Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom [Anime]: Interesting and clever, but should have been longer

Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom (2009) is a 26-episode action/thriller anime. It’s based on the visual novel game Phantom of Inferno. It has also been adapted into a three-episode OVA Phantom: The Animation, and a three-volume manga that shares the title with the anime series. As far as I can tell, both of these adaptations are based on different endings to the game. The ending of the anime series is considered to be the “true ending” for Ein. 

Phantom

What’s it about?

In the future-America, ruled only by gangs, a man wakes up without his memories. Finding himself in a kill-or-be-killed situation, he shows enough potential as a future assassin that Scythe Master, a middle-man for gangs and assassins, and currently working for the infamous Inferno, decides he wants to use him. Given the name Zwei, the man is partnered with Ein, Inferno’s current assassin, otherwise known as Phantom. Zwei is horrified at how easily he can take others’ lives, not possessing the almost-robotic, enslaved personality of Ein. However, leaving the group would mean death, and Zwei is willing to do anything to avoid that. Claudia McCunnen, one of Inferno’s top executives, takes an interest in him, but what does it mean if her objectives are different to that of Inferno’s?

The Positives

I absolutely adored the art in this series. It’s very similar to the Darker Than Black series, favouring realism over typical anime style. However, there is still a lot of emphasis on the eyes, and the series uses this cleverly, changing Ein and Zwei’s eye-colour when their “killing intent” is apparent. The animation throughout this series is fluent, and action/fight scenes are handled incredibly well. The series as a whole has a very dark atmosphere, and I love the use of the sombre colour palette, with the occasional pop of colour to enhance the moment (Ein’s dream/memory is a great example of this). I also like the use of symbols throughout the series, especially in the opening and closing sequences.

Zwei's "killing intent" as shown by his changed eye colour and style

Zwei’s “killing intent” as shown by his changed eye colour and style

I adored the sound track of this series, from the heavy-action music, to the trinket-box melody, to the opening and closing themes. The first opening, Kokia’s “Karma” has the perfect tone to set up the series, creating the mysterious-dark mood that is perfect. I love ALI PROJECT’s “Jigoku no Mon (Hell’s Gate)” and “Senritsu no Kodomotachi (Children of Fear)” as well. All of the music suited the series beautifully.

I really liked the mix of sadness, trauma, and action in this series. Ein and Zwei’s line of work was treated with a surprising amount of seriousness; at no point did any of the characters look at what they were doing and think it was “cool” or exciting; if anything, they saw it as the exact opposite. Zwei in particular saw assassination as the sole mean for his survival, but you could feel his shock and sadness when he realised what he could do to stay alive. I like that the writers really allowed the viewer to see his trauma. There were plenty of emotional-heavy scenes that really made you think. Although lacking any true sense of comedy, which in the case of this series was quite a good thing, the numerous action scenes helped to keep the series flowing and to give the viewer a break from the emotion.

Finally, moving onto the characters. This series sets up an interesting comparison between Ein, Zwei, and later assassin Drei. Although all assassins, all donning the name of “Phantom” at the some point, and all in their line of work through the actions of others, the three are very different. Thanks to the creepy Scythe Master’s experiments, each new assassin is in some key way different to the one before, allowing the viewer to watch an evolution as the story progresses. I really liked Ein, Zwei, and Drei as interesting characters in their own right. Their psychologies were very different and interesting, and I liked that the series let me understand the thought process behind their actions, from the doll-like Ein’s blind obedience, through Zwei’s confusion and trauma, to Drei’s out-of-control spiral. They kept me engaged throughout the whole series.

The Negatives

I really think the anime suffered from only having 26 episodes; it really needed a longer run. Don’t get me wrong, it tells the story quite well without feeling rushed, but there are really weird jumps between the three “chapters” of the anime, both in terms of pacing and atmosphere of the series. The last chapter is the ultimate example of this; it feels really out-of-place as the setting changes to an ordinary high-school (how old are these guys, anyway?!)… at least the last few episodes make up for this. Another reason this series would have benefited from a longer run is due to the number of tragedies and traumatic-dramatic incidences that occur throughout the plot; if this anime had more episodes, there would have been more time to explore the impact of these incidents on the characters, thus making them more salient and meaningful in the long-run. Sadly, the anime is forced to move quickly through these events, losing any chance of these events to really have a profound emotional effect on the audience. Finally, a number of side characters, especially Claudia McCunnen, feel underdeveloped and under-utilised; they would have been so much more had the series the opportunity to develop them further.

Two years? TWO YEARS?! That's even pushing it too far for anime!

Two years? TWO YEARS?! That’s even pushing it too far for anime time-skips!

The last point for me isn’t really a negative (I honestly quite liked it), but I know it’s something a lot of people don’t particularly like… an ambiguous ending. I think there’s enough hints and symbolism in the final scene to understand what really happened, but it is left open to interpretation. Admittedly, if could have been handled a bit neater to give it a nicer touch.

Anything else I should consider?

This anime has quite a lot of adult themes in it; wouldn’t recommend for someone under the age of sixteen. You’d think this is a given, considering the series focuses on assassins, but as mentioned earlier, the anime as a whole is a lot darker than similar series I’ve watched. There is a surprising amount of nudity and sexual references.

Another thing to consider if you watch anime at home; wear ear-phones when watching this series. There’s a couple of scenes and a particular song on the sound-track in the last “chapter” that sound questionable if they were overheard by somebody else.

Conclusion

Art:  9/10: Gosh I love this art so much. The colour-palette is used cleverly, the emphasis on realism is refreshing, and the action scenes are perfect.

Story: 6/10: The story itself is pretty straight-forward, but the atmosphere and psychological aspects of the series makes it far more enjoyable. However, the weird tonal change between the three “chapters” and loss of emotional impact on the audience through the story’s quick unfolding is disappointing.

Characters: 7.5/10: While I adore the individuality of Ein, Zwei, and Drei, and the way the series encourages a direct comparison of the three, many of the side characters are not given the development they deserve.

There is so much to like about this series, particularly if dark, psychological dramas are your thing; awesome art, a beautiful sound track, and interesting characters. The atmosphere of the series is created very well, and the series as a whole is engaging. However, the series does suffer from being too short; aspects of the series lose their impact as the story quickly moves on. Overall, I give it a 7.5/10, and a strong recommendation to check out if anything like Darker Than Black or Another is your cup of tea.

-S

Ein and Zwei, my latest OTP

Ein and Zwei, my latest OTP

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4 thoughts on “Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom [Anime]: Interesting and clever, but should have been longer

  1. I found this too dark and tragic for me, and because I shipped Reiji/Zwei x Cal more so than him with Ein, the way that ship ended was …. too much for me to bear, haha.

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