Aug 4, 2014
Link_of_Hyrule (All reviews)

Every now and then, while watching an anime, you take a step back and realize how much of an effect that the work is truly having on you. I’m sure that anyone reading this review is familiar with the feeling: You couldn’t be more engrossed the story, you couldn’t be more emotionally attached to the characters, and you couldn’t look away from the screen even if you wanted to. Adrenaline courses through your veins at every subtle movement as you shift even further to the edge of your seat, demanding to know what happens next. Your heart sinks and rises in complete dissonance as you are praying for your desired result, desperately hoping that nothing will go wrong for your beloved characters. These are the experiences that I live for. These sensations are the reason I am a fan of the medium in the first place. For me, Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom will always be one of the first anime I think of when I reminisce on my very fondest anime-watching memories because it provided that experience for me. Everything from its interesting and unique plot, to its magnificent characters, to its near flawless use of sound and music, to its realistic art style create a finished product that that is more than worthy of praise. Simply put, I LOVE this anime. Here’s why:

Synopsis: A mysterious crime syndicate known as “Inferno” has developed a monopoly on the black market through the use of their near-invincible human weapon referred to as only “The Phantom." One day, a Japanese tourist accidentally witnesses The Phantom committing a murder, prompting it to hunt him down and eliminate him. Desperate to escape, the tourist hides in a secluded building. However, Phantom is instructed by the leader of Inferno, "Scythe Master", to capture the tourist and turn him into yet another human weapon for Inferno to utilize. Completely brainwashed and given the name "Zwei” (2 in German), the man is now a puppet of Inferno with no memories of his past what so ever.

I think the reason that RftP is such a great anime is because it can be enjoyed on so many different levels; it is completely saturated with well-written and well-executed themes. Want to take the story at face value, as a tale of a man trying to escape the clutches of an evil organization? You may. Maybe you want to take it is as a story about identity and what individuality truly is? Go ahead. Even still, you might want to consider the story to be an exploration into the ability to escape your own past and if past sins can ever truly be forgiven. That works too. Is it an action show? A Drama? A Romance? A Thriller? Eventually, I stopped trying to figure out which one of these themes/genres the show truly was focusing on and I realized that this is a story about all of those things. Unlike the vast majority of other media, this isn’t a story that focuses on a single, overarching message. Much like our real lives, the problems that the characters face are multifaceted and complex. We see them experience many different conflicted emotions and having to learn many different lessons at the same time; this is what makes the anime so effective and so believable. It captures a realistic sense of emotional turmoil, including the concepts of identity crisis and self-loathing, amazingly well.

The downside to this is that such a large number of themes can sometimes alienate viewers and give the illusion that the show doesn’t know what it is trying to be, even though it does. For example, juxtaposition is a device that is frequently used in the anime for a variety of purposes, particularly during the 2nd half (the 1st OP vs. the 2nd OP is a good example of this). Some people notice these strange, sudden shifts from the norm and dismiss them as problems with tone, bad writing, or even plotholes. If you ask me, the exact opposite is true; this show is very cleverly written. That being said, I don’t mean to imply that RftP is perfect, because it certainly isn’t. For example, the beginning of the 2nd half makes some strange writing decisions and slows its pacing down far too much, creating a bit of a disconnect. Additionally, some of the action scenes are directed in an overly theatrical way and not-so-realistic manner that occasionally conflicts with the otherwise serious atmosphere of the show. In fact, the show’s taste in drama is overall a bit too melodramatic for me. There are several tiny flaws such as these throughout the plot, but when it comes down too it, the pros drastically outweigh the cons. The story has the uncanny ability to get the viewer very emotionally invested in its progression and its characters. As a side note, this is one of the saddest, yet most beautiful shows you will ever watch; it absolutely slayed me by the end. Fantastic plot.

While the plot is likely what will tune you in to RftP, the reason you will stay until the end will be for the characters. RftP has one of the best and most fleshed out casts in anime history if you ask me. This show should be used as a guidebook for character development: we see the characters go through not just one major change over the course of the show, but two or three. They couldn’t possibly have better conveyed the inner conflict and emotional suffering of the main characters if they tried. I got very, VERY emotionally invested in many of these characters simply because they are so relatable and genuinely human. Zwei serves as a fantastic protagonist because of how his emotions ebb and flow just like a real person; I can't talk a whole lot about what I love about his character without spoilers, but I must stress that I love every single thing about him. “The Phantom” is a bit personality-less in the beginning of the anime (understandably), but she is far from some cliché, emotionless doll stereotype. In fact, her internal struggle between remaining loyal to her master and defying her master along with her identity crisis is arguably the driving force of the show. Her complex dynamic with Zwei is one of the best character relationships I’ve ever seen in my life. The viewer is able to so systematically feel and/or understand whatever these two are feeling, and that is the pinnacle of successful character writing. There are tons of interesting side characters as well, but due to the dynamic nature of the plot, I won’t risk discussing them due to spoilers. Let’s just say that they are utilized to absolute perfection in order to not only receive stories and development of their own, but to bring out different sides in our two main characters. I could gush for hours about how effective and well written I believe this cast truly is, but I think you get the point by now.

Top off this stellar writing with the best sound effects I’ve ever heard in an anime, a realistic/stylized art style that serves the narrative, and a beautiful OP that juxtaposes with the, well, *cough, “different” 2nd OP, and you have described one of my all time favorite anime. If Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom is not a masterpiece, it’s damn close to it. To anyone who hasn’t seen this show yet: clear your schedule. The anime not perfect, sure, but it kept me in suspense for its entire duration and wrapped itself up with a beautiful ending that is more than worthy of the series it’s attached too. Needless to say, I highly, HIGHLY recommend it.