Posted on 25 September 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews, Phantom



Okay, time for me to review my favourite anime of the past Spring and Summer Season: Phantom, or Requiem from the Phantom. It’s based on a visual novel by Nitroplus, and while it starts off as a Noir clone at first, it develops into something much more. It shows a story about a couple of assassins inside the modern American mafia.

It sets itself apart with an amazing cast of characters. Especially Ein and Zwei develop into a bunch of strong and sympathetic characters, but also most of the side-characters are memorable. They’re all incredibly well acted; the voice actors really managed to capture their characters, and there’s always a lot of subtlety in their actions and development.

This is all accompanied by a terrific execution. Dialogues between people often move slow, but a lot of things are said in-between the lines. The creators have a great sense of build-up, and know exactly how to deliver the plot twists with as much of an impact as possible. Despite the subtlety, the action-scenes also pack a punch. This show knows that gunfights between excellent marksmen can last very short, and they made excellent use of this in their build-up.

Since this is a Bee-Train series, the music is without a doubt excellent, but at the same time you can see that they’re trying out a few new things here and there. The use of music throughout the series is downright excellent, but what amazed me the most is the incredible size and versatility of the different background tunes. Hikaru Nanase, who also did the soundtrack of Noein and Zone of the Enders, created an incredibly versatile set of tracks for this series. The drawings are also continuously crisp, without hardly any distorted frames, and the animation itself is also pretty decent.

A bit of a lesser point of this series is that there are sometimes strange leaps in logic. One character may have escaped death a bit too narrowly, and this series also forces you to assume that with the right training, a bunch of teenagers can become much better at handling guns than any adult out there.

Nevertheless though, I personally loved this series. It’s a show that’s constantly evolving, even within its distinct three arcs. The major theme of this series, in which the best course of action doesn’t always get taken due to a sad combination of circumstances, is excellently explored by the cast. The characters in this series are deep and complex, and often you find them saying things while in reality they actually believe in something completely different. With an ending that you’ll either love or hate, this is a great recommendation if you like dark yet slow-paced series and don’t mind teenagers in your anime.

Storytelling: 10/10
Characters: 10/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 8/10
Posted on with categories: Phantom



Whoa, wtf…

Throughout this episode, I had no idea what the people in the shoutbox were talking about. I mean, it was an awesome episode that did just about everything it should have done: exciting gunfight, after which Scythe dies and Reiji and Helen live on, trying to search for Helen’s origins. After a bit of searching, they find that she was taken from Mongolia when she was little. It was a very fitting ending for my favourite series for the past half year.

Then the episode actually ended, and I understood. That really was daring from the creators: just when everything seems solved, they pull such a surprise ending that nobody saw coming, and they don’t even dare to explain what happened. Out of nowhere, a gunshot sounds, and both Reiji and Helen die. No extremely long death speeches, no overdramatic buildup. It’s just there, and less than a minute later they’re dead. it’s entirely left up to our imagination what happened.

And yet, somehow it made me like this ending even more. My theory of what happened is that McGuire is behind it. Something like “don’t mess with the mafia”, and he probably ordered assassins to track Ein and Zwei down. He previously left this to Scythe Master and Drei, but since the two of them failed he tried to do this a bit more subtle. Whatever assassins came, they figured that the most likely place that they would be able to find them was Ein’s place of birth. They knew this through Scythe, and they probably picked up a hint somewhere that Reiji and Helen were searching for it. After that, they only had to wait and snipe them when they arrived.

It just shows that there’s nothing like a happy end in the mafia. I really liked this ending because it didn’t try to overglorify the death of the two protagonists. It was a really subtle finale, and that’s something I can really appreciate. I admire Bee-Trains’s guts for trying to pull such an ending.

Overall, this has been such a wonderful series. It’s definitely in my Top 3 of Bee-Train series, along with Popolocrois and .Hack//Sign. It had such an amazing sense of subtlety, and yet at others it packed such a punch. With a fantastic soundtrack and a terrific sense of characterization (well, for me at least), I really consider this series to be the best of the past half year, and I’m looking forward to Bee-Train’s next series in 2010, whatever it may be about.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

EDIT: crap, I misunderstood this ending. Only Reiji died, Helen remained alive. Still, that doesn’t change my opinion, this episode rocked. Unless you want happy endings, of course. ;)

EDOT2: Major SPOILER for El Cazador!
After this, I still want to add a bit to the huge rage of people that seem to be unhappy over this episode. Watch El Cazador. that one has a happy ending in which the two progaonists live together happily ever after. Ironically, I remember how that ending also wasn’t well received. Ironic, isn’t it?

Posted on 18 September 2009 with categories: Phantom



Oh boy. It took two calm before the storm episodes to get here, but damn. This was such an awesome episode. The style it was told in was completely different from what I expected, but this episode was SO WORTH THE WAIT. It really reminded me why, despite Tokyo Magnitude, this is my favourite series of the past half year.

With finales like this one, you really expect something over the top: really fast pacing, an epic gunfight or a very long action scene or something. Instead, this episode just played out very sloooowly. The background music was calm and quiet, and instead it very slowly moved to the inevitable: Cal’s death. It was really focused at getting the best out of the characters. Instead, Ein was delivering on the action, while Reiji and Cal’s fight ended in just one shot. The two of them are great marksmen, so it would indeed have been strange if the gunfight would have lasted any longer.

Cal’s eventual motive, to just be noticed, was a nice twist at the end. In the end, the Scythe Master managed to manipulate her, but not to the point at which she would hate Reiji with passion, but rather that she desperately wanted to be noticed by him, instead of Ein. Because of those talks from Scythe Master, she didn’t get convinced that Reiji was a horrible person, but rather she fully believed that Reiji didn’t care about her. That makes all her actions even more irrational than they already were, but I believe that that’s the point this series is trying to make: while we would like to make the best decision 100% of the time, those pesky emotions and especially love tend to get in the way a lot.

The next episode should prove to be an action-packed finale, at this point, it’s easy to think of what to expect. At this point, I can see no way in which the creators are ever going to be able to screw this up anymore. I personally suspect that the creators are going for an ending similar to El Cazador’s: simple, but effective.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 12 September 2009 with categories: Phantom



Aha, the calm before the storm episode. There’s nothing much to say about this one: it was as solid as usual, while the plot sets up for the big climax of this series, which is probably going to happen in the next episode. The past few episodes have really been able to very subtly build up to this finale, and I can’t wait to see how all of this has paid off.

So, in this episode Reiji first manages to convince Helen to leave Cal to him, because he doesn’t want to lose anyone else, however Helen in the end refuses to listen to him and decides to kill Cal off herself. It’s here where Reiji’s big weakness comes into play: his naivety. He believes with his heart that he’s going to be able to convince Cal to stop killing him, yet Helen who has the more realistic mindset sees no chance in that happening. The last she wants to happen is a dead Reiji, and so she chose for the option that would leave his life in as little danger as possible.

Scythe Master in the meantime also hasn’t been sitting still, when this episode introduces Vier, Funf, Sechs, Sieben, Acht and Neun. I’m not sure what they can add to the story at this point in the series, but it was only natural for him to put his experiments to a larger scale at one point.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 4 September 2009 with categories: Phantom



Okay, the calm before the storm episode. Most of this episode was very quiet, and yet at the same time a lot of things happened, were built up and had me glued to the screen.

With the biggest event being Lizzie’s death. At this point, it wasn’t meant to be a shocking plot twist, but rather to symbolize how much has gone wrong with Drei. Throughout the series, she has always been the most solid and stable character: she had no hidden agenda, and instead she worked with a mindset with a healthy balance between friends and money. She was the one who watched Cal train in her Drei-form, and in this episode you can really see that now that she has found out what drove Cal to be an assassin, she really regrets to see what she turned into.

In this episode, the inevitable indeed happened that Drei was forced to shoot Lizzie. She really doesn’t care at all about her job, as long as she gets to kill Reiji, and in this episode we see her kidnap Mio, to prevent him from running away. In the end though, Helen takes the bait. The next episode is going to be awesome, I can feel it. But yeah, this episode still rocked. At this point, the characters can be drinking tea and I’m still going to love them.

Also, how large is this soundtrack anyway? This episode introduced yet two new tracks. I’m growing into more and more of a fan of Hikaru Nanase. At first I believed her to be some sort of one trick pony, with Noein’s soundtrack and all. But after watching this show, and finishing Zone of the Enders, I really have to take that back: Hikaru Nanase really is an amazing composer, but she does need a great show to draw out her full potential.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 28 August 2009 with categories: Phantom



Oh my God, Cal just becomes more and more awesome with every single episode. Up till now we’ve only seen glimpses of her new version, and what she turned into ever since she was abandoned by Reiji and taken in by Scythe, but only in this episode we get a full grasp of her deep-seeded hate against Reiji. And this episode yet again was absolutely amazing. People have often asked me why the heck I’m such a big Bee-Train fan. Now THIS is why! Time and time again they end up creating a truly awesome cast of characters.

And while it’s indeed true that they sexed up Cal a bit too much, they do get the point across: someone who started out as a sweet little girl is now cursing all over, lost any trace of compassion, living solely for revenge and has no future at all if she does manage to kill off Reiji. What hit me the most was when Reiji asked her to leave Helen alone. It then all hit her that Reiji indeed was the bastard she imagined him to be, who left her for dead and instead is willing to protect Ein with his life.

At this point, Reiji’s apologies and the words that he thought she was dead obviously can’t easily put things right anymore, since they’re just going to come off as cheap excuses. The fact remains that Reiji just walked off without confirming Cal’s dead body, because he was too occupied by Helen. It’s completely understandable, but it completely destroyed Cal’s chance of growing up happily.

Also, I’ve said this many times before, but I really feel the need to repeat that I absolutely love the soundtrack for this series. In this series, it has become much more than simply a bunch of songs that play into in the background. Bee-Train was already experimenting with this kind of soundtrack during Blade of the Immortal, in which it really worked, and for this series they again compiled a crazy soundtrack that’s full of many different songs, ranging from the quiet ones to the mindfuck tracks. These songs aren’t meant to be simple elevator music, but they’ve become a very important part of the storytelling itself, and I really love the way it turned out.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 21 August 2009 with categories: Phantom



Oh boy, this series has been nothing but awesomeness since the start of the Tokyo Arc. Sure, it’s true that Cal’s body grew a bit too much over two years, but if you blame puberty it could have happened. It’s not really something to be overly obsessive about, because I don’t think that it really gets in the way of the rest of the series.

Even though this turns out to be the adaptation of a H-game, I was quite surprised with how honest Reiji was about Cal. In your average anime you’d guess that for some bit of extra tension the characters would just keep these secrets from each other, but then again: this series already has enough tension as it is. No need to be melodramatic at all, because the characters have reached the point where they are more than able to carry the series along. Cal busting up the rivalling gang for example, was nothing short of kickass. This does show that Scythe has some sort of strange methods of getting the best potential out of his Phantoms.

I was actually hoping for this episode to delve a bit more into the Cal vs Reiji, but it seems that the creators are still saving this for later. Instead, this episode’s end showed the next best thing: Cal vs Helen. Next episode surely is going to rock!

If the rest of the finale continues to be as good as this, Phantom is definitely going to be my favorite Bee-Train series since .Hack//Sign, and out of the shows that premiered during the past spring season, it’s pretty likely that this series is going to end up as my favourite. Sorry Shangri-La, but this series has simply gotten that good.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 14 August 2009 with categories: Phantom



Hell yeah! This episode was all kinds of awesome stuck together! Talk about a complete change of atmosphere.

The way this episode started out… out of all the things that the Japan Arc would be about, the last thing I expected was that the show would end in a high school setting. The OP… was so much different from what I expected and fitted these final six episodes so well. There’s a lot of chaos going on, and yet this episode has been more slice of live than this series has ever shown! That shows some awesome possibilities, and I know that Koichi Mashimo is going to be able to get the best out of this.

So basically, two years (!) have passed since the last episode. Reiji and Helen have travelled the world; they first came to the Philippines and now have moved into Japan half a year ago, and they’ve been pretending to be brother and sister, since it would have been a bit awkward if a teenaged couple suddenly moved in and started following classes. They’re also back again acting, like they did in one of the beginning episodes. Especially Reiji has gotten a lot better at it now.

But yeah, just about everything in this episode was perfectly executed. Reiji’s time spent with his potential girlfriend did exactly what it needed to do: show how he and Helen changed, and how they’ve come to live their lives now. It’s a perfect build-up, since we also got to know much more about them, and the setting which they moved into.

But the real moment of epic in this episode was obviously the point at which Cal shows herself. Typical of Bee-Train’s storytelling, but it works so incredibly well.

And to think that even in this episode, so close to the ending, there still are new background tunes being played, and they rock just as much as the rest of the soundtrack while at the same time being completely different in tone: the first arc had a really dark and melancholic soundtrack, the second arc was more upbeat and pimpin’, while right now we got more… colourful atmosphere, if that makes any sense. The soundtrack here has a lot more warmth than we’ve seen so far.

In any case, this is one of these rare series in which you can really see that the creators spent lots of time thinking of how to make it work in the absolute best way, and where it actually works out incredibly well. In 2009, I can only recall 3 other series which managed to do the same: Ristorante Paradiso, Tokyo Magnitude and Birdy the Mighty 2.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 7 August 2009 with categories: Phantom



Agh! What is up with those bloody recaps today?! I’d be more patient if Basquash didn’t just pull the exact same thing. Blegh.

Oh, and on the few minutes of new material: ZOMG CAL!!
Rating Recap: — (Blegh)
Rating Non-Recap: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 31 July 2009 with categories: Phantom



Haha! This is the episode where we’ve all been waiting for, and it SO does deliver! It’s a very slow-paced episode, but the build-up was so incredibly good that it had me on the edge of my seat for the entire twenty minutes. Not only did this episode have some incredibly subtly emotional scenes, but it also created some awesome potential for this series finale (heck, we still have eight episodes to go and this episode had plot twists that you’d usually include in episode 24 or something).

Helen really had me fooled. Ack, I should have known that we were only shown the story from Reiji’s perspective. While it looked like she transformed into the emotionless doll that Scythe wanted her to be, it was far from the case and instead she too had as many internal conflicts as Reiji. Heck, if Cal wasn’t there, the fight in this episode would have ended rather nasty, because I suspect that without her, Reiji would have been a little too obsessed over Helen to think straight. Now that he thinks she’s dead he only has Helen left, and that’s what made him convinced that he wasn’t going to seriously fight Ein.

But Cal sure as heck ain’t dead! We just don’t have a bloody clue as to what happened to her: all this episode showed were a surprisingly clean gun and watch: signs that she indeed was away when it happened. Still: why did she go back to that place? Where is she now? What made her go away right at the moment of the bombing? What is she thinking of doing next. And how the heck is she going to react to Helen being back!?

Amidst this awesomeness, it almost feels like second fodder that Claudia freaking died! It turns out that her biggest reason to join Inferno was to get her revenge on her brother, and she’d get this revenge even if it meant betraying her friend Lizzie (who looked awesome when she was younger, by the way)
Rating: *** (Awesome)

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