Phantom in the Twilight Series Review: This Series Could Be Renamed Saving Shinyao

While this anime isn’t exactly going to change the world it was perhaps one of the more fun titles from the Summer Season. If you like a bit of fun and action with vampires, werewolves and other things that go bump in the night and you’ll probably find something to enjoy in Phantom in the Twilight.

Review:

I’ll admit straight out I didn’t think a huge amount of episode 1. It was another girl runs into supernatural hot guys and I kind of predicted that this show could become quite good or just be a mess. I also made a lot of disparaging remarks about the protagonist Ton and it took more than a few episodes before I finally got off her case because I finally started warming up to her. How is that relevant to the review? Well, it is my round about way of saying that this anime takes a little time to grow on you, but fortunately once it gets going the action is pretty solid and the characters are a lot more interesting than they might initially appear.

That said, it isn’t as though this show becomes some kind of sleeper masterpiece. It really is just silly supernatural fun and the final episodes don’t quite nail the landing leaving me at least feeling a tiny bit let down given the mid-season was pretty solid.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 8

So what is this show about? Well, for the most part it is about Ton, our main character, attempting to rescue her friend Shinyao who gets kidnapped at the end of episode 1. And that’s more or less it for plot. Sure there’s a lot of supernatural business with Ton’s grandmother and learning to use powers and recruiting the members of Cafe Forbidden to help out, but the overall objective remains save Shinyao. This is a plot line that becomes almost a joke at points given how many times they get close to rescuing Shinyao before for whatever reason they don’t succeed and end up back at the cafe lamenting that they still haven’t saved Shinyao.

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What saves this anime from becoming pretty bad is that it isn’t asking you to do anything other than have fun with the characters and to go along with whatever supernatural silliness they just threw at you. There isn’t really any deeper message or idea going on as Ton storms her way through each situation gaining more and more power. There’s enough chemistry between the cast members that they end up being really enjoyable by the mid-season, and they have enough of a backstory that they are fun to learn more about.

Speaking of fun learning, one of my favourite parts of the show each week was the after credits sequence called Twilight Plus where the characters in Chibi form would discuss one of the characters or what was happening in the story. It was always amusing and was well worth hanging around for each week. My personal favourite was where they introduced Toryu and asked him how he managed to carry his weapons around. It was just such a great way to finish each episode.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 9

Still, there are definitely some down sides to this story. Probably the most legitimate gripe, other than the overall simple nature of the plot, would be the absence of a decent villain or obstacle for the characters to overcome. They kind of try to set up a few of these but mostly they end up being pretty lame and realistically this would have actually helped the climax of the series along enormously. Earlier episodes where they managed to introduce a real sense of danger certainly were highly entertaining so it would have been nice to still believe any of the villains posed an actual threat in the final two episodes.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 10 Ton

There’s not a lot more to say about this. Either you like supernatural anime with powers and fight sequences and you are happy just to go along for the ride, or you aren’t. For those who like that sort of thing, there’s a nice rich world of lore to explore here and while this particular season is mostly just scratching the surface, it really does feel like the supernatural elements have been nicely incorporated into the real world. It’s great fun and I’m glad I picked this one up during the summer season.

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Phantom in the Twilight Episode 12: A Mixed Finish

Phantom in the Twilight brought us to the end of the season and I will spoil the ending a bit and point out that they did finally save Shinyao (only took 11 episodes to do that). So with the main plot line resolved the question is how did this episode go for Ton and the rest of the staff from Cafe Forbidden?

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I will point out the two issues I had with this episode before getting on with why it was still good fun. Firstly the villains still just kind of suck. Mr Backup is still unconscious and I’m not sure if he was actually burned or not but he literally had no active role in this episode. You could argue he didn’t need to having already set things in motion, but that kind of makes his character even more lame. Haysin on the other hand more or less depletes his own power in a fight and then meanders off to lick his wounds and gets taken out by a slightly random character.

Secondly, all of the potential danger and tension of last week was more or less diffused in seconds this episode when all the injured support characters just kind of rock up fine. if you were worried about Chris, Luke or Toryu, just don’t worry about them. They are all fine and will jump straight back into the fight without a scratch, though Luke did lose his shirt.

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And that’s really the big issue here is that everything is just kind of solved magically. None of the characters are actually injured, Vlad somehow holds Shinyao off and removes the chip controlling her, Ton somehow becomes a legendary fighter and takes out a whole army of umbra, the Lord of Gluttony makes a brief appearance and fixes one issue but the other is just kind of left hanging, and then we all go to the cafe and get back into the usual kind of banter between the characters.

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Don’t get me wrong, it is all kind of fun and the problems are solved. This episode has no more issues then the show has had the whole way along. Still, given the momentum this anime gained mid-season, I still feel the ending hasn’t quite held up its end. That said, I’m looking forward to a full season review of this one because it has been a fun enough ride.

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Phantom in the Twilight Episode 11: Brainwashed Shinyao Is No Fun

As much as Shinyao is incredibly powerful in this episode of Phantom in the Twilight, she’s become more or less a blank slate controlled externally for the purpose of creating a big bad to face in a final episode. It isn’t exactly the most compelling way this show could have ended (though I guess there’s still an episode to go).

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I think the most surprising part of this episode was the reappearance of Van Helsing. I mean, we did see him escape hospital earlier but his literally dropping into the fight seemed really random. Outside of that, things progressed more or less as you would expect. The Twilights accompanied Ton to the Tower of London where they were separated from her one by one leaving just her and Wayne to confront Shinyao. And, because it isn’t the final, they don’t yet save her. So all according to plan really.

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The issues crop up with the half-hearted nature of the threats blocking their path, the fact that there doesn’t appear to be any malice from the ‘villains’ as they just seem to be playing around, and then the reunion with Shinyao being pretty flat due to Shinyao being entirely brainwashed and completely boring.

Even the promise of evil Wayne didn’t really elevate the occasion nor did a duplicate version of Rijan facing off with Vlad. Basically this episode was perfectly serviceable and progressed us nicely to a point where we can see things wrapping up next week but lacked any real excitement or point of interest.

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I am however left wondering how they can be in the Tower of London and yet the most exciting enemy they are facing off against is the same suit of armour that seems ridiculously weak duplicated over and over. Seriously missed opportunity here.

I’m still enjoying the show mind you, but I kind of wanted a little bit more from this episode.

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Phantom in the Twilight Episode 10: Shinyao’s Power Is Impressive, Yet We Now Have an Imminent Ton vs Shinyao Situation

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 10 - Shinyao

Definitely glad I picked up Phantom in the Twilight this season as despite some of the logical issues with the plot, it has been a whole lot of fun. The realisation that Shinyao is more than just the perpetual kidnap victim took awhile to sink in, but I think anyone who watches this episode will agree hers is a pretty impressive power.

Phantom in the Twilight, Episode 10, Vlad

I wondered briefly when I previously looked at the idea that this show seemed to be trying to set up a show down between Ton and Shinyao how that would ever come about. This episode mostly answers that with Shinyao being more or less controlled at this point and seeing a Chris that doesn’t exist who is counselling her to use her power and in the process she’s absorbing a lot of umbra. While this works well enough, fights between protagonists and mind-controlled best friends have fairly predictable outcomes so I’m kind of hoping we end up with a bit more to it than this. Still, that particular power of Shinyao’s is going to be a problem given the company Ton is keeping.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 10 - Luke

And that is perhaps the strength of this show. While never amazing, it continues to build one crisis on another and to make the audience wonder how the characters will get through the next hurdle or even what their next move should be. The answers are never all that far away and are usually pretty entertaining to watch unfold so mostly I’m happy not to look too hard at the bits and pieces that aren’t exactly the most rational or logical.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 10 Ton

Despite the set up being about Shinyao, the episode does spend a lot of time with Ton and we really see how attached Vlad and the others have gotten to her in the short time they’ve known her. But we also see that Ton doesn’t want to just be a substitute for Rijan. Fortunately we’re in London so a tea party solves everything and then our heroes are off for a showdown that apparently has two episodes to resolve.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 10

That said, I can’t finish this post without mentioning that Vlad finally just outright admitted that Wayne is more than just a ghost who hangs around. Then the Twilight Plus added to this particular revelation. Yet another example of a small mystery the show set up a few episodes back before dropping the explanation at more or less the perfect time. While I kind of hope we get more on this, we kind of have enough at this point in time to just get on with the ending. Still, it would be kind of fun.

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Phantom in the Twilight Episode 9: Saving Shinyao has Become A Full Series Job

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 9

They really could rename this series Saving Shinyao the way its been going. The girl has been repeatedly kidnapped and on the run since the end of episode 1 and it seems like the Ton vs Shinyao scenario is far more likely (and I’m still not sure how I feel about that).

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 9

This episode gave a lot of its screen time to the bad guys (or at least the people standing in Ton’s way and pursuing Shinyao so I assume we’re supposed to think they are bad). The selfish motivations and almost play-like way they go about their pursuit of the heroines in this episode doesn’t do much to endear them and does a lot to make me feel like Haysin and the computer guy are two pre-teens squabbling over who would win a fight between Batman and Superman.

Phantom in the Twilight - Haysin

And in case you missed it, I did say heroines. This was previously Ton’s story with Ton’s grandmother  establishing the cafe and Ton being the one who was trying to save Shinyao. Somewhere along the way, Shinyao has become a character in her own right and while I think she’s a little unbalanced, given the limited screen time she’s had it is still impressive what the show has managed with her.

As for the specifics of this episode, there’s a lot of fighting. Haysin is trying to ‘level up’ ton so he’s got some umbra from the museum for her to play with. Computer guy is still playing a game of tag with Shinyao and Chris. Meanwhile, one of the two, or both, send guys with guns to take out a hospitalised Van Helsing. After the set-up plays out we more or less just run from conflict to conflict.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 9

That said, if you want to have your heart broken a little bit, the Twilight Plus this week is as adorable as ever and features Shinyao and Chris. Of course it was definitely bait to make us watch the next episode but these little skits at the end of each episode are actually pretty solid entertainment.

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Phantom in the Twilight Episode 8: Down Time

If this were still just Ton’s story, than episode 8 would seem relatively fillery and kind of like they were trying to drag out a plot to a set number of episodes. However with Shinyao and Chris still on the run and bad guys manoeuvring for position, while the action is largely off screen there’s still a sense of movement here.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 8

I’m not entirely convinced by this episode given after elevating our heroine momentarily it now lays her out for an entire episode with amnesia and exhaustion. It might be worth noting that at least there was some genuine consequence to the sheer amount of power exerted in the battle of episode 7 and a welcome addition to the world building in Phantom in the Twilight, however given by the end of the episode they’d more or less completely backtracked on both the physical and mental marks of her struggle, I’m not 100% sold on that explanation. Ton’s condition does lend itself to the boys worrying about her and their personalities are on full display as they discuss and argue about what is best for Ton before each offering her comfort in their own way.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 8

However, where Ton’s story was very much a time out for the team, Chris and Shinyao are very much still in the thick of things. I’d wondered earlier why they hadn’t just gone to Cafe Forbidden so it was nice when Shinyao finally raised the prospect and I kind of hope we’re finally getting to that point because keeping Shinyao away from Ton has been stretched almost as far as it can (though I did get worrying vibes of pitting the two against each other in the future and that would not be a pleasant development). However, where the scenes with Shinyao and with Haysin and the other villains succeeded was in convincing the viewers that this world is real (or at least close enough). The other characters don’t just stop what they are doing while Ton is lying around in bed. The world goes on whether the heroine is involved or not.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 8

This wasn’t the best of episodes, but it did do some building on the world and characters and it has neatly set up future developments. Hopefully it manages to execute whatever choice it makes.

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Phantom in the Twilight Episode 7: Interesting Bait and Switch

After episode 6 spent a lot of effort talking up Van Helsing as a threat to fairly much diffuse him in moments this episode. But if viewers thought the tension was over for the episode (and I did) the rest becomes a pleasant surprise including giving us plenty of reason to keep watching.

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While we might have been expecting an epic fight between Vlad and Van Helsing, the show chooses instead to focus this episode very much on Ton. The fight does occur but what we see of it isn’t epic, Van Helsing is dealt with fairly quickly, and any worry we may have had for the others was fairly wasted. Normally I would be annoyed when a show shot its own cliff-hanger in the foot, except that this anime fairly quickly established that Ton is the one in real trouble this week. By shifting the danger, rather than feeling cheated, I felt a sense of excitement at this unexpectedly interesting development. And while originally I thought Ton and Wayne teaming up was great, it was even more excellent when Wayne was swept away from her and she was left to try to rescue her friend on her own and we were able to see how far she’s grown with using her power since she first entered Cafe Forbidden.

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Now I should probably go on the record as apologising to Ton for giving her such a hard time for being a boring protagonist dragged along by the plot earlier in the series. While she is most definitely still being kicked around by the plot, she is most definitely an active participant in the story at this point and quite a fun one at that. I don’t know when I switched from being indifferent to her and tolerating her to actually enjoying her presence, but this episode wouldn’t have worked unless I had a bit of a care about what was going to happen to her.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 7

Fortunately we have finally resolved the endlessly kidnapped best friend saga but as I said before, the show masterfully turned us straight into another crisis so it doesn’t feel like we’re heading into down time. Phantom in the Twilight is definitely one of the surprisingly well put together shows of this season. It didn’t look like much at first, but it is definitely holding together and building itself up piece by piece as the season progresses.

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Phantom in the Twilight Episode 6: Well, That Got Serious

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 6 - Van Helsing

This episode was pretty good as Van Helsing makes his presence felt in a show already fairly crowded out with characters. While it might end in yet another cliff-hanger, Phantom in the Twilight manages a fairly decent effort at progressing its plot this week.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 6 - Wayne

For a show I had fairly mixed feelings about during its first three episodes and mostly just stuck with because I’m a sucker for the supernatural, Phantom in the Twilight actually continues to progressively get better as the audience is slowly drawn more into this world of Umbra and shadowy organisations. And while I use the word slowly, I don’t actually mean that as a criticism. Each week we gain more insight into the relationships between different characters or groups or learn more about how things work while the story also brings these different ideas and groups together. It saves us from anything too much like an exposition dump even though some of the dialogue is clearly explanatory and throw in for the benefit of Ton/the audience.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 6 - Luke and Vlad

There are some plot developments that are a little clunky and awkward, such as the ongoing saga of Ton’s kidnapped friend. This week Van Helsing sees a reflection in a video and somehow determines that this is the umbra he needs to hunt down and maybe there’s more to the story, but it is kind of skipped over very quickly. Meanwhile, Ton also happens to come across more or less the same image but zeroes in on her friend’s hat. The likelihood of both parties finding the same footage at the same time and drawing the conclusion that they needed to be there is kind of stretching probability, but it does push the plot in a steady forward direction and overall the viewing is pleasant enough that these few awkward moments that exist simply to keep the plot afloat can more or less be forgiven.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 6 - Chris and Van Helsing

Perhaps the biggest issue I have with Van Helsing’s introduction is that we’ve got another obvious case of an anime asking us to consider who the real monsters are as views of human supremacy are heavily dropped into his dialogue and we’re clearly set up to dislike him. While the commentary this character might offer on society isn’t an issue in and of itself, we’ve seen it plenty of times before and I’m not sure that this anime has the narrative strength to play it well. That said, it is a minor grievance in something that is by and large quite fun to watch.

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Phantom in the Twilight Episode 5: Love or Life?

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 5

Alright, I might have to stop making fun of Ton given this episode she actually really stepped up to the plate as the protagonist in this story, and all in all this episode of Phantom in the Twilight was pretty well done.

Phantom in the Twilight - Ton

So the plot involving Ton’s kidnapped friend gets about two minutes of screen time in a kind of mini-story about them inhabiting a haunted house and then we are whisked back to the cafe where Ton is playing dress-up as the manager. Almost as soon as she’s extracted compliments (and kind of insults) from the others they get their first ‘customer’, a Sidhe named Lydia who wants them to find her a man.

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For various silly reasons and I guess because she’s impulsive, Ton agrees to the request and it seemed from that point on the story would become pretty ordinary and predictable with a dose of awful thrown in. And yet, Phantom in the Twilight rises to the occasion. It is predictable what the outcome is going to be because the entire story is framed as a tragedy, and yet this episode feels like it is continuously pushing forward, we’re seeing Ton acting and using self-determination rather than being dragged by the plot, and ultimately she both makes a decision and then reflects on it making this the first moment really where I’ve seen Ton as a protagonist I might kind of come to like.

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We end the episode however with a new arrival in London, Van Helsing. Guess what he’s getting up to next week. Still, so far this series had been a bit of fun, but this episode really kind of felt like it was drawing me more into this world and these characters. I’m kind of hoping it continues along this path because I had a great time this week.

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Phantom in the Twilight Episode 4: My Friend Was Taken As A Hostage, And I Don’t Seem To Care

Phantom of the Twilight Episode 4

Remind me to not rely on Ton if I’m ever kidnapped. She’s really not at all focused on saving her friend. That little bit of plot insanity aside though, Phantom in the Twilight is actually shaping up to be a pretty decent show this season.

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As main heroines go, Ton is kind of problematic on a number of levels, not the least of which is that she’s the least interesting of the cast and she has no chemistry with anyone but they force her into situations where her emotional connections are supposed to matter. I find it so odd watching her flit about and how casually she just accepts that they can’t figure out where her friend is. While her crying and moaning continuously wouldn’t be any better, it feels like this should be some kind of pressing concern that impacts upon her as a character.

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However, instead of dealing with the kidnapped friend who is happily getting a river cruise with the red-haired wolf from last week, we turn our attention to the third of the supernatural waiters. This episode is very much Toryu’s, starting from his back story with Ton’s grandmother and hi losing control in the city while out on a shopping trip with Ton. It’s actually a pretty interesting back story and it does allow Ton to show that she hasn’t just been chilling since being dragged into the supernatural nonsense. She’s still a novice but she is definitely learning and her saving the day here is quite fitting (as is the heavy assistance she receives to do so).

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One thing I particularly liked about this episode was that at times there was genuinely a question of whether or not they could overcome this particularly trial. A few times it very much seemed like they wouldn’t succeed and that gave it a bit of tension and excitement. Also the initial attack on Toryu was pretty brutal and yet still seemed to fit with the show so far. While I wouldn’t actually call it a dark show by any means, it isn’t all sexy vampires and wolf boys fighting over tea or coffee.

So I’m actually enjoying this series more than I expected. It definitely has its issues but right now I’m having fun with it.

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