Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom is an anime series based on a visual novel game from Nitro+. With the initial release in 2000 for the PC. In 2009, it was adapted into an anime from Bee Train & Genco. Bee Train does have some experience with anime based on games, having done anime based on Arc the Lad & Wild Arms. In this case, I’d never heard of either the game or the anime before it was requested. So, I don’t know what to expect. Let’s delve right in.
The narrative follows a young man who wakes up in a strange place with no memory, oh how I missed plot convenience amnesia since the series I watched right before this one. He finds himself being chased by a young woman in a theatrical mask. The two struggle and he manages to momentarily gain the upper hand, discovering that the whole scenario was a test. The woman introduces herself as Ein and tells him that his new name is Zwei. The series is going for number names but they’re kind of doing it wrong since her name should be “Eins.” You might think it’s nit-picky to point that and that’s because it is. I will freely admit that. Anyway, it turns out that Ein is a top tier assassin and that she uses the moniker, Phantom. In order for Zwei to survive, he has to train as an assassin. The series then follows his transformation and various tasks undertaken by him and Ein.
There’s really only one significant problem with the story in this. The series suffers from plot contrived slowdown. Basically, there are situations that should be over very quickly that the series takes excessively slowly either for the sake of trying to artificially force drama or because they need a character to act slowly so that they can get another character in a position that they need to be in for the story to go where they want it. I won’t spoil anything important, but there’s a scene where Zwei is trying to kill someone, has ample opportunity to take a shot, but waits it out for a good five minutes for absolutely no legitimate reason. At least it’s not as bad as watching someone bleed to death for fifteen minutes while their inept companion can’t be bothered to tie a tourniquet. I will also say that the ending is very sudden. It arguably works but you might find it a bit off-putting.
On the positive side, the series does have an interesting story arc with a lot of compelling elements. There are twists, turns and time skips that are largely effective at keeping things going in a way that’s natural for everything that’s been built up thus far. It uses flashbacks pretty effectively. It does build tension well, when it’s not forcing the action to a crawl to try to force it. There’s always something going on that keeps you interested in seeing how it plays out. The pacing is pretty close to perfect. It suffers a bit from the slowdown, but the series mostly knows when to use slow moments to build things up and when to get fast-paced and hectic.
There are no good characters in this series. The characters are complex, well-written and have some sympathetic elements to them, but they’re also all pretty damn reprehensible when it gets right down to it. And this is one of those series where that really works to its benefit. Having characters who are really moral and upright wouldn’t work with the setting. This is one of those cases where the characters are largely unsympathetic, but still really interesting. It manages to get you invested in the characters and their narratives by giving you complexity, well executed character development and some intriguing dynamics. The only real issue here is that there’s a character who undergoes a pretty extreme metamorphosis over the course of a time skip and doesn’t seem remotely like they used to be when you next meet them.. The series does try to explain it and flesh it out, but the impetus that it gives for the transformation are pretty weak.
The art is pretty strong in this. There are some really creepy moments, some of which involve molestation and are pretty hard to watch. I do appreciate that the series doesn’t sexualise those scenes. It does take the high road and keeps it classy. The action sequences are nicely intense and can be really interesting. The backgrounds are nicely detailed as well. I do have a couple issues with the artwork, though. The first is that Bee Train’s idea of making a character look intense sometimes includes having them go cross-eyed and there are some scenes where that really detracts from the tone. The other issue has to do with oddly angled scenes. There are some scenes where they’ll show everything slanted or upside down in what appears to be an attempt at looking artistic. It doesn’t. It’s just distracting and a bit annoying.
There are some really strong performances in this. Irino Miyu, Takagaki Ayahi and Sawashiro Miyuki in particular. If there’s any weakness it’s Chiba Isshin. His performance in this can be a bit over the top. Although, in all fairness, it’s not bad. He doesn’t chew the scenery, he just bites into it a bit. Most of the music is pretty amazing and grandiose. There is, however, one big exception. There’s a bit of instrumental stuff towards the end that throws in the sound of a woman moaning in a vaguely sexual way. I have no idea why that’s in there, to be honest. It pops up mostly in action sequences where the moans clash pretty horribly with what’s happening. There’s really no narrative reason for the disconnect. It’s like Kato Tatsuya thought that a woman randomly moaning would make things intense, not realising that the intensity it brings isn’t a violent action sequence type of intensity but, rather, a sleazy hotel room type of intensity.
There’s really not any in this.
Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom has a great story, great characters, strong art, acting and music. It had potential to be so much better, but it gets held back by some really poor decisions throughout. The slowdown of plot elements in a cheap attempt to add drama, the weak character transformation, the oddly angled shots and looks of cross-eyed intensity and the tonally awkward moans in the music. Maybe these are cases where the game handled them fine and it just didn’t transition well or maybe they were problems inherited from the game. Either way, the anime gets an 8/10. It’s still a great series in spite of those issues. Next week, we’ll begin horror anime month with a look at the second Corpse Party OVA.