Review: Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~

BEETRAIN’s Phantom ~Requeim for the Phantom~ is yet another show based on an ero-game. Phantom -PHANTOM OF INFERNO-, an interactive visual novel created by Nitroplus, was released in Japan in 2000. An OVA was produced in 2004, and this 26 episode series was broadcast earlier this year. In it, we follow the fate of Reiji, a 15 year-old Japanese student forced to join the mafia organisation, Inferno, after he witnessed the killing of a reporter, as the relationships he forms during his assignments force him to make choices perhaps unbefitting of an assassin.

Artistically, Phantom is definitely a BEETRAIN series. Top-notch and relatively consistent animation with many slow scenes and long pauses (BEETRAIN is probably the king of panning shots), complemented by a sweeping electornic score occasionally backed by deep chants or a haunting female voice. The series convincingly conveys the atmosphere of a life dominated by periods of waiting, intersped with moments of sheer violence and surrounded by the constant threat of death. Admittedly, I marathoned most of it, having started watching incredibly late in the season, and I can hardly say that I pay all that much attention to the animation values anyway, but on this front, I really have no complaints.

The overall flow of the plot, and thus the associated development of characters and their motivations, is where Phantom underwhelms this viewer, if only because of an incredibly strong start. The first arc was a sublime exposition of the path Reiji followed in becoming an assassin, ridding himself of most of his emotions except but unable to dismiss those that connect him to the person most similar to himself. The action scenes were gracefully exciting, but most of all, the emotional scene were Reiji removes the bullet from Ein’s hip and resolves to protect her, was beautifully done.

The second arc was also touching in showing how Reiji had lost his humanity following the loss of Ein, and how Cal was able to start healing it. I also enjoyed seeing the scheming and plotting by various parties in their quests for power, which demonstrated just how much Reiji and Ein/Ellen were simply pawns with little real say in their fate. Ein’s character is also revealed to have developed in this arc, but I felt that the writers should have revealed, in flashback, Ein’s thoughts as she took the bullet for Scythe Master at the end of the previous arc. Perhaps an astute viewer would have come to the correct conclusion, that Ein took the bullet because she felt that Reiji’s gentleness would be completely destroyed by him shooting Scythe in cold blood (I don’t remember where I read this, but it’s apparently in the game), but it was something that I would have liked confirmed.

Given all that had been achieved up to this point, the third act seemed somewhat ridiculous in several aspects. I did enjoy the scenes where Ein and Reiji act as typical high school students, wrapped up in confessions and dates and hanging out with friends. Ein’s acting, in particular, is quite unbelievable, but the writers did make good use of simple things like snow and rainbows to show the gentle nature that life as an assassin had almost stolen from Reiji. However, Cal’s transformation – over a mere two years – from a capricious loli with huge eyes into a busty, bitter 16 year-old was a bit too unbelievable. The personality change, yes, given how betrayed she felt, but the body change…er… True to the visual novel, perhaps, but really, the only reason viewers can connect those two is because the creators said so. Furthermore, the six assassins that Scythe Master created, though mere imitations of Ein, surely should have been better than that.

Finally, there is the ending too. Admittedly, it is an extension that was not in the game, and thus, perhaps, the only thing the writers felt they could shock viewers with. I’ve already noted that a certain character’s death is, in a manner of speaking, not unexpected and quite deserved because that is the nature of an assassin’s life. However, thanks to the execution the writers chose, rather than it being the end of a character arc, it felt as if the studio had simply want to go for the shock factor. Perhaps they did. And they succeeded in a way, because everyone was talking about the ending after it’d aired. Nevertheless, I feel that they could have achieved better cohesion, particularly with the character arcs, had they gone for a far more open ending too, ala NOIR, rather than leave us to imagine what the remaining character would do. This ending was far too final and abrupt for the studio that has produced series such as NOIR, the .hack franchise and Avenger.

In summary, Phantom ~ Requeim for the Phantom ~ has incredibly strong values that make it one of the most atmospheric series that BEETRAIN has ever produced. However, despite a strong start, it was let down by an average ending that is perhaps compounded by the shock factor that the writers seems to be going for with the ending. I was completely hooked by the first and second parts, but that only made the finale all that more disappointing. 7/10

On a slightly unrelated note, I’ve seen photos of the Mongolian plains, and whilst the skies weren’t quite the vivid blue depicted in this anime, and the clouds were more sparsely spread out, it was beautiful. I can only imagine the wonder one who has come from a crowded city would feel when standing in that amazing canvas.

About karice
MAG fan, amateur translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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