That Lame Fight in In/Spectre

I’ve highly enjoyed the past few episodes of In/Spectre, but the battle of Steel Lady Nanase vs. Kuro has much for me to gripe about. If you haven’t watched this anime, you might want to stop reading now. The problems of this fight can’t be discussed without spoilers.


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Now that all who hate spoilers have left the blog, I will say that the battle of wits between the heroine Iwanaga and Kuro’s cousin Rikka was awesome. The use of an internet forum as a battleground for creating a winning narrative about Steel Lady Nanase’s existence was very creative to say the least. Rikka attempts to convince people that Nanase’s a real ghost, while Iwanaga posits that the ghost is a creation of someone’s fancy. This contest managed to make me hate all over again certain aspects of the internet, the news media, and democracy, i.e. that which can be manipulated by a demagogue.

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But, I did not set out to rave about a good fight. While this battle of wits played out, Kuro initiated a physical brawl with the shade Steel Lady Nanase in order to buy time and possibly defeat this ghost. Kuro challenged the ghost so that she would not claim anymore victims, while Iwanaga sought to win hearts and minds on Rikka’s site. At this point, I must make clear that Steel Lady Nanase is not a real shade but an apparition created from a collective imagination. It is only by breaking Steel Lady Nanase’s hold on people’s imaginations that the shade may dissolve.

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Three flaws stand out to me in regard to this battle. The first has to do with the greatly diminished stakes. Kuro, having eaten mermaid flesh and survived, is now immortal. No matter how gruesome the death he suffers, he can’t kick the bucket. We don’t have to worry about his fate at all. This differs from all other anime mortal combat in a bad way.

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Second, one is convinced that the people animating this fight scene have never been beaten up or even punched in the face. Maybe, they’ve even never gotten into a schoolyard scuffle. They certainly don’t understand the effect of pain in a fight! That is the impression one receives seeing Kuro getting mauled again and again without being shaken up. One of the great things about old school anime—especially the father of all old school anime: Ashita no Joe—lies in how the characters’ pains are palpable. Getting beaten up hurts. Not so much in In/Spectre. It makes the fight that much more boring.

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Third, it’s difficult to enjoy a physical fight between a good guy and a bad girl. When the sexes are the same or the fight concerns a good girl vs. a bad guy, it’s easier to root for the hero or heroine. Even though the villainess here is a kind of faceless monster, it’s hard to watch a male beating up and killing something with a pronounced female form. One has to do a lot of work in order to get the audience to enjoy the advent of Nemesis in that case. (The Charles Bronson movie, Murphy’s Law, achieves this in spades, but that film is not for the faint of heart.) In/Spectre treats us to many flashbacks or stories of Nanase’s tragic life. So, seeing a specter with her body—even if lacking her face—getting destroyed is a profoundly unpleasant experience.

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At this point, I must ask whether any of my dear readers enjoyed this battle? Were you able to separate the monster from Nanase? Any other fans of In/Spectre?

Legens, scribe sententias tuas.

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