A young man from Japan wakes up without memories and finds himself thrust into a world of assassins and betrayal. He’s a puppet for an organisation known as Inferno and he exists only to kill. However, he might not want to stay a puppet forever and as he grows closer to Ein, another of Inferno’s assassins, he’ll begin to think of a different future.
Phantom is one of those series that is really fun to watch and you get drawn into the story and the intrigue but when you think about it after all the plot holes that you kind of saw at the time just become more and more apparent. That said, this isn’t a story that wants you to look closely at it. It’s a story that wants you to journey with the characters to their end point and it wants to shock you along the way.
Fair warning, shocks in this series come in the form of nudity, sexual encounters, murder (obviously), torture, brain washing, and the young age of certain characters and the situations they find themselves in. If you can stomach that (and while it isn’t overly gratuitous it is at times confronting) then you’ll probably have a blast watching the boy named Zwei become the best assassin ever before trying to get away and reclaim an actual life.
The story very much follows Zwei (and we do learn his real name but given even the character realises he’s gone too far down the road to return to that life this revelation doesn’t really change the fact that he has become Zwei whether he did it willingly or not). We meet him after he’s had his memories stripped and he is forced to endure a fairly harsh training regime to become an assassin. While he doesn’t strike the audience as particularly formidable early on, you realise he’s accelerating through the training sequence quite quickly and when we get the flashback to find out how he came to be in Inferno’s hands at all you realise why the crazy guy keeps carrying on about natural talent. (Yes, crazy guy has a name and no I don’t remember it.)
But as much as the story follows this action and Zwei’s transformation, it also builds some intrigue and solid character relationships. That’s probably the strength of this series is it manages to balance some very cool action with those slower character building moments and it gives us a sense of the world Zwei has found himself in but never tries to info-dump on us. Mostly because everyone is pretty keen on keeping Zwei in the dark so it isn’t as though he knows much about what is going on or why.
Once we progress to carrying out missions, we see Ein and Zwei and the clear difference between them. Ein is undoubtably a killing machine but while Zwei is talented he never has the outright blankness of personality that afflicts Ein. Nor is he technically all that rebellious and it is the intrigues within Inferno and the manipulation of some of its members that ultimately tip Zwei’s hand.
What I like is that Zwei tries numerous times to get out of this life he finds himself in, and to help remove Ein from it, but they continuously get drawn back in. It is only during the later stages of the series that a break is made and fortunately that bit of boredom (and probably the weakest moment of the series given we end up in a Japanese school setting which serves no real purpose other than anime and its ongoing obsession with Japanese schools) only lasts a short period of time.
Cal’s arrival in the story in the later half is both confronting and a brilliant move for the story. Zwei has been in the organisation for a long period of time when he takes Cal on and ends up doing much the same thing to her that was done to him before he abandons her. This leads to a major confrontation between them later, though the actual confrontation sounds better in theory than the delivery of it.
And this is probably the major criticism of Phantom. It has a really solid first half but the second half with Cal and the running away to Japan and other events is decidedly weaker. It doesn’t help that many of the main players introduced in the first half are no longer in the story or have taken on new roles. This is where we start seeing major plot holes and start seeing the cracks in the characters and the reality that have been constructed.
Most likely, this won’t ruin your viewing experience but it does change a series from being a must watch to just being a good time with a few bumps along the road. That said if you like something a bit dark and assassination sounds like a nice plot device then definitely jump into this series. I had a lot of fun with it though I’ll admit it is far from perfect.
If you’ve seen Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom, let me know your thoughts.
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