Thursday, April 16, 2009

First Impression: Phantom ~ Requiem for the Phantom

I can't make up my mind if this is a standard assassin anime with dark underpinnings or a romance title. Maybe it's both. In any case, if I were to judge Phantom ~ Requiem of the Phantom (a.k.a. Phantom of the Inferno) by the first episode alone, it has fulfilled my initial expectations. Now, the only concern I have is if Bee Train can sustain the promise laid out by the series' promo stuff.
EPISODE 01: Awakening
More Screencaps from Phantom 01
OP: Karma (KOKIA) [4shared][YouTube]
ED: Gates of Hell (ALI PROJECT) [YouTube]

The series begins with two Inferno members discussing an assassination plan. In Los Angeles, a young man infiltrates a heavily guarded mansion while his comrade-in-arms, the Phantom disguised as a housemaid, takes care of the guards inside. Through a flashback, it is revealed that the young man is "Zwei," a Japanese tourist who witnessed an assassination ordered by Inferno and became himself an assassin after all his memories were erased by the scientist, Scythe Master. As an Inferno member, Zwei trains with the Phantom, called "Ein," and during the course of their training they develop an emotional connection. Back to the present, Ein and Zwei eliminate their real target, a mafioso boss, whom Inferno wants dead. The episode closes with the Inferno bosses celebrating a "new world order" and cameo appearances of, as of yet, unknown characters.
Can anybody say Noir? I can't really help making the comparison, considering that Phantom ~ Requiem for the Phantom (hereafter referred to as simply Phantom) is animated by the same studio (Bee Train) and the same director (Mashimo Koichi) who did Noir. And the similarities don't actually end there because both series proceed from the same plot premise: two deadly assassins,one of whom is emotionally crippled yet lethal while the other is riddled with questions about his forgotten past; both of them work together for the same shady organization, of which they know nothing about; and both are emotionally connected with each other (understandable considering that they have no one else but each other). Music also plays an important role, not only in conveying the emotions and mental state of the characters but also to create atmosphere (made more necessary in Phantom because the light-and-shadow technique used in Noir is notably absent here). Granted Kajiura Yuki is not responsible for the BGM or the opening and ending themes (done by Nanase Hikaru instead) but the classical chamber music style characteristic of the composer is hard to miss.
But don't get me wrong though. Because while there certainly are similarities between the two series, I don't find them at all objectionable. In fact, I think it enhances my viewing experience because as much as I loved Noir and its idea, I had some reservations about its production values. It does not look to me like Phantom will have the same problem. On the contrary, the series looks very good. Maybe the title text in the opening clip is a bit tacky but the rest of the video sequence is artistically done and stylish. The same with the ending clip. As for the rest of the episode, the character designs look good. Ein's maid outfit bothered me when I saw the promo video of the series but she actually wears it for only a short period in the episode so yeah. Also, the whole mask thing is not as corny as I initially thought. I don't know if it is a direct reference to Phantom of the Opera but I appreciate that it's a major theme in the series, if their prominence in both the opening and ending sequences are any indication.

The series definitely has a lot of potential and I get the feeling that there's some romance involved, too. So far so good. The main characters are likeable although perhaps their current lack of personality will make it hard for viewers to connect with them in the long run. Here's to hoping the series doesn't get too involved with building the plot at the expense of character development.

Phantom ~ Requiem for the Phantom is a darkish anime that's slightly romantic and potentially deep. If you liked all the other girls-with-guns genre by Bee Train like Noir and Madlax, this anime is for you. Otherwise, the mystery-action combo should make it well worth the watch.

Phantom ~ Requiem for the Phantom @ ANN
Phantom ~ Requiem for the Phantom @ Wikipedia
Phantom ~ Requiem for the Phantom PV