Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom Anime Review

Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom
Complete Collection - 7 discs
650 mins. - 26 episodes
$74.98 (2012) DVD/Blu-Ray
$59.98 (2011) Parts 1-2/ea.
ISBN 704400087745
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Koichi Mashimo
Studio - GENCO/Bee Train

Synopsis: A young Japanese man awakens in a room with no recollection of who or why he is there.  All he knows for certain is someone is trying to kill him.  He exits the room and is confronted by the attacker - a girl wearing a mask.  She tells him "If you want to live, come at me with everything you've got!" before renewing her attack.  The young man manages to survive her attacks and land an offensive move.  The girl is revealed to be named Ein and the top assassin for a powerful criminal organization called Inferno.  Inferno's top assassin is designated "Phantom" and the young man will now be trained to become a killer.  His memory lost, the young man is named Zwei by the man in charge of the "Phantom" project called the Scythe Master.
Ein gives the future Zwei a little motivation to fight back
Ein begins Zwei's difficult training and it is revealed his survival instincts and innate talents as a killer may even surpass hers.  She is an emotionless killer and brainwashed by Scythe Master to be an obedient puppet.  Zwei goes through the same brainwashing, but still clings to the hope of discovering his missing past.  Inferno is a coalition of criminal organizations and continues to grow by adding new groups.  Inferno uses the Phantom to keep their members in line and frighten opposition.  In the event a group refuses to join then Inferno convinces the second-tier members of the group to join by putting them in power after the Phantom eliminates the first-tier.
Zwei is trained by Ein to become an emotionless tool for killing
A high-ranking member of Inferno, Claudia McCunnen manages the Scythe Master and his Phantom project.  She dislikes and distrusts him due to his conniving and sadistic manner.  She plants the seed in Zwei's mind that he is not just a tool, but has individuality.  It leads to his alignment with her instead of blindly following the Scythe Master's commands as Ein does.  Claudia is attended by a tough woman named Lizzie who grew up and joined Inferno with her.  It is revealed Claudia's brother died as a street thug and she is living out his dream to become a powerful member of a criminal organization.  She plans to someday lead Inferno through cunning and manipulation.
Claudia manipulates Zwei
A power-struggle between Claudia and Scythe Master leaves Ein and Zwei on opposite sides.  Two deadly assassins with skills honed to a razor's edge.  Who will dominate Inferno?  Will Zwei regain his lost memory and can he free Ein from Scythe Master's programming?  Even if he can help Ein, will the two be able to escape from Inferno and live a normal life after spilling so much blood?  
Ein and Zwei pose as a couple to stake out a location
Pros: Slick animation style and backgrounds (thanks to Bee Train), nice CG (computer graphics) effects, music is pretty good, loved the evil masks Ein and Zwei wear during jobs, a few interesting plot twists, some fan-service (Lizzie in the first ep and plenty of Claudia throughout), adequately dark ending
Zwei takes aim during a hit
Cons: Predictable and cliche, main characters are totally apathetic and boring, too long at 26 episodes, the head of Inferno looks like a wussy version of Sephiroth from FF7 and is named McGwire, assassins in high school drama, totally lame LA street gang called the "Bloodies" (a play on the actual LA street gang the "Bloods"), the title of the series - why not just Requiem for the Phantom (instead of having Phantom twice)?, Zwei taking in a little girl
Zwei takes in this little girl after she witnesses a hit
Mike Tells It Straight: Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom is based on a visual novel game (i.e. choose-your-own-adventure) called Phantom: Phantom of Inferno.  Seems kind of silly to use the word Phantom twice in each title, but I guess it's consistent.  Requiem was not the first animated adaptation of Phantom of Inferno - back in 2004 (2006 for the US market) a 3-episode OVA (original video animation) called Phantom: The Animation was released.  The game and OVA must have been fairly well-received to spawn a full animated series.
Ein after a particularly hard day at work
Bee Train (the animation studio) helped produce this series and they previously created a pair of very similar, well-known series - Noir and Madlax which focused on assassins (although those two series starred women assassins). The studio is very good at assassin movies and this series is put together very nicely.  The action flows pretty well and the plot kept me relatively interested through most of it.
Scythe Master and his deadly puppet assassins
Unfortunately for Requiem I feel assassin shows are a bit played out in anime - NoirMadlax, and Golgo 13 (assassin shows in general due to HitmanAssassins, and The Specialist) have all come before .  They have all come before and Requiem doesn't add much to the genre.  I don't need to see another slow-motion assassination with classical music playing in the background.  The typical anime assassin's personality is completely apathetic and boring.  I get it - killing makes you an emotionless shell, but these are not characters I can form any emotional attachment towards.
Zwei and Ein as creepy puppet killers
If you loved Noir and Madlax then Requiem is a nice return to this corner of the genre (although no girl-on-girl romance thing happening).  I thought it was passable, but too long for a full 26-episode series.  Let's just cut to the chase and have our heart-wrenching death-duel between Ein & Zwei.  The addition of Drei (btw, ein, zwei, drei = 1, 2, 3 in German) was superfluous to the main story.  Decent action, only semi-decent plot, and pretty visuals, but drags on and nothing new conceptually.

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