka gets hit by a truck to save a boy playing in the middle of the road. She comes out unharmed thanks to her immortality.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: The ending song, 'Last Dance', is sung by Kurou's voice actor.
  • Dope Slap: Saki does this to Iwanaga when the latter brags about being Kuro's current girlfriend.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Karin Nanase, a fallen gravure idol that was suspected of murdering her own father. Due to the pressure of all, when, by accident, some metal girders at a construction site start to fall on her, she just resigns herself to being crushed rather than instinctively protect herself even if that would have changed nothing.
    • To a lesser extent, Kurou and Rikka, given that's how their prophetic powers activate, but since they can regenerate even from mortal wounds...
    • Toji Okamachi, the would-be murderer in the Kirin's Curse case is nudged towards suicide by Kotoko's supernatural intervention, an act that is recriminated by Rikka, since she had saved his life following an encounter with the ghost giraffe in the mountains — with Rikka using Kotoko's callousness for not stopping him when she knew this was a likely outcome as a way to drive a wedge between Kotoko and Kurou.
  • Due to the Dead: At the end of the Steel Lady Nanase arc, Saki pays tribute to Terada at the deserted gas station where he was killed, knowing that the Tokyo Metropolitan Police will shut the case and blame his death on a killer who's not arrested since they can't handle supernatural crimes.
  • Enfant Terrible: At the end of the Steel Girder Nanase case, Kurou wonders if Rikka was evil since they were children, even before she ate the Youkai meat, and he was just too infatuated to realize that.
  • Equivalent Exchange: The Youkai took Kotoko's left leg and right eye in exchange for becoming their goddess. As she recovers in the hospital, she notes she's pretty ok with the arrangement.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Kurou. While protecting Kotoko from a deranged youkai, he lets it bite his arm off without as much as batting an eye. Bonus points for the youkai dying from eating his flesh shortly after his arm completely regenerates.
  • Feel No Pain: Surviving eating mermaid and kudan flesh renders the Sakuragawa children insensitive to pain as they grow older. It’s why Kurou barely bats an eye at having his arm eaten off by a crazed yokai, or Rikka constantly slicing her throat open like its nothing. Kotoko actually points out this is also likely the reason why Kurou has problems expressing emotions or why he has to overthink how to act, like how to handle a knife, as he’d not only be immune to being cut by it, but also any injury would quickly heal.
  • Fireworks of Love: In Chapter 23 of the manga, Kotoko and Kurou watch fireworks together. Kurou picks Kotoko up so she can see the fireworks better and she leans into a kiss.
  • Foreshadowing: It's not until late into the Steel Girder Nanase arc that it hits you that Rikka would not only be alive but also be an immortal with the ability to predict the future, given she's also a surviving child of the Sakuragawa clan, even if some clues were out there early on. It's more obvious on a second reading.
  • Genius Cripple: Kotoko, being the goddess of wisdom for the youkai, gave up an eye and a leg as a requirement for the job.
  • Glass Eye: Kotoko uses one. You really don't notice it until she plucks it out for cleaning and you see her empty eye socket.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: Sorta. A later volume has Kotoko retelling the story of an adventure she had with Rikka before she disappeared and became the Big Bad and Greater-Scope Villain of the series; and even after she has become the Greater-Scope Villain, she never antagonizes the people that knew Kotoko in the past. That said, said adventure served for Kotoko and Rikka to size each other up in the case they were to become antaganists.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Rikka constantly flips between this and Big Bad. She's not directly antagonistic towards Kotoko and Kurou, at least not at first, but the nature of what she's doing puts her in direct conflict with Kotoko. And so, when not antagonizing Kotoko in a more direct manner, she will instead precipitate minor events that will eventually keep Kotoko busy, using that time to move in the background and evade Kotoko's notice.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: People that believe a lie aren't dissuaded by the truth, but can be swayed to believe a different lie instead if it is interesting enough.
  • Has a Type: Kurou is attracted to tall classy women slightly older than him, so the fact that he's dating Kotoko is a shock for Saki. Later, Saki admits that dating against the type might be the best for Kurou, as he has grown a lot more as a result. Since his preference for this type comes from his crush on Rikka, there's definitely a case to be made for breaking away from it.
  • Healing Factor: Kurou, thanks to the mermaid flesh. Obviously, this also applies to Rikka.
  • Humanoid Abomination:
    • How the Youkai see Kurou as. They sense him as a mix of human, mermaid and kudan, having eaten the flesh of such youkai as a child. Kotoko remarks that Kurou and herself are not entirely human following their history with youkai as children.
    • In a way, Kotoko herself — as Rikka causes her to have a mental breakdown once Kotoko realizes how far she'd truly go as "Goddess of Wisdom".
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Rikka. The reason she was in the hospital is that she wanted the doctors to see if they could find a way to reverse the effects of the Kudan and Mermaid flesh on her body. Upon failure, she moves on to creating Steel Girder Nanase as a prototype before attempting to create a God that would do it for her. She also implies she wishes to make Kurou human again too.
  • Indirect Kiss: In chapter 19, Kotoko and Kurou eat the same crepe together.
  • Japanese School Club: Kotoko was a member of Eiei High School's Mystery Appreciation Club.
  • Kissing Cousins: Kurou was clearly attracted to his cousin Rikka, but it never went past an innocent childhood crush. Instead, he develops a type complex by feeling attracted to women who resemble Rikka, much to his first girlfriend Saki's chagrin once she figures this out. Rikka does say later on that Kurou shoulda been hers instead of Kotoko's when complaining about the latter, but it's unknown if it's actually a romantic interest or because she just simply doesn't want Kurou to be involved with Kotoko.
  • Likes Older Women: Kurou had a crush on his much older cousin Rikka. It's lampshaded that older ladies are his type.
  • Malingering Romance Ploy: In a Christmas manga omake, Kotoko pretends to be sick to make Kurou take care of her, hoping to get some Intimate Healing out of it. Her ploy fails because a youkai offers to nurse her, prompting her to admit she was faking her illness.
  • Meaningful Name: The English name, InSpectre, makes sense for Kotoko's role as someone who has a role in inspecting scenarios on whether the supernatural is involved in a case that needs to be resolved as an Inspector.
  • Meet Cute: Kurou first meets Kotoko when some children running down the hospital hall cause him to slip and Kotoko catches him before he falls on his back. Kotoko gets Love at First Sight in this meeting, but Kurou is in a relationship with Saki at the time and Kotoko can't make a move on him for two years. After Saki breaks up with Kurou, Kotoko confesses her feelings for him and they start dating a while later.
  • Monster of the Week: The manga takes this approach, for a while, following the Steel Girder Nanase case, which took 6 volumes, as a sort of Breather Episode dynamic.
  • Myth Arc: The series centers later (after the Steel Lady Nanase arc) around stopping Rikka from doing anything to harm human society by using the paranormal.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Kurou, once he receives a phone call from the police that Rikka is one of the survivors of the ghost giraffe attack.
    • Kotoko, upon realizing she fell for Rikka's trap, complete with mental breakdown.
  • Older Than They Look: Kotoko, who, by the time the story starts in earnest, is already 19 and in college and yet is mistaken for a middle schooler. Kurou to a lesser degree. She turns 20 by volume 8.
  • Piggyback Cute: At the end of Chapter 22 of the manga, Kurou gives Kotoko a piggyback ride as he carries her down the stairs of a mountain.
  • Pride Before a Fall: Kotoko, who is very proud of her role as "Goddess of Wisdom", including the actions she takes to preserve the order of things. A flaw that Rikka is finally able to make use of at the conclusion of the Kirin's Curse case.
    Rikka: Kotoko-san. You didn't make a single mistake in handling the giraffe, or resolving the case. You navigated through every difficulty flawlessly and impassively. But you did make one very big mistake. You let the man I saved die.
    Kotoko: My role is to maintain the order. If I fail to defend that order because I prioritize human morals, then there is no sense in my being a God.
    Rikka: I know it doesn't bother you, but do you think Kurou feels the same way?
  • Proper Lady:
    • Kotoko, about 95% of the time. She comes from a wealthy family, wears fancy, almost doll-like dresses, uses a fancy cane... but every now and then she's almost vulgar when she's talking to or about Kurou regarding their relationship, or rather, where she wishes their relationship would go. This is Played for Laughs.
    • Rikka, who always had a dignified aura about her, even while sick in the hospital. Even if she's the Big Bad.
  • Prosthetic Limb Reveal: While the reader already knows she's an amputee, Saki did not know, so she's quite surprised when Kotoko's leg falls off as she fights Steel Girder Nanase.
  • Puppy Love: Kurou was infatuated with his cousin Rikka during their childhood.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Kotoko solving the Kirin's Curse case in the way she normally handles her cases ends up backfiring on her when Rikka uses it to trap her into a deal.
  • Quantum Mechanics Can Do Anything: How the prophetic powers of the kudan, and those that have eaten kudan flesh, works: as they die, they see possible futures as if branches on a tree and they choose one, and the prophecy is basically declaring which branch they chose. Kurou and Rikka, due to being immortal, have a watered down version of this, so the ability to choose possible futures is limited on how probable they actually are in the first place.
  • The Reveal:
    • Kurou. He wasn't actually the one that fled when Kurou and Saki encountered a kappa; instead, it was the kappa that fled in fear from Kurou after calling him a monster. Later on, we get the reveal that he's immortal, and the reason he's immortal is because he was fed mermaid and kudan flesh as a child, by the head of the clan.
    • Rikka. She's alive. She has the same powerset as Kurou. She's also the Big Bad.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax:
    • Inverted. One of Kotoko's main roles is to maintain the order between the supernatural and human world, and one way to accomplish that is convince people that the supernatural world does not exist. To accomplish this, whenever a supernatural being kills a human, Kotoko must come up with an explanation that has a human culprit.
    • In one story, Kurou's part-time job requires him to go to an alleged Haunted House to pack the furniture. Despite the rumours of supernatural accidents in the place, nothing happens, with Kurou and his coworkers assuming whatever was haunting the place ran because Kurou scared it. After getting home, Kotoko reveals to Kurou that house was never haunted and the owner just made up those rumours to get people to stay away from the house while he looked for some dirty money hidden somewhere inside it.
  • Sherlock Scan: Played With. While Kotoko has really good deductive skills, she tries to pass it off as a true Sherlock scan. What most people don't know is that she also relies on the youkai to feed her information. If anything, her true ability, among humans, is to come up with explanations for mysteries that remove the supernatural elements in said mysteries.
  • Shout-Out: The manga's 14th volume had a bonus chapter where Kotoko is "happy" to see scenes from the manga animated. Kuro told her that the scenes didn't happen, including one with Kotoko being Rose and Kuro being Jack.
  • Skewed Priorities: Almost every male that encounters or even passes on the tale of Steel Girder Nanase mentions her huge breasts - often before they mention her holding a steel girder in a single hand... or her habit of swatting people with said girder.
    • Even Kotoko mentions Nanase's large breasts, to which Saki exasperatedly asks if that's really important right now, since Nanase is currently about to attack them. Then again, Kotoko has something of a complex surrounding breasts. Particularly how small and underdeveloped hers are.
  • Stress Vomit: Saki cannot eat meat or think too much of her ex-boyfriend, Kurou, following their encounter with the Kappa AND from Saki realizing that Kurou is not entirely human, just as the Kappa said. Dwelling too much on it, will result on her vomiting or dry-heaving. Although she gets better as the Steel Girder Nanase arc progresses.
  • Technical Pacifist: Kotoko tries to resort to non-violent measures first, preferring dialogue to be the first option, and even quotes Tsuyoshi Inukai, Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King. Kurou quickly points out that all three were assassinated.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Kotoko and Rikka, months prior to disappearing and becoming the Greater-Scope Villain and Big Bad of the series, as they investigate a murder.
  • Tempting Fate: Kotoko mentions it would be bad if Rikka were to learn of the ghostly giraffe in the mountains that fatally attacked humans and leaving only two survivors, as it could lead to another "Steel Girder Nanase" event — cue Kurou getting a call from the police, letting them know that Rikka was one of the two survivors from the attack.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The anime trailer spoils within the first 15 seconds that Kurou is immortal.
  • The Unreveal: Did Karin Nanase actually kill her father or was it an accident? Since it's not relevant to Kotoko's investigation, and Nanase's spirit is not around to confirm or deny it, the mystery will remain unsolved.
  • Vengeful Ghost:
    • Steel Girder Nanase. In reality, the real Karin Nanase was simply Driven to Suicide. Rikka created an urban legend around her, painting her as a vengeful ghost, that everyone bought into and materialized from there.
    • Yukie, the ghost a woman killed by her husband is a more straight-up example.
    • The Ghost Giraffe. A giraffe brought to Japan during the early Showa period that was sealed away in a shrine after being "deified" in an attempt to stop the bad luck that befell the zoo after its death.
  • Weirdness Magnet: Both Kotoko and Kurou due to their relationship with Youkai during their childhood. Saki to a lesser degree, much to her chagrin.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Rikka and Kotoko, sorta. At the very least, they were friendly during the time Rikka lived at the Iwanaga residence.
  • Wham Line: Rikka's "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Kotoko has several of these.
    Rikka: Tell me. After coming this far, you're still not afraid?
    Kotoko: Afraid of what?
    Rikka: Of the indisputable fact that you will kill Kurou one day.
    Kotoko: What reasons would I ever have to feel fear in performing an act that would defend the order?
    Rikka: You really aren't scared? Scared of yourself, a woman who would kill her own lover without batting an eye? You're not scared of the fact that you wouldn't be scared?
    Rikka: If you insist that you have any shred of humanity left in you, then listen carefully to what I'm about to say: I've died more times than I can count, so it's to be expected that my humanity is somewhat skewed. I made a mistake. My creation of Steel Lady Nanase led to the death of an innocent man. My existence is wrong, and the path I chose is wrong. Compounding more wrongs onto my wrongs will not make them any less wrong. If I keep opposing you as I have been... I'm sure to self-destruct one day. And then you will seal me away. But once you seal me, you'll have to seal Kurou away, too. You will live the rest of your life as the goddess of wisdom, alone. But that's ok. Even that doesn't scare you.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The novel doesn't mention where in Japan Makurazaka City is.
  • Wild Card Excuse: Kurou and Rikka are both immortals, so whenever they survive something that would kill a normal person, they claim they were hit by the "blunt end". But that excuse is ridiculous for getting hit by a truck or bullet and coming out unharmed.
  • You're Not My Type: Kurou to Kotoko, after Kotoko offers to be his girlfriend following his breakup with Saki. By the time the story starts in earnest, they're dating, but he still points out she's still not his type, though mostly to annoy her. It's also because his crush on Rikka still hangs over him.
  • Youkai: Being a story that revolve around them, plenty of them appear; nekomatas, kappas and tanukis just being three of them.

Alternative Title(s): Kyokou Suiri, In Spectre