Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom
Ever wonder what effect killing tons of people, many of them possibly innocent, has on a regular person? If there’s any truth to Phantom, we can tell by looking into their eyes. Their cold, dead, lonely eyes.
In Phantom two innocent teenagers (a boy and a girl) have been brainwashed into becoming assassins for the underground crime organization known as Inferno. Their memories have been erased, and they are forced to kill for the organization. The penalty for disobeying orders is of course death. The series starts us off with the male part of the equation, now known as Zwei, going under harsh training to become a cold hearted killer. His trainer is Ein, the female half of the duo. The show then takes us through all the expected territory . The two go on many missions for this organization, and kill a lot of people. There’s a particularly well done scene here that pretty much depicts, in anime form, the loss of one’s soul. But this only lasts for a few episodes before Zwei gains his memory back, at which point the series first of it’s many dramatic twists occurs. It is at this time that the series really takes off. And instead of returning home, or trying to get revenge on the organization, what does Zwei do? He stays, and works his way up the organization! He becomes one of the best assassins on the planet! And all of his free will, now.
Now I know that sounds like I gave away the entire story, but it doesn’t even begin to explain this complex story filled with betrayals, conspiracy, hidden agendas, and violence. Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom evolves into a dark, seedy, and deadly serious suspense-thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat up until the very last second of the final episode. This show is completely unpredictable. Often leading you to believe it’s heading off in one direction, and then changing directions completely. The show ends up in a place you could never have imagined only a few episodes ago. And it does this multiple times! And it got me every time. This is so drastic that if watched out of order, episode 20 would feel like a completely different show! This is a major positive attribute of the show however. It allows for complete freedom, and makes it so very suspenseful. You never know what will happen, next, who will die, or what plans that person really has up their sleeves. Everything is on the table in this series, and no one is safe. This show is very stressful, and you don’t get a minute of rest until the very last episode, which is filled with an unusual amount of serenity. I wholeheartedly welcome this style of storytelling. God knows we could use more anime suspense-thrillers. The medium of anime seems well fit for handling these types of shows. Dramatic events, surprise twists, sharp unexpected turns, thrilling ups and downs, and nail biting cliffhangers? Yup, all work amazing well in anime! Which is why it saddens me that I can count the number of true anime thrillers on my hands. This genre needs more love.
The anime brings up an interesting question. Does being forced to kill, to become an assassin, absolve you of all sin? If not absolve you completely, does it possibly excuse your actions, at least partly? These characters have very few options here. They can kill their targets, they can outright refuse in which case they will be killed on the spot, or they can attempt to run from the organization.Of course just like the Mafia, you can never truly get away, they’ll track you down almost certainly. That is organized crime at its best, or worst depending on your point of view. I think the anime gives us an answer to this question, although you’ll have to watch the entire show to understand it. Now I’m not going to pretend this is the deepest, most profound show ever made. But this question, which is a real nagging one at that, does cut pretty deep.
The characters in Phantom are pretty realistic for this type of show. They remind me of the best characters of the gangster/crime movies of hollywood. Ein and Zwei are a little cold and expressionless, especially early on (for good reason), but there’s no lack of character and emotion in the background here. The members of Inferno and rival organizations are very lively. Sythe Master is a cold bastard, the one who made Ein and Zwe into assassins, he’d sort of have to be. Yet you do eventually learn where he is coming from. Claudia, a high ranking member of Inferno represents the allure and seduction of organized crime all too well. She sports a half a million dollar sports car, great clothes, and lives in a mansion. And she’s incredibly ambitious, at yet she has her own motives for being involved with the organization. Lizzie, Claudia’s bodyguard, is sassy, tough, yet has a real sense of loyalty, especially toward Claudia. And then of course you have McGuire, the true head of Inferno, but I’ll let you figure him out on your own. All in all this is an interesting, lively group of people to watch. But Ein and Zwei are the real focus, and slowly but surely we see them in a different light. There’s a scene where Ein and Zwei are acting, pretending, to be a regular teenage couple in a mall. And Ein hugs Zwei to throw off the scent of some guards. Yet their hug lasts unnecessarily long. The expression in Ein’s face seems so real. And when she sighs it really makes you feel something for this girl. There’s a point where these two are no long acting. It’s definitely there, although only for a scene or two. These two, on a subconscious level, eagerly wish to be normal. Yet they’d never dare say that, not even to each other. You really will warm up to these two after that point. This anime is great for being able to convey things like that multiple times without spoon feeding it to the audience. I really love all these characters, but especially Ein, Zwei, and Cal.
Another great aspect of this anime is it’s many great shout outs to famous movies in the same genre: Leon: The Professional, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Casino, The Godfather, and Scarface. The references to these movies are brilliantly worked into the narrative and never feel out of place. Despite being an anime, this feels like a quintessential American tale. It mostly takes place on the west coast in places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and the desert between Vegas and LA. Although the east coast cities are visited as well later on when Inferno moves on to set up shop there. And of course the writers find a way to make Japan relevant somehow. At any rate I love this! It’s like the standard American crime tale, only much more suspenseful! This could easily become a live-action TV series on HBO, and no one would ever guess it had anime origins (or rather visual novels origins, seeing how this is the second adaptation of the Phantom of Inferno game by Nitroplus). Which is not to speak bad of anime or anything. Koichi Mashimo (Dominion Tank Police, Dirty Pair: Project Eden, Madlax) uses what he learned while director Noir incredibly well, at yet he prevents this series from treading water. He brings this story to new places, does different things, and unlike Noir it’s much more tightly written and not episodic at all. But the feeling, the atmosphere, the tone, it’s all there. Bee Train did the animation here, and it’s not bad. Early episodes really disappointed me, as there are a lot of stills and shortcuts used here. But it gets better as the series goes on. This is never going to win some type of award, but it’s not distracting either. Artwork is wonderfully done. The cityscapes of LA, the foreboding Mojave Desert, the seedy and not-so-seedy parts of Vegas, all this has never looked so good. Character designs are not really original, but are the perfect type for this sort of series. My only complaint is that the rack on Claudia is a little too big, it makes her look silly. (Is that the first time someone ever complained that a women’s boobs were too big? A-hem anyway…)
The music in this anime is amazing. The background themes give off a Yuki Kajiura-esque feeling, which of course is a perfect fit. Although she didn’t work on this series the powers that be still wanted that kind of feeling for this show. Only the music is even more intense then her stuff. Think of her Noir soundtrack, only on cocaine and speed! At yet it also matches the darkness and depravity of the mob movies this anime follows in the footsteps of. This soundtrack has the American Mob movie type of a feel to it somehow as well. My hat is off to Hikaru Nanase. If the series really wanted to blow my mind, there is a scene where the song “Bells of St. Marys” by The Drifters (used in the movie Goodfellas) would have fit perfectly, but alas this series will only indulge me so far. The first opening theme is seductive and very nice to listen to. It’s ending theme reminds me of an evil circus, yet it’s sort of other-worldly . I really do like it. The second opening theme is odd, but it works due to the change in tone of the show. And the second ending theme is hauntingly beautiful. Themes for specific characters (Cal ‘s especially ) are perfect. This is one of my new favorite soundtracks for sure. The dub too, is wonderfully done! Relative new comers Lindsay Seidel and Newton Pittman, play Ein and Zwei respectively. And they do take a few episodes to get used to their characters. However they bring a freshness and uniqueness to this show, that it really needed. It’s great to hear two (relatively) new voices carry the series. And they do a magnificent job once they get used to their characters. Of course Colleen Clinkenbeard is perfect as the seductive Claudia. Shay Moore is brilliantly cast as Lizzy, and instantly understands the character. Kent Williams yet again plays a scientist/doctor, this time the Scythe Master. And damn is he good at it. One might say why not have him play something else for a change? I would argue let’s not fix what’s not broken here. And he does manage to bring something new to the table this time, making the character incredibly creepy and icky. Brittney Karbowski plays Cal Devens, an important character that is introduced late in the series. And she handles this like the pro that she is. All the other actors are great too, and all in all I really love this dub. This is one recent funimation dub that really stands out.
Much like Infinite Ryvius (of which head writer Yousuke Kuroda, also wrote), Phantom wisely keeps its humor firmly in the extra features. Rather then shoehorn some comedy relief in (which would feel out of place) the show is deadly serious. This is just another strong point of the series. I’m so tired of boring, forced, uninspired humor being tossed in just because the writers feel they can’t be entirely serious all the time. To sum this all up, the writing here is wonderful, the action restricted but well done, and the characters interesting and great to watch. This series is one of the better suspense-thrillers out there, and great for any fan of American Crime and Mob films. This series offers a fresh twist on Koichi Mashimo’s “girl’s with guns” series by making one of the protagonist male. With a strong dub, perfect soundtrack, and great concept, I am left wondering why this series is overlooked. I love this anime so much, I’m already watching it for a second time! So gve this show a shot!
Positives: Incredibly suspenseful, tightly written, colorful characters,great references to Hollywood movies, perfect soundtrack and wonderfully fresh dub.
Negatives: You haven’t seen it yet.