Recently I've seen plenty of good shows, but none have kept me hooked from the get-go. None, that is, until I fired up Phantom ~Requiem of the Phantom~ and polished off every one of the twenty-six episodes in a week (not bad considering how little I have actually been at home recently). Early nights were cast aside and my much needed beauty sleep forgotten, as I felt the urge to continue the journey with the characters and find out what happens next.
Trained by an unlikely waif-like killer, Reiji is an innocent bystander who is forced to unleash his untapped potential to become another of the warped teacher, Scythe Masters', murderers. Called the Phantom, Ein is a young, agile girl with an natural instinct for bloodshed and thus a valuable comodity amongst the mafia. The relationship between the trio is somewhat twisted; Scythe plays a two-faced father - first nurturing and then disposing of his two deadly protege, whilst Ein and Zwei (Reiji's new code name) obey their paternal figurehead unquestioningly. Seeing the poor, naive boy dragged into a mercenary world that is so far flung from his own gives a sense of sympath for his predicament, and the trials he faces as he aims to become the best in his field are utterly engrossing.
The slick fighting scenes are what most people will remember the show for, but the hint of romance and relationships are what I found attractive. Unfortunately, the final third of the show takes place in a traditional Japanese high school, almost as if the writers felt the urge to draw as diverse of a crowd as possible whilst continuing to tell a dark and violent tale. The abrupt departure from the brutal streets of New York left me initially confused, especially with timeline jumps that left some characters untouched, whilst others aged very quickly. Ignoring this minor continuity issue, the ending sparks some debate amongst anime fans; many complain about the surprise twist, but I found it a moving way to top off a very well told story.
Overall, Phantom successfully weaves an intriguing tale of misplaced loyalties and betrayal, topping it off with lashings of action. With three distinct changes of pace and setting, the flow of the story seems to drag in places as the underworld politics become a little excessive as the main focus in the middle section. However, the increase in action towards the mid-point of the show more than makes up for these short-lived moments of mediocrity; twists and turns aplenty from the underlying gangster tale sees various groups of mafia facing off against yakuza to keep the show feeling fresh. At the risk of upsetting any Pacino puritans, the gangster's rise and struggle for power is almost as tasty and epic as Scarface.
Wow. Just wow. Be prepared to have your socks knocked off by the visual smorgasbord that reveres both characters and scenery alike. The small things about the cast are undoubtedly special; from the slick movement of the hair during a shrug, to a character simply blinking, it is all seamless and much more realistic than anything I have seen before. Whilst the background artwork features impressive shots like a slow-motion helicopter ride over a night-time city, the foreground presents CG vehicles blended in seamlessly with a busy street. As is the norm with such impressive visual shows like this, the middle of Phantom seems to be less accomplished than the opening. Although forgivable and still watchable, it prevents me from bestowing a perfect mark upon the animation.
The tones of Ali Project are unmistakable in the ED (also recognisable for the Rozen Maiden and .Hack//Roots themes). Awash with rich Lilium-esque tones, the OP is both an aural and visual treat. Claudia's musical theme recalls back to the languid tones of 90's porn, which is fitting considering the size of the woman's bust. Reiji is also awarded his own tune part way through the series; a frequently played quirky rap song that would probably be dreadful on the radio fits perfectly with a sudden release of tension built up in the first half of the show. Musically equivalent to a soliloquy, the incidental soundtrack rewards the attentive listener with a wide range of emotionally stirring tones.
Playing a real love/hate game with the viewers’ emotions, the cast of Phantom is likable for the most part, but they all suffer from glaring human flaws. Then again, this gives each character a believably realistic edge that sets them apart from the recent deluge of the flat and predictable personalities in other recent shows. Ein’s cold and robotic nature occasionally slips to reveal a shy girl who spends her life looking for stability. It is a shame her complex side is spoilt by the inevitable need to clothe herself in revealing dresses and swimsuits. The unfortunate exploitation of the female form also plagues Claudia and newly blossoming Cal. Ignoring the minor ecchi lapses, each girl undergoes some serious development, and quickly leaps into a league of their own. For his part, Reiji plays an unlikely hero perfectly, dragged into a world so different from the one he knows and learning to adapt and finally excel in his new career as a trained assassin. His quiet understanding and protective nature resonate in stark contrast to the transformation into a heartless killer.
I cannot help but draw a parallel between GunGrave and Phantom. However, doing so also highlights that the story lacks the gut-wrenching punch of its predecessor, and so fails to reach breathtaking heights of excellence. That said, the show will definitely impress with gorgeous visuals, haunting melodies and fascinating plotline. Grab a drink, put your phone on silent and get ready to immerse yourself in an easily marathonable show.
A young man awakens in an abandoned warehouse with no memory of his past. As he leaves the room and ventures further into the warehouse he is attacked by a girl in a mask; she tells him that in order to live he must come at her with all his might. After a fight for his life, he manages to overpower the girl, learning that he is to be trained as a Phantom - an assassin for the Inferno organization. He is also given a new name: Zwei. For three months, Zwei is trained by the girl in the arts of assassination until he has just one final test: to kill a living human being.
As a not-so-closet perv, I love watching anything involving panty-shots, handfuls of cleavage and an innuendo fuelled plot. Although most of my reviews will err on the risque, I also love the obscure, the twisted and things that make you think - drop me a line if you want to discuss any of them!