In/Spectre and the Unfortunate Truth about the Truth

Really? THIS show gets an opinion piece?

SPOILER TIME for In/Spectre, so if you care to watch it, don’t read this piece.

First off, no, an anime doesn’t need to be stellar to warrant me writing a lot about it. There are, however, some key details and points in In/Spectre that really got my cogs a-turning. Let’s start off with Episodes 2 and 3 that revolve around the Guardian Serpent.

Iwanaga, as the Goddess of Wisdom for the Yokai, goes to fulfill her duty at the request of the great Guardian Serpent spirit of the mountains. The Serpent spirit is greatly troubled due to a woman dumping a corpse into his swamp and saying, “I really hope they find you.” Why someone would travel deep into the mountains and woods to dispose of a corpse, yet still hope that it would be found makes no sense. On top of that, the woman told the police that she’d hoped the Serpent God would eat the corpse. The Serpent God is confused and won’t be satisfied until a reasonable answer is given. After going back and forth through the details of the woman’s history, relationship to the murdered victim, etc., hypothesis after hypothesis is presented, but with each one the Serpent God finds a reason why they also don’t make sense.

A loaded request

Eventually they come to a conclusion that he finds satisfactory. Yet, in reviewing the case with Kuro, she admits that she doesn’t believe this conclusion to be correct, but rather was trying to find a conclusion that would be satisfactory to the God. The most likely scenario is that the woman simply wasn’t acting rationally, or that the Serpent God misheard what she had said. Yet, “…a great yokai who’s renowned as the Guardian would never admit to mishearing someone.” The Serpent Guardian wasn’t satisfied with the woman simply acting irrationally: “Why wouldn’t she say, ‘I hope the serpent god eats you?’ then?” and was certain it MUST be something else, though actual evidence points toward simple irrational behavior.

Too many people in power be like

This really got me thinking about the stories we tell ourselves and it was a bit worrying. I’m reminded of the effect that Goblin Slayer’s “propaganda” had on me a few years back. (In short, I watched Goblin Slayer, and then later noticed an added fury/passion/need to go out of my way when playing Twilight Princess to kill all the bokoblins. Really made me think about media’s role in prejudice, racism, etc.)

It’s easy to have a few pieces of information about a scenario and then from those, hypothesize intentions, motives, methods, etc. When it’s the only story going around, and without further information, it can be easy to get settled into that, comfortable even. Especially when the internet is involved. And unfortunately, some people will want to believe the story they’ve constructed for themselves so much that when more information does come about, it doesn’t matter. Public (and private) opinion and belief are often swayed most by what would be convenient, helpful, or easy rather than objective truths. Just as easily, it can be swayed by what would be the most interesting or emotionally validating, e.g. conspiracy theories. And when some objective truths cannot be proven, or even when they can, it doesn’t mean that people will accept them. It’s a frustrating, disheartening, helpless feeling.

Do this enough and you forget which holes you filled in yourself.

BIG SPOILERS FOR THE WHOLE SEASON AHEAD

For the primary arc of the story, the dangerous entity Steel Lady Nanase draws its power from the belief and fear that people have of it. The more people believe that it’s real and dangerous, the more power it has to appear and hurt or kill people. Thus, Iwanaga’s solution is to convince the majority of internet denizens that the ghost isn’t real and that nothing supernatural is happening in order to stop it from killing others.

Iwanaga initially starts with one specific scenario of how a murder could have been staged, and not been done by the ghost. She goes back and forth over several details with other forum members and has a mostly plausible scenario with a few holes. After that scenario gets mostly debunked, she completely trashes it in favor of a different scenario of “how the murder really happened.” This repeats another two times, and by that point, each vastly different explanation is equally plausible, and as a result there is little to no confidence or trust in ANY explanation. It isn’t as “fun” of a rumor to believe, since there are so many “technically possible” explanations, albeit each with only so much evidence. When dealing with hypothesis and lie after hypothesis and lie, it’s hard to put any stock or belief into any one of them.

I’m not sure I have a big, eye-opening takeaway from this other than that it was unsettling and disheartening to realize/be reminded that ultimately, people will believe what they want to regardless of what the truth is, regardless of it being presented to them. And when not all the truth is available, the gaps are going to be filled in the way that people want. Sometimes they’ll fill in the gaps with what is more comfortable for them, other times with what would be more exciting. Sometimes with what would validate their world view, make them look smarter, get richer, what have you. Whenever there are gaps to be filled, especially if people have a strong desire and need to have all gaps filled, they will fill them with a bias.

Our protagonist’s relationship with the truth can be… flexible.

So in the end, the truth is that the truth is often less exciting, less clean, and less favorable than one wants. And that makes it less important to too many people. Yes, this is a somewhat pessimistic post, but I wish it wasn’t as relevant to life as it is now. Some people suck, and are willing to throw you under the bus as they fill in gaps to construct a narrative that they like better about things they don’t (and usually don’t want to) understand or aren’t willing face. Because that understanding would damage their world-view or preconceived notions about themselves.

You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

And you can tie yourself in knots over and over again in frustration at the uncle who has “done their own research” (read unaccredited social media posts) or the family member who “knows you better than you do” (won’t let go of their self-constructed version of you from five or ten years ago). I’d love to say “so stop fretting about it” but not all incorrect beliefs are harmless. The only real solace of this post is I guess that sometimes you just need to move to the next step. Understand that some people refuse to understand, and proceed in the best way you can.

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