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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was pleasantly surprised that episode two of this was reasonably decent given the first episode’s shortcomings. The focus is very much on Vlad but the other characters definitely get a little bit of a look in as this supernatural story continues.
It has been awhile since vampires actually had issues with garlic, crosses, running water and were held to the belief that they couldn’t enter a building without being invited and while Buffy made good use of the mythology around vampires, most stories take great liberties with discarding the old legends or openly scoffing at them. While that doesn’t make this show any better, it does make me more interested in it if the characters are going to have a more traditional portrayal (despite all appearing to be generically good looking, young guys). If that was the only thing episode two offered, I’d probably still be more inclined to watch this show than I was last week, but overall I was generally left with the impression that this episode was better.
Ton was still not what I’d consider a great protagonist, but on one or two occasions she actually called Vlad on keeping information from her even if she didn’t press the point. The introduction of Wayne was kind of entertaining and I can see him being immensely useful as a plot device but he was just kind of fun as a character. Even Luke and the other guy (I keep missing his name) got a bit more detail about who they were and there was groundwork laid for an ongoing story with Luke that looks like it will get fleshed out next week.
Of course, the attention was on Vlad a lot and his vampire powers are pretty cool. He’s fairly stereotypical as a character and yet not annoyingly so, but he may not be all that interesting to some viewers. Plus he has absolutely zero chemistry with Ton so the scenes with the two of them that could have been charming or fun mostly end up being just a back and forth of flat dialogue that does progress the plot but isn’t overly interesting.
I think i’m in with this anime though. The heavy supernatural focus in this second episode really sold it to me and even though I’d like a bit more from the cast, there were improvements from episode 1 to episode 2 and hopefully they will continue.