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Phantom: Requiem For The Phantom

Phantom: Requiem For The Phantom
2009 // 325 Minutes // Not Rated
Phantom: Requiem For The Phantom
2009 // 325 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by Funimation
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // April 10th, 2011

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All Rise...

Judge Roman Martel is happy they didn't stick with the original title Apple Turnover: Requiem for the Apple Turnover.

Editor's Note

Our review of Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom (Blu-ray), published May 3rd, 2012, is also available.

The Charge

You know, you just can't have a story about emotionless killers without injecting some emotion into the story. So what makes Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom different from those other assassin stories out there?

The Case

Part One of Phantom begins with a young Japanese man awakening with amnesia. He discovers that a mysterious girl in a sinister mask is trying to kill him. As the chase progresses the young man's panic turns into strength, and he is able to get the upper hand on the girl, slicing away the mask and holding a knife to her throat.

He's passed his test, he is ready to be trained as the next assassin for Scythe Master (Kent Williams). He is given the name Zwei (Newton Pittman) and his trainer, the young woman hunting him, is named Ein (Lindsay Seidel), but she is known by a more fitting name—Phantom. Scythe Master has created Ein to be the perfect killer. She has no emotions, no past, nothing to live for—except to do his bidding. The two begins to craft Zwei into a similar force. Scythe sees possibilities in the lad that could make him deadlier than Ein.

Scythe works for Inferno. an entity that has its claws in every major criminal organization in the United States. But Inferno's ultimate goal is to create a global network of crime, and intends on using the Phantom project as its main tool.

Events start to twist as soon as Zwei begins his training. The sultry and devious Claudia McCunnen (Colleen Clinkenbeard) brings Zwei under her wing. She gives him a key to his past and begins to use him as a personal chess piece to move up the ranks of Inferno. After a few assassinations, backstabbings and disturbing revelations; Zwei's new life takes a turn. Can he trust anyone at all? And is trust something that a killer can even hope for?

Director Koichi Mashimo has a thing for slick, deadly women who pack serious heat. He's the man behind Noir and Madlax. So this show falls easily into his body of work. Phantom is a dark series about two killers who are forged the same way and yet end up taking different paths. Ein is blank. She knows only killing and she's excellent at it. Zwei offers a type of companionship, and yet she delivers the hard lesson to him—he must let go of everything to be the perfect killer. If he can't be the perfect killer then he will die. Zwei lets go of his humanity and dives into that darkness.

But Claudia changes everything. The opposite of Ein, she is all sensuality and warmth. She seduces Zwei and cracks open the past for him. She bonds with him because of this, and it gives Zwei something he never had before—hope. But Claudia is playing a deadly game and eventually someone has to pay.

The story twists along, introducing characters who are various shades of sinister. You can't trust any of them, except for Ein and Zwei. Because of their brainwashing they react in a very predictable and truthful way. This creates two characters who are rather flat by design, but who end up pulling you into the story. Then there are characters like Claudia, Scythe and the cunning McGwire (J. Michael Tatum) who continue to twist the story into new and interesting directions.

The animation style is dark: black being the primary background overlaid with brilliant jewel toned colors in the settings and outfits. It's actually got a very cool look to it, one that adds to the atmosphere. The character design is handled well, with everyone leaning toward the more realistic look. Since this portion of the series occurs in the United States, you get settings from Los Angeles to New York, with some Las Vegas thrown in for good measure. It's interesting to see this anime inspired version of the U.S. but the detail isn't quite as complete as something like Gunsmith Cats.

If there is anything to complain about it would be that the story of assassins finding meaning in their lives has been told before. It's a bit too familiar. That combined with some of the atmospheric touches can cause the series to slow down a bit. There are a lot of scenes of montages with moody music and panning over backgrounds. It straddles that line of creating atmosphere and heads toward merely padding the episodes out. The other problem is that the music, while excellent and effective, is made up from too few tracks. You start hearing the same cues used over and over again, and when you have that many montages without dialogue—it really starts to stand out.

The first part ends in blood, gunfire and tortured screams. Is there anywhere to go after that? Sure there is.

Part Two of Phantom jumps forward a few years. Zwei has embraced his new life as Phantom, Claudia's personal assassin. He now goes by his original name, Reji Azuma. Claudia continues to play games within Inferno doing her best to get a powerful yakuza family involved with the syndicate and owing her a favor or two. Things start to go badly as her deals are thwarted by a mysterious killer. Reji attempts to hunt down the antagonist, and meets young Cal (Brittney Karbowski), a girl who was left orphaned by one of Claudia's dealings. Reji takes Cal in, at first claiming that she might be able to help Inferno identify their enemy. But he sees something in the girl, a seed that could turn her into a master assassin. Reji uses that as an excuse to keep her around, but the truth is, Cal's spirit has reawakened hope inside of him.

Of course everything has to go wrong, and it soon does. Faces from the past return and Reji's new life is once again decimated. Claudia finds herself trapped in a web of her own making. Poor Cal is caught in the middle. This story arc ends with more death, blood, and a few more twists that lead into the final plot.

Two years later and the story switches locales to Japan. Reji and his new partner are pretending to be brother and sister. Reji thinks they are safe, but one day a woman on a motorcycle appears. She confronts him as the man who destroyed her life, and she's going to do everything in her power to make him suffer before she kills him. She is the new Phantom and Inferno has sent her.

The two assassins make plans to escape Japan, but the Phantom is relentless, doling out punishment and fury in equal doses. It is clear that the assassins have no choice to but face down this final onslaught if they have any hope of escaping the dark world that created them.

There is a ton of story being told in this second half of Phantom. The positive side is that the episodes race along without those montages from the first half. Each new twist builds into the next plot point, and elements from the first half of the series come into full bloom here. It was great to follow this ride to the conclusion, even if I was seriously confounded a few times.

At first the introduction of Cal into the story seemed like a pointless exercise. She seemed to be too much like Natalie Portman's character in Leon: The Professional. But her effect on Reji actually makes his character much more interesting. The bond they forge and the way the two voice actors make it click really adds to the series. Cal's fate added another dimension to the story and created its most poignant moment for me.

I was also dismayed that the story jumped to Japan in the third arc. It seemed to switch styles too, suddenly looking more like a comedy romance anime, dropping the deep blacks of the first two arcs. But this also created a new atmosphere, one that fit with the theme of illusions and redemption. Once this final arc tipped its hand with the reintroduction of Phantom, the darkness seeps back, and pulled me right in.

The voice cast does a great job here. Seidel as Ein and Pittman as Zwei are the focus of the series, and their performances need to work. They are able to convey many layers with their voices, so you can hear the difference between the killers, the masks and the human beings struggling to get out. Karbowski makes Cal's part very effective. This could have been a really annoying character, but she plays it perfectly, winning us over so her fate makes the ending work. Shay Moore as the faithful but luckless Lizzie was a great addition to the cast. She nails the character's attitude and her dialogue is a perfect fit. For that character, the subtitles just don't do her justice. Clinkenbeard's take on Claudia is great stuff. She practically purrs during her seduction scenes, and when she needs to, you can hear the tough as nails anger in her voice.

Downsides? Well the music issue rears its ugly head in this half of the series too. Cal has a neat little theme, and there is a cool variation on it later in the series. But that's it—two versions, and you hear one or the other every time she's on screen. I liked her character, but dreaded hearing them for the millionth time. You know it's bad when the same cues were used two or three times in the same episode!

There is also the issue of time. By rough calculations The series appears to span about six or seven years. I assumed that Zwei was around 18 or so when the story starts, putting him in his mid twenties by the end. But the man is supposed to pass as a Japanese high school student in the final arc! Um, OK, so he was what, 13 or so when the series starts? But they imply that Claudia seduced him, and we are talking sexual seduction here. So this woman is hooking up with jailbait because he's a master killer? And that's the less obvious character change. I won't bring up the most bizarre one, because its a bit of a spoiler, but that one blew my mind. These issues were just obvious enough to pull me out of the story to spend time trying to figure out how old the characters were.

What it boils down to is this, the story is twisty and the character paths are intriguing. The overall idea may be familiar, but the writers keep throwing in left turns and knocking the viewer off base which keeps you wanting to find out what happens next. The visuals are slick and you get a complete story with a proper ending.

Funimation offers a solid release for both parts of the series. The entire series is spread over four discs. This allows the blacks to look nice and sharp and the colors to pop. The sound mix is up to snuff, balancing gunshots and whispered dialogue with equal skill. For extras you get picture dramas that are played for laughs. These are essentially still images with the voice actors providing dialogue. They last about five minutes each. Your milage may vary on these, but it's nice to have. You also get clean openings and endings.

If you like your anime filled with dark brooding killers that are easy on the eyes, check out Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom. The first half is a little on the slow side, but the twists in the second part more than make up for it.

The Verdict

The Phantoms may be guilty, but this anime isn't.

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Scales of Justice, Phantom: Requiem For The Phantom

Judgment: 83

Perp Profile, Phantom: Requiem For The Phantom

Studio: Funimation
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Phantom: Requiem For The Phantom

• Mini-episodes
• Clean Open/Close

Scales of Justice, Phantom: Requiem For The Phantom

Judgment: 85

Perp Profile, Phantom: Requiem For The Phantom

Studio: Funimation
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Phantom: Requiem For The Phantom

• Mini-episodes
• Clean Open/Close
• Japanese TV promos








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