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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Devils’ Line Series Review: Get Ready For Dark – And I Am Talking About The Colour Palette Not The Story

An anime that started with a fairly poor first episode and pretty much never got any better, Devils’ Line was one of my bigger disappointments to come out of the Spring 2018 season.

Review:

I would really like to start this review with an overview of the story, but unfortunately, I’m not sure there really is one. There’s a few different ideas, but none of them ever develop or end up being resolved. And that’s part of the problem with Devils’ Line as a whole, though it certainly isn’t the only issue sucking the life out of this series.

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Firstly we have Taira Tsukasa, who is one of those super pure girls who has never fallen in love. Then her friend from school tries to attack her and it turns out he’s a vampire and she’s rescued by another vampire who turns out to work for the police hunting down devils (and don’t ask why vampires are called devils in this story, they just are). All of that seems fine but then Tsukasa is apparently in love with the rescue vampire, Anzai, and the two of them are in a relationship.

If you are wondering what happened in between the rescue and the falling in love, other than Anzai forcibly sticking his tongue down Tsukasa’s throat, I’m going to say not much. The story just expects that audience to believe these two are now in love.

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Seriously in love. Like they’ll throw themselves into life-threatening danger on more than one occasion for the other person. Even though vampires and humans can’t actually be involved in a relationship and there is government discussion around a law to allow humans and vampires to have sex only is supervised by a doctor (what?).

I’ll get to the other plot lines that trail about in this mess in a minute, but I want to take a moment to look at Tsukasa’s character, because she is perhaps the stupidest thing about this entire series, and there are some stupid things happening in this series.

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The girl meets a guy once who after saving her, by injuring her mind you, gets so out of control because she’s bleeding that he forces himself on her, shoving his tongue into her mouth, and has to sedate himself to calm down. She’s then just totally fixated on him. Letting him into her house, chasing him around the city and into danger… A sniper takes a shot at him while he is in her house and she gets cut by broken glass leaving a permanent scar on her face, and the only comment she makes regarding that several episodes later is that it hurts less than not being with Anzai. I actually can’t recall a single decision or comment that came out of Tsukasa’s mouth that wasn’t either asinine or stupid, and as she’s a character a lot of the action is built around her presence really hinders the story.

Though probably not as much as the fact that everyone seems to fall in love with her. her vampire friend who initially attacked her. Anzai as the saviour. Her lecturer at school who attempts to rape her. The girl is a dishrag and there is nothing about her that is interesting and yet every single person she meets seems to like her and either want to have sex with her or protect her, or both.

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But as much fun as the vampire/human relationship issues are, and they do permeate the entire story, even at fairly odd moments when you would think the cast would have better things to do than worry about whether Anzai and Tsukasa can sleep together, the story also seems to want to explore how vampires (devils) fit into modern society and how the general public responds to them. We get mass protests, terrorist groups, calls for segregation, and it all seems like this should go somewhere. There’s even a vast conspiracy within the organisation Anzai works for where there are double agents all pressing their own agenda.

This could have been a fairly gripping story really. And yet it plays out in the background with only a few episodes where it is the focus. Then we get to the end of the season and this story line just kind of stops. We don’t know what legislation actually gets passed or what happens to the conspirators or anything else. The story just turns its focus back to Anzai and Tsukasa’s relationship.

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There’s also some subplot about the institution where Anzai grew up and his parents. An escapee vampire from their joins the group midway through the series. Nothing ever eventuates from this plot point.

While I was harsh to Tsukasa earlier, I should probably point out that there isn’t a single decently developed character in the entire series. Not one character is actually interesting or well explored. At the end of the season you would be hard pressed to remember more than a handful of names and when you think about why some of the characters existed at all you will draw a blank. They contribute nothing overall to a story that goes nowhere.

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Then we have the visuals. Right from episode one it was pretty clear that this anime was not exactly a gorgeous feast for the eyes. Murky imagery, poor contrasts in the colours, and some really bad choices with animation to make the vampires seem fast (animation choices that seemed to disappear a few episodes in) all worked to make this series a pretty ugly thing to watch.

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This isn’t the worst thing ever but what really hurts is that we could have had a decent relationship between Anzai and Tsukasa and an exploration of the trouble they had in building an inter-species relationship. Or we could have had a compelling police drama where there were conspiracies to marginalise devils in society. The issue is, this show couldn’t handle doing both and the end result is an unsatisfying mess.

What did you think of Devils’ Line?

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Phantom in the Twilight Episode 3: Two Wolves Meet Under a Ferris Wheel

As silly as some aspects of this show are, I can’t help but have fun while watching it. While I strongly suspect that when they explain the villain’s motives it will probably be a disappointment, Phantom in the Twilight has so far been enjoyable enough to watch, even though it isn’t great.

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Have I mentioned I kind of have a thing for anime guys with animal ears? Wolves are okay, though I’d definitely prefer a fox.

Some spoilers below, if you are inclined to care.

Luke faces his destiny in a showdown under the ferris wheel, or I guess they could have gone that path. Mostly Luke, who already figured out that another werewolf was involved last week and clearly knew who, goes off on his own and meets his brother who just happens to be the kidnapper. They reminisce about old times, try and kill each other, there’s some outside interference but fortunately Ton and the others show up because Ton wants to rescue her friend (Luke), oh and she might try and save Shinyao while she’s at it because that was the whole point of last week to save her kidnapped friend.

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On that front, they are really stretching the plot just a little bit too far now. Two weeks in a row Ton has gotten within reach of her friend and they still haven’t saved her. it’s like someone just keeps moving the piece of cheese further back and yet they forgot to load the trap so nothing actually happens as we progress.

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Still, we get some entertaining moments with Wayne, a brief history lesson on a whole bunch of jargon and Ton’s grandmother, a fight between two werewolves, a gatling gun being used on some kind of green glowing demonic dogs, and a cup of tea, so this episode has enough going on to keep you interested. All things consider, this is kind of reminding me of quite a few anime I’ve watched in the past that are fun in the moment but don’t have much real impact and are quickly forgotten. Maybe it will rise above that in later episodes, but these first three episodes seem to have pretty much cemented this as a watchable entertainment that leaves little lasting impression.

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