When In/Spectre first aired in January 2020, anime fans were enthralled with its potential. Episodes 1 and 2 set up a fascinating mix of traditional yokai stories and a modern crime drama, with protagonist Kotoko Iwanaga using both human and supernatural forces to reach a conclusion. Alongside a reluctant Kuro Sakuragawa, whom the yokai greatly fear, Kotoko was set up to be a great vessel to tell Monster of the Week-esque mysteries.
As In/Spectre went on, however, fans drastically changed their minds on the series. The Steel Lady Nanase arc, which took up the remaining ten episodes of Season 1, is the largest source of debate. It tells the story of a creature formed by internet rumor -- reminiscent of Supernatural's Season 1 Episode 17 "Hell House" -- that gains power with every person believing the story. Some loved its in-depth exploration of humanity's natural desire for a good story, while others were not pleased.
Some viewers were upset by how drawn-out the Steel Lady Nanase arc felt, leading to boredom. Others felt like the more interesting things kept happening off-screen. For example, in Episode 9, Kuro is fighting Nanase in an even match between immortal beings, but the anime instead focuses on Kotoko typing messages to a forum page. While her actions are more important to the plot, Kuro's fight is more exciting to watch. Ultimately, it lost a lot of viewers and received just as many negative reviews.
When Season 1 ended, many fans were disappointed because In/Spectre showed terrific potential but didn't follow through. With Season 2 slated to begin airing in 2022, it has plenty of room for improvement. The most important change should be made to the pacing. If it's going to keep telling stories that take multiple episodes to complete, trim any extra fluff from the case at hand to keep viewers' attention.
This problem seems to have an immediate fix when looking ahead in the source material. After the Steel Lady Nanase arc, the manga shortens the time each case takes dramatically. Several shorter stories, taking up only a chapter or two each, occur before another lengthy arc. If Season 2 decides to adapt these manga chapters, they could theoretically take up six or more episodes. With the next arc immediately following, assuming this season is 12 episodes, In/Spectre will have to manage its time in a satisfying way.
Many have commented on how dialogue-heavy In/Spectre is. It's hard to ignore when huge chunks of episodes are just characters talking to each other. Worse, these conversations lead to information being dumped on the audience. This is most likely because In/Spectre was a novel before it became a manga, and then an anime. Books can get away with heavy dialogue to get information across, but it isn't as successful in visual media.
A good adaptation takes advantage of the medium being used and, in this case, it means portraying information visually. This can be done in simple ways, like slightly rearranging story beats. In Episode 5, Kuro's history is revealed to the audience when Kotoko explains it to police officer Saki. She talks about a long-dead ancestor's sick experiments before reaching Kuro's part in the story. It is told to the audience, literally, rather than shown. The information could have been given more organically by Kuro himself, possibly as a "life flashed before the eyes" moment while his body is regenerating in a fight. He could have provided the audience with memories of the day he became immortal, with just enough information to be understood. How far back the incidents go could have been saved for another episode, and so on.
Hopefully another point of contention could be ironed out: Kotoko and Kuro's relationship. To many fans, their romance has felt one-sided from the moment it began and hasn't evolved past that point -- despite the story taking a two-year time skip. Kuro seems just as uninterested in Kotoko as he did when they first met, despite her insisting that they're together and have even been sexually intimate. So, either Kuro is in a relationship where he's unhappy, or Kotoko is still lying to everyone about being with him. Either way, the situation feels uncomfortable and disappointing to those who enjoy romance in their anime. Regardless of how, their relationship needs to develop.
A lot of highly anticipated anime are coming out in 2022, so In/Spectre will have to make some big changes in order to stand out. It's truly capable of becoming something great, now it just has to reach that expectation with Season 2.