Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom is an intriguing kind of show and it stands as one of FUNimation's more prominent recently released titles. The trailer gave it a slick appearance and the packaging is definitely a plus, in the sense that the publisher has really been pushing the envelope lately to entice otaku. Does a spiffy trailer and solid packaging make for a worthwhile purchase? Never judge a book by its cover.
Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom was released in 2009. The 26 episode show was produced by Bee Train and stems from an original 18+ visual novel that came out in 2000. FUNimation's presentation of the show breaks it down into parts, as one would expect, and the first is presented in a box big enough to hold both releases, with some extras on the side (I'll cover what's here in the "Extras" section).
In many ways, the premise behind Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom is definitely cool. I mean, it's about a countrywide crime syndicate, Inferno, and a pair of cold-hearted assassins working as puppets for those with power. That's a strong concept on paper and to be fair there are many moments where the show realizes its true potential, but the content in between those highlights is, well...not so good.
The show begins by introducing us to a young man suffering from amnesia that wakes up to find himself in a strange warehouse in the middle of nowhere. Making matters worse is the fact that some mysterious woman with a mask is trying to kill him. Somehow he manages to overcome her assassination attempt, and it's a good thing because it was a test. His mind was wiped to erase his past and help to mold him into the perfect killer due to his strong survival instinct. He soon is given the name Zwei and partners up with the young woman who attempted to kill him earlier, Ein.
Under Ein's tutelage, Zwei becomes a hardened killing machine who acts more on instinct than anything else. His personality is more or less trained out of him and he gets to the point where he doesn't thing twice to pull the trigger, no matter the mark. As Ein and Zwei work together the show kind of builds a relationship up around them. In their profession they can't really trust anyone or turn their back to anyone, so they kind of rely on each other. Eventually there's a rift that forms in between them and in this first half the whole thing winds up as a dramatic climax.
Up to that point Phantom: Requiem of the Phantom is kind of boring; at least when it's not killing people. The show features sparse highlights in between and most of the series is the two characters droning on in a monotone voice about how they have no emotions and are tools for Inferno to use. There are sparse glimmers of a connection between the two, but with the structure of the show one has to wonder if that's all a ploy as well. Zwei manages to get interesting to a point as his identity is revealed during this first installment, but even that does little to really stem the dry feeling.
Ultimately the first part of Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom provides some strong climaxes and plenty of promise, but it fails to deliver on most of it all. In between the show feels boring and lifeless, and I get that the producers may have gone that road to highlight the state of their characters, but man it's dreadful to watch at times. It truly feels like for everything cool the show does, it does something that causes it to miss a step. It's frustrating to say the least and it's really hard to glean anything resembling a deep meaning behind the development of story and characters.
Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom is presented on DVD with its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and has been enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show looks decent, but not outstanding. The animation is rather low budget most of the time and the overall palette is rather bland and depression, though I suppose that matches the tone of the show. The image contains grain and the occasional compression artifact, but for the most part it's relatively stable with a nice resolution.
The show comes with a 5.1 English dub and 2.0 stereo Japanese track as well. I gave both tracks a listen and for the most part they each performed well enough. I actually found myself leaning towards the English track for this one, which is something of a rarity. Even so the casts performances are a bit lifeless, though Pittman delivers on his character for the most part and Colleen Clinkenbeard brings a sultry tone to the character of Claudia. Oh, and the soundtrack for the show is downright awful, I'm sorry to say.
For bonus features there's a third disc included in this first part. This disc features clean animations and six picture dramas, which are basically just little snippets of story set to still images. There's dialogue (in Japanese only) and they are worth going through once you've finished watching the show. The only other feature on the discs of this release is a collection of FUNimation trailers. As previously mentioned this first installment comes with a limited edition box and inside is a necklace charm of a bullet.
Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom is a compelling concept wrapped in boring and delivered with spotty production values. Some aspects of the show are fantastic and the story really brings about several great climaxes. The action, when it's there, is nicely produced, and there's a good deal of tension between the characters. The show as a whole just doesn't feel cohesive though, and the characters are very hard to root for. I'm going to stick with it for the second half for sure, but I for now I can't muster up more than a rental recommendation for it.
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