Otaku USA Magazine
In/Spectre [Manga Review]
In/Spectre© Chashiba Katase / Kodansha Ltd.

In/Spectre is a entertaining supernatural thriller peppered with romance and plenty of yokai (Japanese monsters). When Kotoko was 11 she mysteriously disappeared for weeks, only to return missing an eye and a leg. The missing parts were a price she willingly paid to become the yokai’s God of Wisdom, mediating disputes between yokai and occasionally protecting the human world from their interference.

But godhood doesn’t mean she’s not a normal 17-year-old girl with a massive crush on the young man she meets at the hospital. Kuro is an oblivious average Joe with a beautiful fianceé. He meets Kotoko a few times over the years while visiting his hospitalized cousin, and when his fianceé leaves him after a disturbing incident with a kappa, Kotoko wastes no time moving in on him. She tells him all about her situation and even recruits him as her supernatural assistant. But it turns out Kuro has a secret of his own: he ate the flesh of yokai as a child and now has his own uncanny abilities, ones the yokai recognize and revile! Despite this, Kuro and Kotoko end up together. Things are going well until two years later, when Kuro’s ex-fiancée, now a cop, re-enters the picture…

In/Spectre is pretty typical as yokai manga go, but the characters really bring something special to the book. Kotoko is bold, decisive, sophisticated, and a wee bit manipulative. She knows what she wants—Kuro—and she goes after it. Kuro is passive at first, but he resists Kotoko’s charms. His personality is a good counterbalance to Kotoko. Kuro’s ex-fianceé (whose return is an interesting plot twist) also becomes an important character: a policewoman working her way up the ranks, she’s smart, capable, and still hung up on Kuro even years later.

Adapted from an untranslated novel by Kyo Shirodaira, In/Spectre is well plotted, though the yokai take forever to show up. Even though it’s not packed with monsters, the focus on the human characters’ interpersonal relationships offers a slower paced, rewarding story. Katase’s art is very smooth and the monsters are as well drawn as the humans. Kotoko looks like she’s straight out of RPG, but her eccentric clothing can be chalked up to “she wants to stand out.” In/Spectre is a fun book with a plot and characters interesting enough to keep readers coming back for more. Recommended.

publisher: Kodansha
Story: Kyo Shirodaira
art: Chashiba Katase
rating: 16+

This story appears in the October 2017 issue of Otaku USA Magazine. Click here to get a print copy.