Who you gonna call? A bratty god of knowledge!
Title: In/Spectre (Kyokou Suiri)
Genre: Supernatural, Mystery
Publisher: Kodansha (JP/US)
Creators: Kyo Shirodaira (Story), Chashiba Katase (Art)
Translator: Alethea & Athena Nibley
Original Release Date: November 22, 2016
Kotoko looks like a normal child but she is neither normal nor a child. Several years ago Kotoko was asked by local yōkai to become their god of knowledge; she cheerfully agreed and gave up an eye and a leg in exchange. While the price she paid is obvious, enough so that she is still making regular hospital visits six years later, her powers are a bit unclear — most of her duties involve mediating and listening to the local spirits. Her youthful looks and eccentric personality all appear to be entirely natural, though the nurses at her local hospital forget how old Kotoko is and think that her crush on hospital visitor Kurō is just an adolescent thing. And while Kurō is totally Kotoko’s type, Kotoko has also noticed something different about him, too.
In/Spectre has an incredibly strong start; the story involves several supernatural tropes that will be familiar to seasoned readers but tosses in a few new ideas as well. The manga’s strong start is helped by the fact that it’s a pretty long first chapter, as In/Spectre is published in a bi-monthly magazine. As a result this first volume only has two chapters in it! This doesn’t affect the pacing negatively at all, however, and you are left feeling like you got a very satisfying chunk of story in 160 pages.
The story begins by introducing main character Kotoko who is rather bratty for a 17 year old and a bit crude as well — more typical for a teenager. Her brattiness and tendency to drag others around drives much of the story so far but the story peppers the reader with moments where Kotoko’s inner thoughts are on display; it’s amusing to see how much of her self-assurance she is faking. I am a bit perplexed at how seriously I should take Kotoko’s relationship with Kurō though. Kotoko is clearly serious about her crush but Kurō’s utter lack of reciprocation makes me wonder if it’s actually a joke, plus there is a bit of an age gap. But in general Kurō is practically emotionless so it’s good that, while he’s important, he’s not needed to support the story.
Kotoko has driven most of the story so far but the story makes an interesting choice in having Kurō’s ex-girlfriend Saki take a leading role in the second chapter. Normally a background character like her would have just stayed that, out of sight and without a shred of development. Instead Saki is shown to be a competent police officer in training, admired by her coworkers, and fully aware that not everything in the world can be explained using conventional, human ideas. She and Kotoko seem to get along like oil and water so it’s great that even if Kurō has the personality of a wet noodle that there will be some character drama to look forward to in coming volumes!