Director: Koichi Mashimo
Writer (of original manga): Nitroplus
Animation Studios: Bee Train
Version Watched: Dubbed
[Quick Note]: The style of this review is outdated. However, the review score and general opinion still stand.
You’ve probably heard of a love-hate relationship and, well, Phantom is an anime that doesn’t make me feel either of those emotions. Where it was good it could have been better and where it was bad it could have been worse, which made for a fairly average viewing experience. The thing I didn’t know when starting this series was that it was originally a Visual Novel called Phantom of Inferno, which was only released as a DVD-Game in Western countries. There was a re-release to make it more like the anime (visually, anyway), but that was never translated. It’s unfortunate that I wasn’t able to play the VN first, though I don’t feel too bad about that because the initial release wasn’t very easy on the eyes.
Enough about that. Phantom ~Requiem For The Phantom~ is about a man that wakes up one day to find that his memories have been wiped and he’s set to be trained as an assassin for a criminal group known as Inferno. There are worse ways to wake up, I’m sure, but this one is probably pretty high on the list. He is given the name Zwei and along with his creatively-named partner, Ein, begins to lose himself in a world of murder and death. Phantom’s plot goes through two or three fairly major transformations over the course of the anime and although I became more interested after each change I could never quite say that I was enjoying the show. The concept itself (at least to begin with) is an interesting one that I think could have been entertaining if more effort had to been put into character development. As it was there were a couple of comments made about how much Zwei disliked his new life, which really only amounted to the expected response to his situation and nothing more.
The odd thing about Phantom is that there aren’t any genuinely likeable characters. Zwei can be a pretty nice guy, admittedly, but his tendency to just go with the flow without doing anything to change it makes him come across as uncaring and apathetic. Ein has so little initiative it’s frustrating; I don’t think she forms a thought of her own till well into the story, and even then she remains two-dimensional. The character that comes closest to likeability would have to be Lizzie, a bodyguard for one of Inferno’s top dogs, but she plays too small a part to be a character the watcher cares about (despite the writers’ best efforts).
What Phantom does well with, however, is its villain (if you can really call him that). The hallmark of a good villain is his ability to inspire hate in the viewer, and I really wanted to give this one a good “talking to” with a bat and a couple of mates. He’s the kind of antagonist that makes you squirm with dislike without directly antagonising. He sits in the dark and schemes, all the while sure of his supremacy, and every time you see him the bile rises in the back of your throat. It may be its only redeeming factor, but Phantom certainly knows how to portray a real villain.
As in Canaan, the action in this series is fairly minimal. A shootout here, a close-quarters scrap there, but not enough to deserve the title of an action series. The two assassins, Ein and Zwei, have a weird blurry, jumpy, float-along-the-ground-like-they-have-wheels-on-their-feet thing going on that looks like some sort of special ability, but it’s sort of just accepted as normal and never actually explained. It’s not even used in all of their combat scenes, making it all the more conspicuously odd when it does show up.
Despite only being 26 episodes long Phantom has two entire flashback episodes, with one being shown every ten episodes. Maybe that sort of thing is acceptable or even expected in those 200+ episode monster-series, but my memory isn’t so bad that I need to be reminded of what happened only a few hours ago. It’s almost cheeky, really. The end of the series is average, but ties up all the loose ends nicely (as long as you ignore the last few seconds), which is always a good thing. As just mentioned, there’s a rather unnecessary bit added on the end which really doesn’t make any sense, so it’s actually pretty lucky that the plot didn’t mean much to me.
I don’t have much to say about the audio and visual aspects. The animation was fine, along with the BGM, although I wasn’t too fond of the opening and closing sequence music. I guess it suited the anime though, so I can’t really complain.
Summary – Phantom is another example of an interesting concept that fails to deliver a satisfying final product. I can’t say whether the Visual Novel did things any better, but the anime isn’t one I’d recommend due to its uninteresting characters and overall lack of excitement. Having said that, it was close enough to being good that I didn’t mind watching the whole thing, and I’m sure that there are people who would enjoy it. It doesn’t quite earn the title of “Bad”, but I won’t be in any rush to watch it again.
Score: 6/10 – Average