Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Phantom 02-03: The Making of a Killer

The series passed the three-episode rule. Then again, it's pretty much a given that I'll be blogging the show because Bee Train, yeah, and assassins.
EPISODE 02: Training

Zwei and Ein have their first conversation (after she tried to kill him in the previous episode) in which Ein finally explains why she attacked him (to test his skill). Meanwhile, Scythe Master reports to Inferno about the status of Zwei, who undergoes training under Ein's tutelage. One day, Ein gets called out to an assassination misson and while she is away, Zwei meets Claudia, who, for reasons known only to her, reveals Inferno's goal (to unite the underworld). She adds that Phantom is the key to achieving that goal. As the undisputed top assassin, Phantom is Inferno's greatest hope and their enemies' greatest fear. Zwei argues that no matter how good Phantom is, she, along with Zwei, is still a slave. But Claudia is quick to disabuse him of that notion as she points out that even if they work for Inferno, they are free to do one thing, which is to progress. She leaves Zwei with that single thought. When Ein returns a while later, Zwei finds out that like him, Ein's memories were also erased but she is very matter of fact about it. She explains that once Zwei kills someone, he would understand. The next day, Zwei's training continues.

EPISODE 03: Practice

The episode begins with Claudia's memory of a presumably Inferno assassin called "Romero." Back in the desert, Ein teaches Zwei knife-fighting skills. During the fight, Zwei figures out that on that first night (Episode 01), Ein intentionally let him win. In Mexico, a corrupt Navy Seal captain seeks help from Inferno when he finds himself the target of an investigation by the FBI. Instead of helping him, they use him as target practice for Zwei. At first, Zwei is unwilling to make his first kill but eventually does the deed when he gets cornered. Ein, who is watching over him, then appears in order to give him an ultimatum: to live as an assassin or to die under her hands. Zwei makes the obvious choice. Ein then commands him to stand up and when he does, he strips himself of his old personality and truly becomes "Zwei."

I'm watching the series in 1280 x 720 screen resolution (AAC-x264), mkv format (subbed by Desire). The files are huge but each episode, so far, is beautiful. I'm noticing some downgrade in production values but it's not obvious and the key scenes are still very nicely drawn.

I also finally noticed the BGM. Lots of melancholic, classical style music that I'm not sure fit too well in some of the scenes. I'm specifically talking about that scene in Episode 3 where Scythe Master puts some sort of oil on Ein's body while discussing Zwei's progress. Such a creepy scene and yet the music was puerile.

I'm hoping that Phantom ~ Requiem for the Phantom will fulfill all the expectations I had of Noir that were never quite realized, and so far so good. It's becoming clear that the big difference between the two is that where Noir emphasized technique and style, Phantom is about the nitty-gritty details without necessarily going overboard with the violence. Indeed, despite Phantom's apparent obsession with guns, there has yet been a scene showing Ein or Zwei performing the actual killing. We hear shots and we see blood oozing from the body of victims but not a single frame of the actual act of shooting. I don't think it's to preserve the viewer rating because this show is at least PG-13, so maybe it's just a matter of personal taste on the production staff.

So about the story so far, there is as of yet no story. I mean, yes, we know that Ein and Zwei work for Inferno and that Inferno wants to take over the underworld, but other than that, there's nothing on the actual plot yet. Right now, we are watching Zwei go through the process of becoming an assassin. In Episode 03, he just made his first major step and I think it won't be long now before we start to see some action other than Zwei and Ein going at it.