As I sit down at home to watch Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~, I notice that Studio Bee Train produced this series. Ok, good pedigree. Same studio that produced Noir, Madlax, and .hack//Sign. I could use a good spy series today. So, with this in mind, I pressed play…
…and I kinda wished I didn’t.
The series reminds me of a mix between the Bourne Identify, Noir, and The Professional. It begins with a man who’s had his memory erased and his training to become an assassin. Given the name Jaso-er, I mean-Zwei, he is trained by Ein (who strikes more than a little of Kirika Yumura from Noir) and eventually the two will work together for Inferno, an underground group that collaborates with many criminal organizations. Together they are called Phantom, the title given to the top assassin of Inferno.
Due to the large cast, very few characters are actually fleshed out. In exchange, there’s a very intricate weaving of several plot lines. One of the main players (aside from Ein and Zwei) is Scythe Master, the “creator” of Ein & Zwei, whose infatuated with his research and his own plans. Another character is Claudia McCunnen, an executive of Inferno who manipulates Zwei in order to have her own “Phantom”. There is a new character introduced during the second act named Cal Devens that adds a whole new plot line, but I won’t spoil the details.
The main drawback of this series is the erratic pacing. Some scenes seem to drag unnecessarily long, whereas others skip forward months or years. This can cause viewers to either lose interest or feel like they missed something (and in many cases, they probably have). Some of the major time jumps do give the series a shot of adrenaline, but then it’s quickly back to 30min of slow-moving dialogue. This series was once described to me as the anti-action action anime, and that’s as accurate as you can get.
Given the pacing of this series, you can listen to either the Japanese or English dub with little difference. Newton Pittman (who voices Zwei) sounds at times like Ray Liota, but loses it once any sort of emotion was needed. Lindsay Seidel plays the role of Ein with a certain distance, which is what exactly this role needed. Colleen Clinkenbeard and Kent Williams are brilliant as Claudia McCunnen and Scythe Master.
One of the big disappointments of Phantom is the animation quality. Bee Train has produced some beautiful series in the past, but this series seemed to be a step backwards. Several of the backgrounds seem muddy and haphazard. Most of the action is edited with quick cuts, which doesn’t allow for an appreciation of the art.
There is a certain musical piece that is so heavily used, I ended up starting a drinking game based on it. It’s this hip-hop style strings-with-drums piece that’s enjoyable the first couple times around. It is used about 3-4 times an episode, whether it’s during a narrative or an action scene, or even just driving down the street. The OP/ED tries to emulate the themes from Noir, but never quite gets it right.
Overall, I really wanted to love this series, I really did. I loved the story, the intricate plot twists, even the detail in the weapons and cars. Sadly, I could never relate to any of the characters, the pacing was too erratic for me, the music was just annoying, and the production value as a whole was just lacking. This series has some flashes of brilliance, but in the end fades into the grey with so many other spy anime. If you enjoy a spy series, it is worth a watch online. If you can get past episode 6, you will probably stick it out for entire series. If not, you can save yourself the $50.
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