Posted on 24 July 2009 with categories: Phantom

Like expected, this was the episode where all hell breaks lose, and it indeed was one awesome episode full of awesome plot twists and awesome soundtracks. If this is going to be the standard for the rest of this series, then we’re in for something amazing. The build-up for the Cal arc was already interesting, but I feel like the climax is going to be even more awesome.

So in the end, it becomes clear that Claudia was the one who ordered the attack, half a year before. Scythe has been orchestrating his revenge against her, and that plan seems to be coming to fruition.

In this episode, Reiji finally gets the chance to talk to Ein again, and it seems that she hasn’t been mind-wiped or something: she still remembers Reiji, and instead is acting of her own will it seems. However, we’re still not given a look into her mind as to what caused her to go back to Scythe. I suspect that she never really cared about Reiji, and feared him more than she was willing to go with him, but let’s see whether or not that turns out to be true.

In the meantime, Reiji’s apartment has gotten blown up as well. Obviously Cal wasn’t inside when it happened because we’re only shown one side of the story, but I still really wonder what the heck happened inside there, and what caused her to escape. With this, she’s fully involved with the main storyline though, so that should prove to be awesome.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 17 July 2009 with categories: Phantom

Ah, a calm before the storm. Something’s telling me that in the next episode, all hell is going to break loose and after the relatively light-hearted past few episodes, I’m very eager to see what kind of climax this arc is going to come up with. And this episode wasn’t wasted in any way either: it had a very quiet second half, but that really allowed the character-development between Cal and Reiji to show.

But this episode started out with me getting very surprised at how Claudia suddenly killed off Isaac in order to calm down the angry gang after Ein provoked them. Talk about hitting two flies in one blow, because with this the matter of Isaac’s betrayal is now also solved. But damn, that’s about the least thing I expected. There were no close-ups or dramatic build-up, no long death speeches nor any sorts of melodrama, nothing. Just that guy getting shot and falling down.

The thing is, that the matter of Cal’s revenge is also taken care of. The question now becomes “how to get Cal out of this mess”, but the matter get srather complicated when Cal has grown a bit too fond of Reiji, and is seriously trying to become an assassin herself, because it was the first time she felt appreciated. At the same time, Reiji is torn between leaving Cal and making sure that she doesn’t grow up to be a broken human like he is, and staying with her because of how she managed to mentally help him get over his past.

Okay, so the past few episodes weren’t as intense as the Ein Arc, but definitely awesome in their own way. Cal is an excellent character, and I really liked how the creators portrayed her influence on Reiji, and how the two of them gradually get to understand each other. Really well done.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 10 July 2009 with categories: Phantom

The character-designs in this show kept bugging me. For some reason they looked different from usual anime, but I can’t exactly put my finger on why. It’s definitely something with the line art, though. In a lot of series, they’re shaded and coloured along with the colours around them, but in this series they’re all the same dark colour, and this series does nothing to mask or hide it. But then again, there are plenty of other series with the same, so that can’t be it. This effect especially stands out at some of the far away shots, where the line thickness is exactly the same as with the close-ups. The effect gives off something very old school, which combined with the modern CG shading and background art gives off a very down to earth feel for this series. It’s a very nice style for this series, although it is a bit of a pity that the animation budget isn’t as good as it used to be. The creators thankfully haven’t resorted to an increase of still frames, but the amount of distorted faces has increased drastically.

Anyway, about the rest of the episode: you can see that this series has changed A LOT since the Ein arc. While this of course is nothing new, it really doesn’t happen often for a series to have a really, really dark start, and then become much lighter in their atmosphere. There’s this warmth between Reiji and Cal that wasn’t there when Helen was still involved. Even when the characters are feeling down, it feels nothing like the tension between Ein and Zwei when they still were a team.

This episode was mostly light and quiet, but well worth that awesome climax of this episode, where the character-development really came together, and Reiji couldn’t shoot directly because he suspected the sniper to be Helen. He was about to both take revenge on the guys who killed Rose, complete a mission that would cause a lot of benefits for Inferno, but after being shaken up by Cal, the news that Helen might still be alive has really struck him. And ZOMG: Ein indeed is alive! I’m interested in how she survived: I could buy Reiji, but she was shot through the heart. That’s not something you can survive easily, can you?

Anyway, Cal obviously has the downside that she’s only been introduced a few episodes ago, and the majority of this episode therefore felt surprisingly light, but DAMN: seeing her crying when Reiji nearly got shot really was adorable. It was an excellent performance from her voice actress.
Rating: ** (Excellent)
A surprisingly light episode with some lacking animation, but chockful of character-development.

Posted on 3 July 2009 with categories: Phantom

Whoa, it’s really her!? Or does this episode show the mysterious “Drei” that the fans of the original game have been talking about? Anyway, this was another excellent episode from this series, even ignoring that final plot twist in the end. It was all about seeing the relationship between Reiji and Cal, and just watching the two of them grow closer together is worth the watch.

It’s interesting how episodes like these show how much the creators know about marksmanship, and the correct way of using a gun, even though in El Cazador they simply glossed over it. In any case, it’s really charming that Reiji recognizes Cal’s talents, and is planning her to get as far away from Inferno as possible when everything is over, so that she isn’t going to end up the same as him. You can really see in this episode that Cal is opening up his shell, even though she was completely different from Ein.

I also liked the references to well known actors (deNiro, etc). I guess that the creators can’t use titles of movies due to copyright, but this works as well, especially since action movies are a major part of the American culture. It would have been weirder for these movie references to not pop up.

It’s just a shame that this episode again got the shorter end of the budget. There again were lots of far away shots that makes the characters easier to animate. Ah well, at least it’s better than showing lots and lots of still frames. Overall I do think that the graphics budget is handled pretty nicely: there’s no money wasted on “cool” shots like hair and clothes moving in the wind, and instead the animation is focused to making the characters come alive.

One thing I noticed is that this series has gotten quite a bit lighter since Cal arrived, but that of course can also be attributed to the very cold relationship between Ein and Zwei: they hardly talked, and were constantly trying to figure out each other. Reiji and Cal are much more open to each other, but their excellent characterization still remains.
Rating: ** (Excellent)
Cal + Reiji = awesome. Very nice build-up episode.

Posted on 26 June 2009 with categories: Phantom

Oh, it’s only been two episodes since her introduction, and I’m already a big fan of Cal (apparently not Drei, who has yet to show up). This episode really reminded me why I’m such a big fan of Bee-Train. This episode was mostly building-up, but the superb characterization made it all worth it. With an already excellent game that this series is based on, they really managed to get the best out of it. It’s a shame that this episode got the short end of the budget for this series, but apart from that I loved it.

Cal’s surprisingly sharp wit really has the ability to open up Reiji who has closed himself ever since Helen’s death. She may look like an innocent girl, but time and time again she proves to be observant, curious and direct, and yet she is full of weaknesses, like how she hates how she isn’t able to do anything on her own, and how she’s deeply affected by the death of her caretaker. That’s why it surprised me when she suddenly popped up with five million dollars in stolen cash from Inferno, asking Reiji to kill every single one of the bastards that killed off Judy.

The plot for this arc is again promising to be really interesting, with multiple sides, none of them being completely good or evil. We have Reiji and Cal, who are after the mysterious people who killed off Judy, at the same time they have to try and hide the fact that Cal just stole five million dollars from an angry Isaac, and something tells me that the mysterious Drei is part of the people who killed off Judy.

Oh, and on a side-note: one detail I also loved was that Reiji still bears the scars of the gunshots that struck him six months earlier. That really is a detail that many anime simply forget to include, but big wounds like that obviously take ages to heal properly. Like expected, he was mostly hit in the shoulder, and not in his heart, so that explains why he managed to survive that day.
Rating: ** (Excellent)
Very intriguing build-up with an increasingly awesome Cal.

Posted on 19 June 2009 with categories: Phantom

Well, since I have been careful not to look at any of the promotion material for this series, I had no idea who Drei was or what she looked like. Now that we finally got to meet her, I have to say that that I really didn’t expect her to be such a little girl. Still, I like her. She’s got lots of potential for this series, and I can’t wait until the creators go in-depth with her.

The rest of this episode was pretty much the introduction of the second major arc of this series, and had Reiji walking around with a pimpin’ background tune. Really, this demonstrates how influential background music can be for a series. The background music for the first arc was very melancholic, but the hiphop soundtrack that this episode used was completely different, and it gave a totally different feel and atmosphere to this series. And that’s really typical of Bee-Train: for them, a soundtrack isn’t simply a soundtrack, but it’s very essential in telling the story.

So this obviously wasn’t meant to be an episode to stand out. The animation was really basic and simple, and in the meantime there was lots of fanservice. That sex-scene in particular was rather weird, but at least I’m glad that this series has a mature outlook on sex, rather than the juvenile and teenaged way.

And on a side-note: you don’t see that often in anime: people using the box (or however that’s called in English) instead of shaking hands. While it’s definitely inaccurate at times, you can see that the creators did spend some effort in giving the setting some subtle American influences.

Rating: * (Good)
Carol’s introduction, plus a pimpin’ build-up for the upcoming arc.

Posted on 12 June 2009 with categories: Phantom

Ugh, recap.

So yeah, most of this episode was just clips from previous episodes. Thankfully this is one of my favourite shows, so I didn’t mind to rewatch all of the great stuff that happened so far, but still. There was some new material that played three months after the previous episode. Apparently, Reiji was hit, though not in his fatal areas and he managed to recover, and now he seems to have gone back to Inferno. Scythe meanwhile has fled the organization, but he doesn’t seem to have fully given up on destroying them. Oh, and McCunnen seems to have lost a younger brother a few years ago.

So yeah, that’s pretty much it. I’m very much looking forward to the next episode now, and how Drei is going to fit in everything.
Rating: (Enjoyable)
Yeah, recap.

Posted on 5 June 2009 with categories: Phantom

Wait, wait… what? WTF, they actually did it? If you’ve not seen the episode yet: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!

This is a bit of random text to prevent spoilers from showing up on the blog aggregators, but seriously this episode has got to be the biggest surprise of the entire season. I know that I more often pull these sorts of conclusions and they don’t turn out to be true and all, but damn: Ellen was shot right through the heart and got dumped in the ocean! Bloody hell! There’s no way that she could have survived that!

Seriously, if this really is what I think it is, then this really has been the first time since ages than the creators of a show had the guts to kill off one of their lead character. I really thought that Reiji was just going to save Ellen, kill Scythe and just happily live together with her in Japan for a couple of episodes, but THIS. I never saw that coming.

I’m now sure of my favourite shows this season: Konnichiwa Anne and this series both continue to leave me stunned after nearly every single episode. Just when I think I can’t get more impressed, they pull yet another one of their surprises. Now THAT’s the sign of a good anime! It’s so sad that in the end, Ellen did choose to be Ein, and didn’t abandon her master’s trust. Reiji showed a totally different side of his this episode: we now really get to see his dark side, which is absolutely nothing like his composed, usual self.

This series sure as hell pulls no punches. Every single battle so far has ended with either one or both sides heavily beaten, whereas most series simply choose to let each side retreat with perhaps a small casualty or two. As an example, especially Gundam 00 had a nasty habit of doing this in its second season over and over again. I loved how this episode was dancing around Reiji, singing “no, you can’t get your happily ever after just yet, muaha!”
Rating: *** (Awesome)
An amazing conclusion to an already amazing arc of an already amazing series. And we’ve yet to even reached the halfway point!

Posted on 29 May 2009 with categories: Phantom

With this episode, Phantom yet again proves that it’s one of the top shows this season. It’s much quieter than the previous episode, and yet there was so much growth in Ein an Zwei’s character(or should I say, Reiji and Helen’s). Especially the conversations between Reiji and Helen were utterly astonishing. The creators have got such a great feeling for their characters.

Helen, who has so far only worked for Scythe, and only lived for the guy finally realizes that there is someone else who cares for her. It must have been a complete shock for her to learn how far Reiji is willing to go for her, even to the point of throwing his entire past away. It turns out that the only reason she appeared so strong in front of Reiji was because Scythe ordered her to.

I was also really surprised at how early Scythe managed to find Helen, and how easily Inferno tracked down Reiji and that they showed hardly any mercy to them. Reiji got punched over and over in order to get information out of him, while who knows what happened to Helen after Scythe found her. The next episode should prove to be yet another treat. There’s no doubt that Reiji is going to succeed in killing Scythe, but just imagine what kind of effect that would have on Helen. I can’t wait!

Rating: ** (Excellent)
A very quiet episode, but Reiji and Helen made it worth every single second.

Posted on 22 May 2009 with categories: Phantom

Phantom already was one of my favourites this series… and with this episode it became even better. Seriously, what an amazing episode. This is EXACTLY why I’m such a big Bee-Train fan.

This really is the episode where the plot takes a complete shirt, and how well it works! We first start out with McCunnen showing Zwei the passport of his pre-mindwipe self, allowing him to remember some vague parts about who he was. He even goes as far as making a phone call to his former family! The reason why she’s doing this is also revealed: Mad Professor betrays Inferno! He has enough confidence in Ein in order to defy such a powerful organization.

Since Ein was a bit of a puppet to the guy, McCunnen tried to make Zwei make his own decisions, in the hope that he’d return to her on his own will. And yet she didn’t take into account how close Ein and Zwei have grown for the past number of episodes, and so Zwei instead decides to run away. So much potential for character-development!

But oh god, the scene that really hit me was the one in which Zwei (or Reiji, as his real name turns out to be) stood next to a badly shot Ein and was forced to take out the bullet that launched itself inside her hip, with only primitive tools and no anaesthetic whatsoever. That really was fantastically executed and SO full of emotions.

Really, this series just continues to amaze me. You’d think that this would be a simple assassin series in which the characters kill a bunch of people as ordered by their organization, and then WHAM: it comes with this episode. With this, it has really set itself apart from Noir, which was much more episodic, and had completely different themes from what Phantom has developed into.

Rating: **** (Fantastic)
Utterly amazing, this episode completely exceeded my expectations.

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