Title: Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom
Genre: action, crime drama
Released date: April 2, 2009 – September 24, 2009
Director: Koichi Mashimo
Animated by: Bee Train
Comment: Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom is a good example of well pacing anime. It knows when to be patient and contemplative, when to quit lingering and jump forward and when to put in some surprising twist to play with the viewers. The show is extremely addictive yet painful because it keeps hurting me time and time again with tragic and depressing situations. Nevertheless, the anime leaves me longing for more and loving every moment of it.
Structurally simple but emotionally complex, Phantom is made of two main story arcs. The first one is about three deadly assassins who love each other dearly but due to cruel twist of faith, end up killing each other. And the other arc is about the internal power struggle between high rank members of the underground crime syndicate, Inferno. The anime opens with Zwei waking up in an isolated training facility in the middle of a desert with no memory of his identity or his past. It is revealed that he is recruited by Inferno for his talent fitting for an assassin. There, he is trained to master the art of killing by Ein, the current assassin working under Inferno. The story closely follows Zwei in his transformation from an ordinary man to being a ruthless killer. The situation is later complicated by the struggle between the bosses of the organization, leading to endless series of tragic events.
Slowly but effectively, Phantom spends a fair amount of time in building up the characters during the first few episode instead of going right into the action. The training and practicing scenes are both fun and vital since they provide background for both the setting and the main characters of the anime. Once the two protagonists are properly introduced, the show shifts its focus towards Inferno’s affair. After the first few introductory episodes, the show literally never stops moving as the situation changes incredibly fast. There is many time jumps through out the show, bringing the viewers to new and refreshing situations every now and then. As a result, the series’ paces never falter. The show tries to avoid falling in to the ‘assassination of the week’ pattern by making every detail matters to the main plot and adding hidden agenda into every action of each character. The power struggle inside and between underground organizations and Inferno’s ascend to power is simply astonishing. Unpredictable and compelling, the game of wits between Mr. McGuire, Claudia, Godoh and Scythe Master keeps the anime continually dynamic and eventful. While Zwei and Ein serve as the key player in these struggles as merciless killing machines and we get to see them in really cool actions and dramatic mental transformation.
Towards the middle of the series, when Zwei starts to settle down as Inferno’s second elite assassin, the events take another dramatic turn. Due to Claudia’s scheme, Ein is accused of betrayal and Zwei must face another difficult choice of securing his place in the organization or saving Ein and being an exile. This is where the most common factor which is used in every anime comes into play and it never fails to capture me. It’s love.
I admire how subtly the two main characters of the show are developed. It feels natural, believable. For Zwei, whose true name is revealed as Reiji, it takes a long time to change from a normal guy to a merciless assassin. The anime shows us every step of his transformation by extensively explore his laborious training, the numerous inhuman missions given to him and finally the moment when he loses everything. While in Ein’s case, the viewers are shown how she transforms from a merciless assassin to a normal girl who laughs when she is happy and cries when she is sad. Such transition is slow and painful for the characters but is amazingly gripping for the viewers.
Later in the series, another key player is introduced as Cal. At first, I have a problem about Cal’s introduction. To me, the anime fails to provide sound and convincing motivation of Reiji’s adopting the girl and going through so much trouble to protect her. Cal, initially, is only a bystander in the gangster fight and Reiji has no reason to take her in. I was greatly relieved when, after a few episodes, Cal’s character continually grew on me. Her relationship with Reiji is used as a factor that brings his human side back after working as Inferno’s new Phantom for a time. With the appearance of Cal, the love triangle between three deadly assassins is formed. At this point where the love triangle is complete and intertwine with the power struggle of the bosses of Inferno, I know that tragedy is bound to happen. And it does. While Reiji tries to savor every bits of happiness he has never had during his time as a hit man and Elen struggles to hold on to Reiji as the only reason for living, Cal turns out to be the most colorful character during the final part of the series. Cal, heart broken, responds to Reiji’s betrayal with pure, uncontrollable rage. I cannot reveal anymore detail about the finale of Phantom but I can tell you that it’ll be extremely action packed and emotional, a beautiful yet agonizing tragedy. And when everything seems to settle, the anticlimax comes along, utterly unexpectedly. As far as I know, this anticlimax stirs quite an extensive discussion among anime fans and I’m not surprise. Personally, I like how the anime ends. It mercilessly tears me apart but I’m far from being disappointed.
A strange combination of electronic music and chants is use throughout the anime creating mystical and depressing mood which effectively enhance the anime’s tone. Even when listened separately, the soundtrack has no problem shining on its own. As for the animation, the show manages to constantly stay above today’s standard with occasional fantastic hand to hand combat moves. Conclusion: Despite the controversial ending, Requiem for the Phantom is a great achievement with masterfully paced story, emotional complexity, compelling character development and good production. Definitely a must-see anime.