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.
StoryRecently 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.AnimationWow. 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.SoundThe 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.CharactersPlaying 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.OverallI 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.
Phantom – Requiem for the Phantom, is a 26 episode action anime, with themes of crime and psychological. It’s apparently based on a visual novel, but I’m wondering how on earth they made something so action-packed into a VN and not an action game. From the get go, this anime is soaked with an enriched and interesting plot, as well as some very disturbing and messed up themes. This is definitely a ‘psychological’ anime and is not for the faint of heart. This really isn’t your run of the mill action anime, there’s a whole lot more under the hood. *OPTIONAL* A small note on myself. My reviews have dropped off in frequency (and maybe even quality?) recently and I apologise for that. I haven't been feeling too well and things have been hard on me IRL. I've actually not had as much time to watch anime as I usually do. Back at Christmas, I decided that it would be best to take a break, but of course, some interesting anime came along and I just had to write for them. This is similar to the break I took this time last year, except back then it's because I was legitimately busy. I will be taking a break of sorts in the upcoming weeks or so. If I find there's an anime I must write about, then that's an exception. I've already watched a few few average anime and not reviewed them, like Pandora Hearts. Currently watching Saki and I don't think I'll review that either. It's okay to pass the time, but it's nothing amazing and I can't do a review justice since I don't know much about Mahjong. Animation The animation quality is honestly just tad dated in some respects. That said, I watched it in 1080p and it was actually worth it. The backgrounds were quite detailed and the foreground elements were defined well, just some shoddy textures here and there let things down. Being an action anime, there’s an emphasis on the movement. For the most part this is done great, but on the few occasions, it’s a bit shoddy. One example is a forward view of a person getting shot. No bullet is shown and the bullet hole just suddenly appears and the blood is delayed, though I feel the latter is done on purpose. Detail is there where it shows best and that in the weaponry, I felt like I could recognise some of the guns (and I don’t even play videogames like Call of Duty or Battlefield). There’s a few other scene’s where bullet holes and associated blood are missing and the second outro has some cringe-quality 3D CGI. The style of this anime is nothing spectacular. The characters are regular anime fair as far as designs go, most of these characters designs you’d likely find elsewhere. There is one exception and that’s the black (no intent to offend) chick, she looks almost like a character out of a Western animation. Perhaps that’s due to the lack of such characters in anime, although most anime are set in Japan where there isn’t much in the way of diversity. The anime starts to shine when it comes to the guns, damn are they done well. But then the anime starts to lack consistence in its visuals, characters appearances drastically change, some look like they’ve gone back in time with regards to age and others look like they’ve gone far too forward. I will mention a little on the nudity and violence at that, there is a topless scene at the start. I’m not sure why, but that’s about it. The rest of the nudity is done in the regular sensible fashion, especially the use of the mannequin effect in the outro sequence. Or more like there isn’t nudity. There are some scenes which allude (refer) to sex and of course there’s going to be sexy characters. But they aren’t shoved in the viewers face, this isn’t fan-service or ecchi. It’s just some characters who happen to be sexy I guess. Some of the violence can be quite severe and a bit disturbing. There’s one bit that was most definitely censored, but only by showing the gun as it fires. This doesn’t go down the Elfen Lied route of explicit and horrendous violence, but all that is implied at the very least. Sound The intro music is okay and the first outro seemed a bit familiar to me, it sounded like the intro the anime called Another (incidentally the first review I ever wrote). I noticed the background music quite a bit, it seems to be a decent mix (but nothing like pop or rock) including the typical Qawwali (I had to google it) singing that seems to go well with themes of violence and guns (and is thusly in most modern movies about non-historic war). The anime even starts to play some rap to signify a change in pace and overall atmosphere in the second half, the main character even seems to get his own epic theme tune, which I liked very much (more that fact that he had a theme, than the music itself). However, the music in the anime itself changes when everything else does again for the final several episodes. The second intro feels a bit cheesy, but the second outro is pretty good. Heck, the full version at the very end is amazing and very suitable for the mood. There was an odd choice of background music where it sounded like a woman’s moans during sex. Perhaps that was background sound, but it really didn’t make sense to me why it was there considering the scene had nothing to do with sex. This anime is available in both English and Japanese, I watched it in English as I felt it more thematic, given that the anime is set in America, with mostly American characters, despite the small cast of Japanese characters. It makes sense for a black chick to be voiced by a black chick than a Japanese woman (no offence). Though one could argue that the main character should then have a Japanese accent. But, if that were the case, don’t you think that they would have done such things in English audio of most other anime? IMO, the dub is pretty damn good. We got a Hispanic guy sounding like a Hispanic guy and so forth. English voices are better for accents than Japanese, mainly because Japanese accents only vary within Japan itself. Unlike English, there is no ‘Spanish person trying to speak Japanese’ accent of Japanese. I remember they tried to do something similar with a character in Kuroko No Basuke, but it just sounded like a Japanese person trying not to sound like a Japanese person. It may sound like me complaining, but we just want good clean speech, that we are able to understand (even the Japanese, since some folks actually know that language!). Oh and of course, English names are usually pronounced better in English of course, no thanks “Kurodia.” Ein is voiced by Lindsey Seidel, who voiced Hazuki Shimada in Baka to Test, Yayoi Kunizuka in Psycho-Pass and Aisa Himegami in the A Certain… series (I’m currently reading the novels). Zwei is voiced by Newton Pittman, he voiced Genma Shizume in Darker than Black 2, Yutaka Itazu in Eden of the East (wahey!) and Motoharu Tsuchimikado. I thought Zwei was voiced by Quinton Flynn at first. Nice to see they used relatively fresh voices for the main characters. Claudia McCunnen is voiced by Colleen Clinkenbeard, her numerous roles have included Nice Holystone in Baccano, Youko Takahashi in Baka to Test, Ritsuko Akagi in the Evangelion remake, Riza Hawkeye/Rose Thomas in Full Metal Alchemist (I’ve given up on the abbreviation), Mitsuki Hayase in Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, Rin Asogi in Mnemosyne, Cordelia in Romeo X Juliet, Margery Daw in Shakugan no Shana, Ethana in Tower of Druaga, Reina Sohou in Witchblade and Yuuko Ichihara in Tsubasa Chronicle/XXXHOLiC. Lizzie Garland is voiced by Shay Moore, her only other roles in Anime was Mira Nygus in Soul Eater. Cal Devens had the recognisable voice of Brittney Karbowski, she has voiced the likes of Yuri in Angel Beats, Yukari Sakuragi in Another, Ryou Fujibayashi in Clannad, Kiko Kayanuma in Darker than Black, Kei Shindo in Ef: a Tale of…, Selim Bradley in FMA: Brotherhood, Black Star in Soul Eater (cringe), Mikoto Misaka in the A Certain… series, Henaro in Tower of Druaga and Isana Tachibana in Yumekui Merry. Mio Fujieda is voiced by Leah Clark, she voiced Minami Shimada, Saki Morimi in Eden of the East, Hikari Horaki in the Evangelion remake, Akane Suzumiya in Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, Blair in Soul Eater, Nora Arendt in Spice and Wolf and Kai in Tower of Druaga. Scythe Master is voiced by Kent Williams, known for roles like Dr Gero in Dragonball Z and Father in FMA: Brotherhood, but also Soichi Nishimura in Baka to Test, Mao in Darker than Black, Kozo Fuyutsuki in the Evangelion remake, Sid Barrett in Soul Eater and Utu in Tower of Druaga. Ray Macguire is voiced by J. Michael Tatum, he voiced Isaac Dian in Baccano, Kazuomi Hirasawa in Eden of the East, Ryoji Kaji in the Evangelion remake, Scar in FMA: Brotherhood, Kraft Lawrence in Spice and Wolf and Kelb in Tower of Druaga. Characters Ein, (later known as Erin) is a mysterious young woman of unknown origin and unknown age. While she has a small and petite build, she is actually a very skilled assassin, in fact she is the crowning glory of the organisation known as Inferno, as the best sniper and the deadliest killer in the known world. Ein is capable of some very convincing acting too, she can go from her cold self to acting like a happy-go-lucky civilian in an instant. She was created by Scythe Master, who she has been trained to be loyal to. She follows orders like a doll or puppet and similarly, she lacks feelings or emotions or even a free will of her own. She is only capable of killing either when ordered to or in self-preservation. Her memory from her life before was wiped and that, in combination with her present personality (or lack thereof) makes her perfect killer. She feels that there is no way out, that she must continue to do her job until she is no longer needed. And then she met Zwei… Zwei (later known as Reiji), is a mysterious young man of unknown origin (okay we are told he looks Japanese, but whatever) and unknown age. He has the build of a healthy adult male and similarly to Ein, he has talent. With exceptional survival instincts and the the ability to quickly learn and adapt, he becomes a second Phantom, a protégé and partner of Ein who personally trained him. He had no choice for survival, but to be used by Inferno as a killer. But unlike Ein, he is different. He harbours a bit of ambition and ideas, curiosity that Phantom wouldn’t normally have. Deep inside and locked away, he is still human. That said as the Phantom, he inherits some of Ein’s demeanour. He is a bit more free willed than Ein and combined with the luck of catching the attention of Claudia, this helps him further diverge from his partner. He seems to attract a lot of women, almost like a chick-magnet… Claudia McCunnen is a hot blonde bombshell of a woman and is pretty high up in Inferno. She owns a red Ferrari and lives in a mansion, no doubt the result of her ill-gotten gains. She is smart and scheming, she has ambition and a past for which she lives for. She has no hesitation in getting her own hands dirty to get things done and doesn’t mind even giving up her own body for her ambitions. She takes a liking to Zwei, it seems she has an attraction for him. But she has many enemies in Inferno, people who do not wish for her to gain more power, including Scythe Master and Isaac Wisemel. Lizzie Garland is her closest friend and ally in all of this. Lizzie Garland is short-haired African-American woman, built a bit tougher than her friend Claudia. This makes sense since Lizzie is often on the front lines with a gun, she has been in the game for a long time and is very wary. She likes to play things safe and keep herself alive, she’s fully aware of how dangerous her predicament is. Which is why she’ll often complain, before carrying out some risky orders from Claudia that she might not agree with. The two have been friends for a long time and Lizzie is only looking out for Claudia’s best interests. Which is why she is usually posted as Claudia’s personal bodyguard and second-hand, no doubt her loyalty to Inferno is strong. Scythe Master is the maniacal, but calm mastermind behind Phantom. He is an older man, almost a cold, calculating scientist of sorts, always wearing glasses and has his own agenda, in addition to working for Inferno. Phantom was his creation, having spent a painstakingly long 2 years in the making. He treats her like a doll or puppet, like his lapdog. His desire for perfection makes him take pride in his work and he is always seeking to improve on his ideas. The way he sees the world is strange, he does what he must to survive like most other folks in the underworld, but he believes in survival of the fittest. And he seems to think himself as this, though fit in mind and not necessarily in body in his case. Cal Devens is an orphaned young girl (probably in her early teens), who lived with her sister, a woman who adopted her and has been the only family she ever knew. She got dragged into the world of Phantom when her sister was killed by a stray bullet and Zwei takes her in. She is a very energetic and positive girl, she’ll pretend to be in a movie when holding a gun and yet she also seems slightly broken. When Zwei tells her that she shouldn’t get involved with him and see the things he does, her reply is along the lines of: “I was forced to see my sister die right in front of my eyes. I’m capable of seeing her killers die all the same too.” (probably not an accurate quote). She is rather strong-willed and acts on her own, unlike Ein and Zwei, Cal is too loud and too ‘human.’ She seems to appreciate the smallest things that Reiji does for her. Thing is, she becomes obsessed with Reiji. The way she talks about him and exclaims that she wants to be with him forever, is honestly a bit creepy. She always carries a present she got from Reiji and the fact that she keeps it on her person, is one piece of evidence of her obsession with this older man. Mio Fujieda is a girl who has been kept in the dark about her father and the importance of her identity. She is a high school girl, with the typical group of friends. She’s a bit shy, but overall she’s a very nice person and perhaps the only ‘normal’ human being out of all the characters. She falls into the gentle and sweet trope. Of course, she also has a crush on Reiji too. Story At the very start we are shown that Zwei does indeed become the other half of Phantom, though against his own will as the early episodes show. Phantom shows the dynamic dealings of the underworld, in particular a large criminal organisation called Inferno in the US, where this anime is mostly set. Inferno’s goal is to become a criminal superpower, to either obliterate or assimilate all other crime groups that stand in their way. One of the ways they do this is Phantom. Phantom has great notoriety, the very existence of Phantom strikes fear into the hearts of men. But of course, Phantom is also a tool for Inferno, to be dispatched to ‘take care of business’ when required. With something so powerful, it would be a shame not to use it right? Of course the psychological aspect exists. Not in the least because of an obvious hallucination scene. This anime goes surprisingly deep to what it means and takes to mercilessly take the lives of other people. It especially deals with the loss of memory and identity concerning both Ein and Zwei. It’s like it wants to show what it is that makes a killer tick or what it is that divides them from regular people. Things get even more complex when one realises that despite Ein’s young age, she has been doing this for a long time. Both Phantoms are crafted into killers instead of leading a normal (teenage) adult life and this certainly messes with their heads. Freedom and revenge are also main themes. There is some lines to be read between here and morals to this story. We see the effects of this lifestyle on these characters and what it does to them, the extreme lengths that people go to in this world. There’s definitely a lot of disturbing scenes, even if some of them aren’t directly shown. A lot of pain, both mental and physical. Yet this aspect of the story takes a break close to the end, before returning once more. The story changes pace quite a bit and is rather exciting early on. There are some twists and turns and a bit of in-house politics within the ranks of Inferno too. There’s plenty of foreshadowing, but they do let a few things slip too easily. This anime even has passage of time too, my two favourite plot mechanics. No way could this be bad right. And then the last several episodes happened. That said, the anime still had flaws before that. It was too predictable and lacking ingenuity at times. While the first passage of time is short, it’s very believable and realistic compared to the second passage of time. I’m wondering if the subtitles got these lengths of time wrong. Because the second seems too short considering the changes in a few of the characters. Not only that, but in some respects it even seems to go backwards. Granted, the characters are not fully aware of their ages, but their choice just doesn’t make sense. Were they trying to blend in or something, because things just don’t seem right in those last few episodes? And of course one particular event in the plot occurs twice, but in slightly different situations with different characters. Without spoiling anything, I’ll leave it with the proverb: “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.” Characters just don’t learn. Without spoiling much, the penultimate few episodes seem to go from serious gritty and unique, into something a whole lot more generic and overdone in anime. While in other anime like Evangelion, this might be cool, interesting and make sense, it most certainly doesn’t make sense here. The lack of solid information about the Phantom seems to give the writers the fictional authority to do silly things. All that said, the serious stuff is still there. But this anime most certainly took a wrong turn. Realism seems to exist in some fiction, but otherwise writers have free-reign. This anime mostly seemed to be based in that realism: a specific type of anime. With a few exceptions early on where it almost seems like Zwei (and perhaps Ein too) has superhuman abilities and of course the bending of reality that was the last several episodes. It’s like the anime decided that it didn’t want to be itself anymore, just for a bit. To explain this better I’ll add a spoiler section after the main review. But of course, every cloud has a silver lining. Those last several episodes actually portray some good, interesting and intense story, even if a few things are broken and don’t make sense. Needless to say, this anime leaves no loose ends. It is a complete story from start to finish. They even start to get a bit of the foreshadowing right towards the end too. That ending… wrapped it up beautifully and put a bow on top. Conclusion This anime really is a roller-coaster ride. I think my viewing of it was hurt by high expectations, I saw the word psychological and it peaked my interest. Not to say it didn’t prove to be good. It unfortunately had a few majort flaws: things that either didn’t make sense or weren’t done very well. That said, even through the dodgy final arc, it manages to maintain its essence. I’d recommend this to fans of anime like Black Lagoon and psychological anime. It also has some similarities to Darker than Black, especially considering the protagonist and the remorseless killing. Of course, people who are interested in anime featuring crime and America are also catered to. And even the folks who like a particular bloated’ slice-of-life’ like genre (or rather setting) will be happy with the nod towards it in the latter episodes. It disappointed me at times, but then again, it did have ago at utilising my favourite plot mechanics and managed to pull them off, even if it wasn’t a complete success. I wonder if there were any issues during this anime’s creation. It could explain a few things. Overall, I’m glad I watched it, despite being a bit disappointed due to my own expectations. Considering how the anime managed to pull through despite the issues, it’s a good anime and one I’d recommend. Family-friendliness Rating: 5/5 Contains very disturbing themes (lower is better) Overall Rating: 8/10 (higher is better) **SPOILER SECTION BELOW** The time skip to the last several episodes is roughly 2.5 years. During this time, Cal has been made into a killer and is now a sexy biker chick. From a child to a grown up biker chick, is my problem. That just seems like too much aging for 2.5 years to me. Perhaps she was around 13 in the middle episodes and puberty hit during the hiatus. She aged too fast for a kid who didn’t even look old enough to be a teenager. Then of course, the whole anime turns into a typical high-school slice of life, complete with a mini-harem of sorts and some comic relief character tropes. The second intro is evident of this. It makes no sense for Erin and Reiji to become high school kids in Japan, they should be too old for that. And it most certainly is a strange way to go undercover and hide from Inferno, but I assume that’s what the writers had in mind. I don’t know how they’d be able to get into a school like that. Of course, the two looked like they got younger over the time. Reiji became a bit skinnier and his shoulders weren’t as broad. I swear Ein’s chest shrank too, both characters didn’t seem as tall as before. Was running from America really that tough that they’d shrink? All they had to do was to make it more obvious that the two were undercover and also elongate the time gap a bit for Cal’s appearance to make sense. A few simple words and it would have not been an issue at all.
How lucky was I to have stumbled across this gem. Reviewed after finishing all episodes. Disguising itself as a typical mafia-related action anime, this series was actually an in-depth, close-to-the-heart story about the loss of identity and its psychological consequences on people. While not as dark and explicit as Gantz in its portrayal of human nature, it was an emotional roller-coaster witnessing the main character's life and his pursuit of freedom. Accompanied with gorgeous music by Kokia and finishing with a beautiful ending that left me overwhelmed and in a daze, this series definitely made a deep impression on me. Highly recommend.
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