The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~

Title: Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~
Genre: Action/Drama/Romance
Company: Bee Train
Format: 26 episodes
Dates: 2 Apr 2009 – 24 Sep 2009

Synopsis: America is proliferated with regular occurrences of mafia violence. Behind many of these attacks is the organization Inferno with their human weapon called “Phantom.” One day a tourist comes across the latest incident involving Phantom and in desperation tries to escape. Eventually captured, a leader of Inferno named “Scythe Master” becomes impressed with the tourist’s actions. He decides to brainwash and bring this tourist into the organization. Given the name “Zwei,” the tourist’s once peaceful life comes to a grinding halt as he is trained to become a part of Phantom.

The Highlights
Content: Dark.
Morality: Ambiguous.
Assassins: An interesting look into the mindset of creating the perfect assassin.
Visual Novel: Noticeable visual novel elements present in this work weaken the story’s narrative.

Requiem for the Phantom is an adaption of Nitro+’s  visual novel, Phantom of the Inferno, whose scenario was written by Urobuchi Gen. Unsurprisingly, this show contains much of Gen’s notoriously dark and twisted sense of humor. Characters are subjected to cruel fates and living situations; morality is blurred and spat at; and above all else, hope is elusive and fleeting in an inhumane world.

Central to the concept of Requiem for the Phantom is the idea of the perfect assassin. This is not solely about having the innate talents necessary to kill such as good senses and physical abilities. It is about crafting the mindset an assassin needs – they are simply tools. This makes it fitting that the two main characters’ given names, Ein and Zwei, mean one and two in German. These names detach any sort of acknowledgement of them as human beings. Any human emotion would be a mere obstruction their duty.

The dilemma presented here for the main characters is utterly fascinating. With their memories wiped and their minds brainwashed, they have absolutely no attachments to anything in the world but their own lives. If they do not comply with Inferno’s orders, they will be killed. If they fail at their duty, they will be killed. Their own survival instincts prevent them even from attempting suicide. Consequently, their only option left is to steel their minds and try to survive. For this reason, it truly becomes a struggle for maintaining one’s humanity in the face of impossible odds.

All of this illustrates how excellent Requiem for the Phantom is at crafting a palpable sense of despair. The story is as such that even if the characters somehow escape the clutches of Inferno, they still have to live on with moral implications of their actions. They will never be able to go back to living normal lives as their pasts will forever haunt them. Perhaps the greatest strength of the story here is the fact that it somehow elicits empathy for its main protagonists, despite them being killers. It makes you truly wish that the characters can somehow achieve some sort of inner peace from this life of hell.

If there is any significant weakness in the story it would have to be the fact that its visual novel roots are much too noticeable in a bad way. First of all, the anime feels incomplete in some ways because certain character arcs feel insufficiently explored or dropped altogether. This does not matter in the visual novel medium because it is assumed that all different story routes will be played, but the anime does not account for this in any way. The transition of mediums does not allow the audience to have the full experience of the original source, leaving much to be desired at certain junctures throughout.

The more important issue here, however, is that the main character Zwei is actually a young High School kid. This is not even apparent at first because of his appearance and story’s content, and it just reeks of the same old visual novel tendency to have a high school protagonist no matter the content of story. In the case of Requiem for the Phantom, I feel an adult protagonist would have been more suitable. This is partially because of some suspension of belief issues, but this is more related to a certain part of the story in which this fact is used to bring the high school setting into the story in a jarring and hackneyed manner. These trite and unimaginative story developments reflect badly on an otherwise pretty interesting plot.

Regardless, Requiem for the Phantom manages to stay true to itself in the end. It does not opt out for any easy answers, and it manages to maintain a touch of class. The ending is actually quite ambiguous, but there is still a sense of finality to the whole experience. This makes the time spent watching Requiem for the Phantom seem meaningful, and honestly that is all you can ask for.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Reckoner

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