Anime Reviews: Requiem for the Phantom
After 8 years of failure after failure, Bee Train finally succeeds in making a solid anime, let alone one about assassins and conspiracies.
Title: Requiem for the Phantom a.k.a. Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom
Production: GENCO / Bee Train
Series Length: 26 episodes
Air Dates: 4/2/2009 to 9/24/2009
Age Rating: 17+ (mild violence, frequent partial nudity, dark or disturbing thematic elements)
Summary: In a daze, a young Japanese man wakes up in an unknown building with no memory of who he is nor where he comes from. All he can recall is running down a dark alleyway being tailed by an assassin. While he explores his new surroundings, he encounters the same assassin from his only memory, and in a tense life-or-death struggle, he overpowers the masked attacker, finding out that his would-be assailant is a beautiful young woman his age. This battle is revealed to have been an exercise in finding a worthy partner for the girl, named Ein. The young man must now make his choice: Take up the name Zwei and work with Ein as the infamous assassin duo "Phantom," or consider his life forfeit.
The Good: Wonderful visuals; everything the studio got wrong with Noir has been fixed; KOKIA; twist ending will delight many
The Bad: The "Inferno" organization feels superfluous; questionable final arc; twist ending will infuriate others
The Ugly: PEOPLE DO NOT AGE THAT QUICKLY IN TWO YEARS, BEE TRAIN.
You know, it amazes me that Bee Train is somehow able to stay in business despite cranking out turd after turd, year after year. Well, with a little help from Nitroplus and Gen Urobuchi, it seems they've finally put out something worth something! I mean, it's kinda cheating--it's not exactly their own original material--but y'know what? I'll take it. It's a bit sad that they had to go through, like, 4 anime about assassins and conspiracies before finally making one that's any good. Better late than never, right, guys? ...Guys?
Well, to move right along, Requiem is a very nice-looking series, as is expected from Bee Train. However, the budget here remains consistent all throughout, in a surprising contrast to everything else the studio's ever done (save for Murder Princess). So not only are we treated to consistently entertaining action this time, we also have very appealing character designs and beautifully-lit, often almost gothic, scenery in the background. Bee Train certainly spared no expense in crafting this series, and it certainly shows.
While the music was fitting and often pretty intense, it's the first opening theme by KOKIA that stands out as the single greatest tune in the entire series. Not only is it one of the most gorgeous songs you'll ever hear in an anime, it's also accompanied by some spectacular artwork and animation. I'm not really going anywhere with this; I just wanted to share that song with you. You're welcome.
But really, what I mostly want to say about Requiem is that it's everything Noir wanted to be, but it succeeds instead of failing horribly. While Noir did have some moments where it flirted with brilliance, it was weighed down with a ton of filler and an intolerably slow pace. So how does Requiem solve its 8-year predecessor's problems? Let's find out, shall we?
Noir Issue #1: Animation drops in quality roughly halfway through
Requiem Solution: I've already touched on this above, but Bee Train held nothing back when it comes to the production values for Requiem, so this anime looks great from start to finish, with maybe a rough patch here and there. Attractive character designs, beautiful set pieces, fluid movements... Overall, a crushing victory over the former.
Noir Issue #2: The characters have no personality or depth until the final third of the series
Requiem Solution: Why, that's simple! Just make the characters interesting right from the get-go, and show us that they have more to them than just "I point gun at person and shoot and then feel existential quandary." As a result, we actually care whether or not Zwei is able to survive his new life, or if Ein is able/willing to abandon hers.
Noir Issue #3: Poor pacing and filler episodes bog down the story
Requiem Solution: Limit the filler to a single recap episode with a story-progressing ending, bump the tempo up from "snail on morphine" to "thoughtful yet brisk," and make each mission important to the story in some way. I can't stress to you folks enough how painful it was to sit through Noir's filler and general sluggish speed, and how the much more regular pace of Requiem was like Christmas morning.
Noir Issue #4: The ending is ambiguous because the director's a jerk
Requiem Solution: The ending is ambiguous because it genuinely wants you to think about it. I personally thought this series' ending was the only possible way to cap it off, bringing bittersweet closure to the story, and it completely fits in with the overall mood. However, I can totally understand why some people could be outright furious once it's all said and done. For me, it's a win overall, but I will caution you to be prepared for an unorthodox finale.
However, there are a few things in Requiem that just don't seem to work, and while it's nothing on par with the disaster that was Noir, these problems are fairly big ones. First off, I'm sure it's expanded on more in the original visual novel, but the Inferno organization didn't seem to serve any real purpose after the first few episodes. They keep cutting to the big-shots of Inferno talking about what's going on, with some foreshadowing being dropped here and there, but they seem to always fade back into the background, never to be seen again. With their role in the story being as ambiguous as it is, I was hoping for more involvement from them.
The second issue I have with this series is that the last few episodes feel poorly-planned compared to the rest (except for the ending, I still say it's a winner). Not only does a major character from the second story arc act (and look) completely different than before, but they also serve a very flimsy role in the story. Episodes 21 through 25 just feel really clumsy compared to the rest of the anime, but that's just how it goes, I guess.
So then, is Requiem for the Phantom worth seeing? The short answer is yes, and the longer answer is yessssss. The plot has a few major rough spots that should've been ironed out in the writing stage, but there's a lot to love here. The animation's mostly great, the characters have some depth and keep you invested in the story, and most of all, it's probably the only consistently good anime Bee Train's ever released. Congratulations, guys. It only took you 8 years!
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10. Even though the final few episodes feel weak, Requiem for the Phantom is a haunting and emotional journey that succeeds where its predecessors have failed.