Urobuchi December: Phantom – Requiem for a Phantom

After watching something pretty awful, it’s time to dive into something pretty great and nostalgic for me. Before going through this month event, the only time that I watched Phantom was at anime club at Uni years and years ago now. I really liked it then and I wanted to eventually rewatch it because I loved it a lot back in the day. Well, I guess you can see that I created my own excuse on why I am doing it. Especially since this anime is based on the visual novel written by Gen Urobuchi himself. He apparently was apart of the script writing of this show too, which one could feel almost on every level. This was my first Urobuchi thing and I didn’t even know who he was at that time. I only remember one anime club member saying his name at the show’s conclusion and that’s how it all started for me.

Imagine waking up one day not knowing where you are or without even a semblance of a memory of your previous life. Every second you are alive from that point onward, you are put to the test because you have survival instincts to become an assassin. At least that’s what the mysterious leader guy says. To live, you must show them when fighting against the mysterious Phantom. You must win or you fail. You fail, you lose. You win, you get to be an assassin alongside your supposed killer. This is the way Phantom: Requiem for a Phantom starts. No entry into the world besides this and from here onward, you will kill for Inferno under guard by a mysterious man named Scythe Master. Enter the world of assassinations by the name of Zwei in which your partner is Eins. German names seem to have their appearance in anime.

Phantom: Requiem for a Phantom has a lot of things going on in it that makes the work so fascinating. One could easily say mafia wars. With the enslaved assassin hood of Eins and Zwei, of which there is no escape despite being the best assassins in the entire world, one must kill or one must die. Without an identity, there is no autonomy. These unknown assassins with no other lives besides showing that they are some sort of young couple, kill in the name for Inferno. With skills beyond normal skills, stealth beyond stealth, ideas beyond ideas. Yet they are the least important people in this game of executives pushing for more reach in their game. A lot of this mafia war stuff makes the show interesting.

At the corner of this killing and no escape is a very interesting relationship between Eins and Zwei. Eins as the hopeless assassin who has been around for three years and this is all that she has known. After all, she is Scythe Master’s toy in more ways then one. On the other end is Zwei whose skills grow too fast and has some sense of the outside world on him even if he doesn’t know his name. He asks questions about his current situation and is curious about the outside and has been slowly enticed by the hot executive Claudia for her own purposes. I really do like that dynamic. That it just doesn’t end as the two working as a team when there are forces in Inferno that want something from them for their reasons of power and intrigue. There is a fun game for those who aren’t forced to be assassins.

For a lack of spoiler, I will not be discussing a lot of what occurs in Phantom or Inferno too much. Especially since the executives behind Phantom, besides Scythe Master and Claudia, do not appear until part two where Claudia won her game in part 2. Supposedly. The team fell apart and supposedly, Eins is dead as far as we know. Though, the games of assassination and killing are still all over the place. We just see it from the field and the natural conclusion for all of that field work is seeing more of the inside plus an examination of Zwei own soul. That occurs through a new girl named Cal who just had her own family killed and has the potential to be an assassin. So there is that pull of whether or not Cal should be while Zwei continues to hate himself. Claudia winning meant nothing to him. I find the slowness of that second part more interesting. If anything since the show’s action is very hit or miss.

As has already been hinted at, the only holding back this anime are a lot of the action scenes. I mean, this is produced by Studio Gonzo and it is well directed with all sorts of fun and thought provoking angles in it. Character designs and settings are pretty great too. It just feels like anything beyond the characters standing in place and shooting done characters or action scenes that last longer then thirty seconds feel so awkward if they require a lot of movement. One moment that was supposed to be from Terminator felt so awkward when it was supposed to be scary or intimidating. Yeah, that’s about it really. Its why the intrigue is the major selling point of this series with action being next by just fulfilling the purpose of showing assassins be assassins.

The third portion is something that I will describe even less. It is the final portion after all. Just know that it feels like a natural culmination of all the elements in the story itself. The very exploration of the themes of self reflection, whether one’s identity is your own or what someone else decides for you, and what does being an assassin really mean. It really puts all the character moments and intrigue together from everything in a way that feels earned for its own story. Phantom: Requiem for a Phantom is just so Gen Urobuchi. No one else can write this story but him because not everyone can create so much fascinating exploration and intrigue from assassins killing in this way.

So yeah, of course Phantom: Requiem for a Phantom passed the nostalgia test for me even if its only been a decade. It really feels like it has everything in it that I love digging into. A great premise that it actually performs on, characters whose search for power leads them down some heavy roads, how hard it is to escape fate, what an identity means, and what it means to self designate your own life. It is such an underrated series that you can learn more about by reading Jon Spencer’s post from a while back here: Link. Go ahead, give it a try. It is a masterful anime written under the pen of Gen Urobuchi who hits much more often then he has missed. There is a reason why he is famous after all. Absolutely solid anime.

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