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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Noir mark 4, also known as Requiem for the Phantom (henceforth RFTP). Studio Bee Train messes once again with the exact same premise but this time, unlike its earlier attempts it did things right.
1) It made drastic changes to the formula to the point it didn’t feel like another rehash of a Chicks With Guns show. It was also way richer in context and plot.
2) Unlike its predecessor, El Cazador, it came out during a time when the market was starting to grow weaker and less great anime began being made, making it a lot easier to stand out.
3) It is the last of these Bee Train shows and also its best. Banzai, we are finally free!
So you may now be asking why did I give such a series which is regarded as awesome by thousands of people such a mediocre score. Well, I initially scored it based on how much I enjoyed it but when the time came to sit down and write an elaborate analysis of why I didn’t like it as much … I froze. Why did I give it a 5 anyway? And what was the story about again? And why don’t I remember anything about a series with such a high average score? Hm, might as well give it a second view and find out.
Turns out my memory was whipped just like Zwei’s this anime boasts being a lot more than it really is. And sure, it has many fans and such but then again when was that a proof of anything? Naruto is a piece of tard and has a billions fans while poor old Legend of Galactic Heroes is thrown aside by most because there aren’t half naked chicks with neon swords blowing up huge 3 million polygon mecha in it.
And what did the above rant have to do with the review? Nothing; it’s just nerdrage; moving along to the actual review.
The story is somewhat generic. Or it is for someone like me who has already watched live action movies like Nikita or Leon , and anime series like Gunslinger Girls, Gungrave or Darker Than Black. It’s about
I don’t remember
A criminal organization which plans to rule the world
A criminal organization which plans to unite the underworld
Chicks with guns
Chick with gun, plus a token dude
A pair of angsty assassins
Ein showing bare skin while pondering about the meaning of life while shooting stuff
What was I writing about again?
A pair of teens brainwashed and trained to be assassins for a mafia family which plans to be the top criminal organization with the most diplomatic way possible -> killing anyone who disagrees.
But the whole power struggle fuss is left on a secondary level; primarily it’s about the lead duo, Ein and Zwei, shooting stuff and throwing around existentialism dialogues around the value of life and free choice. So here we are with a rather ok background story and a somewhat promising foreground plot around two slave killers. Sounds ok and in theory it should work … And it didn’t.
The actual story is fine as it is. Mafia families fight to the death, Zwei has morality issues and is eventually hunted by his own masters, there is a lot of shooting going around, a lot of ambitious crime bosses betraying one another, some subtle romance, some subtle erotism, and a final showdown in the end. What could go wrong?
Well … the pacing. I have left behind my days where I could wait 5 episodes for a planet to blow up in just 5 minutes. Most people don’t seem to care if it takes 10 episodes to get a beer from the fridge but I do. The pacing is as slow as a crippled snail; a trademark present in all earlier Bee Train Chicks With Guns shows as well. I have seen worse but it is still on the slow territory. Supposed this is counter-balanced by extreme amounts of atmosphere build-up, character immersion and philosophical dialogues.
But no; it’s still slow in a dull way. I never found any appeal in spaced out expressionless characters looking at the ceiling and questioning the meaning of their existence. Or at least not without something eye-catchy to back it up. I mean, amongst my favorite shows are anime like Tatami Galaxy, Ultimate Survivor Kaiji and Neon Genesis. Sure, those also had a ton of talking about deep stuff. But they also had psychedelic imagery and heart pumping action. RFTP does not.
It sounds weird saying that about a series where in each episode a dozen people get shot and stuff blow up. Sure, there is action. And sure, the backgrounds are very well made and occasionally throw around phycho imagery. But it’s not done in a masterpiece level directing-wise. Take the action parts for example; to the most part there is no real excitement in them. 99% of the opponents Ein and Zwei face are stupid, slow and can’t shoot straight, resulting to overkill battles that usually last only 5 to 10 minutes at best. Heck, the duo can do air flips, walk calmly towards its target or smoke a cigar for a few minutes and the enemies still are unable to react in time. Not to mention the usual trope where sworn enemies just talk to each other for half an hour when all it takes is to press the trigger. If you have watched the previous works of the same director (Madlax, Noir, El Cazador de la Bruja) you know what I mean. Never liked it then; still don’t like it now.
Anyways, the pacing is so slow I ended up losing all interest (and memory) of most of the show the first time. And during the second go, it felt equally dull, only this time I had to pay some attention in order to write this review. I don’t need to explain anything further; even most of the fans of the series will admit that the first arc is too simple, the second too slow and the third too anti-climactic. It has a beginning, a middle and an ending alright, but it lacks proper pacing and climax. It could easily be done in half the episodes and with a lot more excitement in terms of action or suspense.
At this point I would like to address how most of the remarks coming from the fans of the show boil down to “OMG THE ENDING WAS SO TRAGIC!” Yes, it was tragic. Do you have anything else to comment about it? Most likely not; you too would probably have erased everything that happened before just because there was nothing much to remember about besides a weird feeling of cutting your wrists because of the emoness in this show. So I am not going to start spamming 10s all over the place when the only good thing I remember from it are the last 5 minutes.
Enough with the story; now a bit of rage at the cast. First of all they really are an interesting bunch as far as sympathy or interest from the viewer goes. They all have their goals, demeanors, and development. The negative part is that most of the focus is given on the main duo. They are really given a deep immersion, understanding and development. All the rest, with the exception of Scythe Master, are pretty much left with their initial demeanor; making them rather stiff and hard to like. Especially when most of what they do is talking fancy for half an hour, and then sending in the Phantoms to do all the dirty work and pretending all the stuff they were saying so far were dead time. It gets tiresome pretty fast if you combine it with the slow pacing and the fact that all they do is talking. Heck, when it’s their turn to be killed, most of them don’t even put up a decent fight. Well, talk about all words and no balls if despite the ten hours of fancy talking you are still incapable to lift a pistol and shoot straight.
By the end of the show, I only cared for the aforementioned three, and the always needed to be present token loli, Cal. Well, at least she is there to give a human side to Zwei so she was not just unnecessary extra. Still, even those four didn’t feel any special or likable. They were simply given all the damn focus to the point where the show could work with these four alone. The cast isn’t bad; just hard to empathize or remember in the long-run.
ART & SOUND SECTION
At least the external looks of the anime are marvelous and you will not be disappointed in this department. The amount of details and colors given to the artwork are marvelous, almost completely realistic and fitting to the grim setting of the criminal underworld. Crime bosses live in ridiculously high luxury and have an army of thugs, casinos, yachts, saunas, bitches, etc. And how nice, most mooks are not identical Men-In-Black like in previous similar anime. And that champagne looks so well drawn; I actually got thirsty looking at it. Action scenes … well, they are fine I guess but do lack overall realism; the baddies are dumb arses as usual. But heck, there are basic strategies and field tactics used and not ridiculous “one kills a thousand in open field with a water pistol” or something like in Black Lagoon. And then it’s the overall soundtrack which is just an amazing work overall. I have listened to the first opening (Karma) at least a hundred times. The battle theme used in most action parts is also great but it may get tiresome.
VALUE & ENJOYMENT SECTION
Replay value is so-so because of the pacing issues. Historical value is high; it’s by far the best of all the series the director made. In fact, it probably comes only second to Black Lagoon in terms of shoot outs and it’s still far more than just brainless slug fest. Memorability … well … I did forgot it almost immediately the first time, lol. This has to do with only me of course. I have watched a heck of a lot and this series has indeed overall very little to remember it for. It had many tropes I don’t like, such as amnesia, time skips, and too many recaps. The story is not that special, it is slow as heck, the characters are undermined because of that, the action is not great, and the talking is overdone.
As one described it, such Bee Train shows are basically long moody music videos and not good action/mystery series. I do recommend it for the atmosphere and the soundtrack but I otherwise don’t consider it that great as a series.
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.
I got into this series after I had finished Darker Than Black and I was a little skeptical when I started this. Now that I have finished all 26 episodes of this amazing series I consider it one of the best 8 hours and 40 minutes I have ever spent with an anime series. The story is one of the most well written I have seen in a while. Reijis character was very compelling and I loved Eren. Cal, I am a little bit in between on. On one hand, she was a very cute child and on the other she was a very scary Phantom. For those of you who have not seen the series, I will not spoil any plot details but I must warn you that the ending is very ambiguous and although I understood the meaning of it perfectly I dont know if anyone else would. This anime is very dark for those of you considering it but if you can stand a show with very little humor in it, you will love the hell out of this series. The first opening theme "KARMA" by Kokia made its way onto my all time anime theme favorites list as well as the 2nd ending theme "Transparent" by the same artist. Musically, this series was given one of the best scores ever written for an anime series. It almost sounds like you are listening to a concert hall performance with visuals. Every single note fits each scene perfectly and invokes the right emotions. The animation quality was very top notch, on par with "D Gray Man". Overall, if you like dark anime, well written plot lines, and a great musical score in your anime, give this one a try. Just dont expect to like the ending.