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Musaigen no Phantom World – 10 »« Musaigen no Phantom World – 08

Musaigen no Phantom World – 09

「幕末ファントム異聞」 (Bakumatsu Fuantomu Ibun)
“The Strange Tale of the Bakumatsu Phantom”

First, I need to preface everything I’m going to say in this post: this wasn’t a bad episode. In fact, it was arguably good and enjoyable. Everyone likes samurai, the temporary guest star was fun enough, and there was plenty of action. And personally, I have a soft spot for theatre. As far as entertainment goes, this episode ticks a lot of boxes. But I’m going to complain about it anyway. I know that I’ve consistently advocated that one should really switch off their brain for a show like this, but unfortunately Musaigen no Phantom World is not quite entirely mindless entertainment, which tempts the brain awake for a few minutes, just a small peek. Even that is sometimes enough for traumatic psychic injuries, which can only be healed by a stretch of ranting on the internet. Yeah, sorry. I promise, though, that this will be the last time I get entirely serious about Phantom World until the finale. Next week we’ll be back to fun and games and stupid jokes. Until then, please bear with my frowning.

This week of Phantom World features, prominently, a play within a play. It’s a device that you might be familiar with from, say, Hamlet, which makes an appropriate cameo appearance (I was doubly amused by the incredibly ‘ham’ actor, though I don’t think they would have intended that English pun). Now, I have no problems with the play itself. Both sides of the Bakumatsu joining forces to thwart a literal shadowy Phantom coup? That interesting. Silly, but interesting. I would watch it. As I’ve said before, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being silly.

It made me think, though: doesn’t this play within a play actually sound more interesting than the show itself? In fact, if this episode eschewed trying to frame it as a drama competition, and just inserted all of its characters into the Bakumatsu setting with no explanation from the outset, I think it’d actually be a better watch. It’d be pushing the absurdity envelope, perhaps, and will probably be kinda surreal, but I think it’d actually be better. Which is troubling, folks. A play within a play usually serves some greater purpose to the narrative, perhaps as a metaphor—again, see Hamlet. At the very least, there should be some plot purpose to it. Not with this week’s offering. It was more akin to some out-of-continuity, alternate universe indulgence. It could have been a different show by itself. And it had more going for it than what’s going on ‘outside’ the play. How did this happen?

To date, Phantom World has yet to really establish an overarching conflict. Or a major antagonist. Some goal for the protagonist. Whatever. None of the basic things that its play within a play actually has. And it really should have these by now. Phantom World is not a lackadaisical slice-of-life show. There is still a plot coupon hanging around, but not a single character really cares about it. Phantom World has literally lost the plot. The plot has been misplaced. Yeah, I’m sure they’ll get back to it eventually, but what are we doing in the meantime? Essentially filler episodes. Filler in a one cour series is… awfully bold, no? And this is in a series that already plays a few too many angles. Sometimes it attempts slice-of-life, sometimes it attempts monster-of-the-week action, sometimes it attempts gag comedy, sometimes it attempts bittersweet drama—not one of these, I feel, have really been afforded sufficient development. Phantom World hints at potential to excel at perhaps any of these, but instead does a poor balance of all of them. At least this episode keep its tone mostly coherent, mainly be dealing with its drama early and then immediately jettisoning it. The series as a whole, though, seems to have put little effort into finding a clear voice.

I don’t actually have a strong critical point here. I am not hating, or angry, or of really any strong emotional response. Mostly, I am baffled. Like Rosencrantz or Guildenstern, I look around and can only ask, ‘what are we doing here?’ And I honestly don’t think I have an answer. I hope Phantom World gives me one before it is all over.

March 3, 2016 at 9:53 am
39 comments »
  • March 3, 2016 at 11:12 amzrnzle500

    From what I’ve heard, the portion of the source material that is likely being adapted consists mainly of one off stories like this. Also I haven’t seen any episode counts anywhere, but I guess the assumption is a single cours

  • March 3, 2016 at 11:13 amDvalinn

    I don’t know, I thought this episode was pretty dull. Not one of the worst, no – but my main problem was that I’ve seen this theater-play plot done a thousand times before, and better. I could predict how the entire thing would go a minute in, and not once did it truly deviate into something that could make me go ‘oh, that’s actually interesting’ (I could even see the reveal about the phantom in their midst coming, due to the nature of the show). I’ll give it some credit – it actually pulled of some succesful gags for a change (mostly surrounding Koito) but that’s not enough to consider this a good episode for me.

    I would agree on the fact that this show is an unfocused mess though. Like I said in a post a few episodes ago – what is it even going for? It just jumps for one setting and mood to the next, like a distracted magpie on speed, never really doing anything well enough to leave a solid impression behind. And you just know at this point they’re going to cram the entire plot in an utterly rushed manner into the last few episodes – I’m practically expecting it at this point. Is it really that much of an effort to at least show some glimpses of the overarching plot? I mean, compare it to Koukaku no Pandora this season – while that is by no means a great show, I do have to give it credit for always spending a few scenes every episode on showing what’s going on in the bigger story. That way, even though episodes are full of slice-of-life fluff, you still get the feeling it’s building towards something. Phantom World, on the other hand? Nothing!

    Honestly, at this point the show has started to remind me of a trainwreck like Mayoi Neko Overrun! with slightly more coherent characters. All that’s needed to complete that comparison is a nonsensical random mech episode, and I can’t even say I’d put it past this show…

    • March 3, 2016 at 6:51 pmPasserby

      Point is, the play within a play delivered a viable conflict and motivation for the protagonist, popcorn fare or not, which just highlights the fact that the show it’s embedded in really has not.

  • March 3, 2016 at 1:36 pmLyfe

    I thought this episode was a significant improvement on the quite frankly awful Episode 8. I liked the stage play stuff and how this story was structured, it was fun and had a bit more meaning to it. And I hope they revisit it at some point in the future, they left it open with the phantom girl wanting to reach the nationals. Count me in!

  • March 3, 2016 at 2:53 pmsosbrigade1991

    I admit it, I got a little choked up during the bear kingdom episode, and all of the other episodes around that have been really fun. This is literally the only anime I am keeping up with right now. But this was the first episode that made me stop my player and go “omg there is literally NOTHING here.” granted I’ll watch it to the end, but despite this episode doing nothing wrong, it felt so incredibly hollow it almost made me bitter.

    • March 3, 2016 at 2:58 pmLyfe

      @But this was the first episode that made me stop my player and go “omg there is literally NOTHING here.”

      That’s surprising considering we’ve had an episode which consisted solely of a giant monkey in a hotspring fighting random characters, only to be appeased in such a random way. And an episode consisting pretty much of a lonely cat house turning people into cat people being appeased by being acknowledged. But each to their own I suppose.

      • March 3, 2016 at 3:23 pmsosbrigade1991

        you definitely aren’t wrong, but to me those episodes at least had somewhat of a structure. “get rid of the monkey” “save girl from her made up world and face reality”. this episode was perfectly fine, it just felt aimless, and that’s saying something with THIS show.

    • March 3, 2016 at 7:11 pmPasserby

      That’s the thing—there’s many individuals things that many different viewers may find to like in different ways, but they aren’t coming together. Sometimes, they don’t come together even within a single episode.

  • March 3, 2016 at 4:32 pmbassgs435

    There’s no filler. Because filler is anime original. Most of the anime is in the novel (The hot springs stuff was also in the novel, but different , if I remember the readers’ claims right)
    The problem is that they’re adapting only the first volume, and readers report that said volume is made up of episodic stories like this with no continuity or “plot”. The plot doesn’t really start until the end of the volume (AKA: the end of the anime)
    I hope this show can open people’s eyes and get them to stop worshipping Kyoani in anything that isn’t animation

    • March 3, 2016 at 7:04 pmPasserby

      I don’t think filler has to be anime original, but that’s neither here nor there, because an episode that serves as filler or has the appearance of filler or feels like filler has the same effect as whatever one may consider to be technically filler.

      While I agree that it’s not wise to generalise about an animation studio, of all things, I think we need to also recognise that Kyoto Animation has produced many shows of all-around quality in addition to its stinkers (though not enough people cite Munto here). Staff and source material usually play a big part here.

      • March 5, 2016 at 3:16 amsamui

        Hi Passerby, I really don’t know if I enjoyed Munto due to the super looooong monologues. What was that? LOL

      • March 5, 2016 at 12:11 pmasdf

        Filler is, by definition, anime original material introduced to space out the adaption of the source material. So yes, it does have to be anime original. While these episodes have been terrible on many levels, they aren’t filler.

    • March 4, 2016 at 11:38 pmsonicsenryaku

      ive said before myself that filler goes beyond just being anime original; filler is anything in which if you removed it from the story, it would not affect the central plot, characters, or setting in any significant way shape or form

  • March 3, 2016 at 6:14 pmstarss

    Now this is MUCH better! This is ions more quality than the last 3 episodes! The powers of the phantom was still incredibly silly, but it took itself seriously in its set logic, and the campy acting really helped.

  • March 3, 2016 at 8:44 pmZen

    Yeah, sorry. I promise, though, that this will be the last time I get entirely serious about Phantom World until the finale. Next week we’ll be back to fun and games and stupid jokes. Until then, please bear with my frowning.

    Aww, was looking forward to a Shakespeare-tragedy faux-playwright parody post…

    • March 4, 2016 at 5:00 amPasserby

      Sorry, I’ve already done a Hamlet parody for this site and I can’t be recycling material.

      • March 4, 2016 at 7:01 amUrizithar

        Did you? Can we have the link?

      • March 4, 2016 at 5:40 pmPasserby

        Ehhhh, it was one of my earlier works. Let’s leave it buried in internet obscurity forever.

  • March 4, 2016 at 5:09 amdark

    quite boring episode <,<

  • March 4, 2016 at 6:33 amsamui

    I thought the hot spring episode is not yet enough. GREAT, what a way to reduce your goodwill KyoAni.

    Plot: None
    Story: None
    Comedy: What?
    Boredom: Over 9,000

    Come’on, we’re at episode 9 now! Show some plot developments!

    • March 4, 2016 at 8:57 ambassgs435

      That’s the source material’ fault. Any plot developments would have to come in the last 2 episode (or the last episode, even)
      Sorry, but if you came for plot, this isn’t a show that’s even trying to have one (And being episodic is fine too, you know?)

    • March 5, 2016 at 12:40 amsamui

      Hi. I am not even one of those who came for some serious plot, you know. Yet when this show is doing the same gag for the 4 episodes, it can really get tiring and not entertaining anymore. I enjoyed Phantom World until episode 7. Gags are good until it become stale.

      … Yeah, then episode 8 is an original episode, still the source material’s fault?

      Another thing, KyoAni’s Chuunibyo and Nichijou is also episodic in nature and I love it to death so you are not in the position to tell me that episodic animes are also enjoyable. I am all too aware of that.

      • March 5, 2016 at 12:47 amsamui

        Erratum:

        1. gags ‘for’ the last four episodes.
        2. change ‘is’ to ‘are’ in the last paragraph. That’s all.

      • March 5, 2016 at 6:28 amstarss

        1. Chuunibyou still had solid story arcs that kept you invested and kept watching.
        2. Nichijou’s editing, art style, gag presentation, and timing were all unique things I never seen in anime before.

        THIS show is doing none of that!

      • March 5, 2016 at 7:17 amsamui

        Basically. What I am trying to point to Mr. Poster is I know episodic animes are enjoyable, even excellent at times. Err.

  • March 4, 2016 at 7:04 amxxvan

    I personally enjoyed this episode, the action was great, visuals were great and the guest character was adorable. But maybe it’s time we got some actual plot done in right guys?

    • March 4, 2016 at 8:59 ambassgs435

      Not all shows need a plot.
      I don’t know where that obssesion came from, but it’s annoying (not just for this show, but Pandora too in other sites)
      Having a plot isn’t the only way to do anime (See: Carnival Phantasm. a plotless anime that’s 100% funny hijinks with the Fate and Tsukihime characters)

      • March 4, 2016 at 11:51 amLyfe

        I couldn’t agree more. If a show doesn’t have a plot, it needs a reason to keep viewers interested each week. If a show has neither a plot or a hook to keep its audience, they will stop watching.

      • March 4, 2016 at 5:39 pmPasserby

        The thing is, though, Phantom World is actually a plot driven series, or at least it’s certainly not a slice-of-life (additionally, to say say that slice-of-lifes ‘don’t have a plot’ is far too reductionist, but that’s another discussion for another time). Each of the character episodes were plot-heavy affairs, not to mention all the name dropping of Alayashiki and the plot coupon they picked up all the way back in episode 02. Let us not pretend that Phantom World doesn’t try to have a plot; it just has a deficit of attention for it. For example, again in episode 02, it made a big deal about the mystery of Reina’s healing powers, only for that lead to be buried for whatever reason in episode 05. Phantom World is simply as inconsistent about its plot as it is about various other things.

      • March 5, 2016 at 12:44 amsamui

        Carnival Phantasm only worked because we are already familiar with the characters from their respective series. Change them to new ones, will it do the same for us? I don’t think so. The analysis between that and Phantom World is just off.

  • March 4, 2016 at 4:17 pmAndré

    This show has pretty much no plot at this point, the story is going nowhere… However, every week we see a tottaly insane and awesome episodes. Honestly, I hope episodes like this keep coming.

  • March 4, 2016 at 4:47 pmBeedle

    I’ve adjusted my expectations after the 5th episode. This show is simply a Slice-of-Life with a Supernatural flavor. It’s not the first of its genre and neither is it the best. The episodes tend to be hit-or-miss.

    However…

    Koito. I needs me some more Koito :(

    I understand that this is not an anime-original, but I guess KyoAni just wants the slice-of-life feel.

  • March 4, 2016 at 7:08 pmPetit

    Usually by episode 10, some plot-twisty emo-ness will usually come through. I wonder whether that’ll happen with this series.

    • March 5, 2016 at 4:42 amillusion

      Actually I predict episode 10 will be the show’s best episode and not EMO at all:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8Lvvb4iV8Q

    • March 5, 2016 at 4:47 amWorldwidedepp

      and my guts tell me, since episode 3-4 they was all dreaming, thanks to this Device.. you can see that is show you hexadecimal numbers of data, and the OP or ED? are shadows filled with this kind of data.. So my bet, they got sucked into this device memory like “Tron”, and one found the will and resolve to breakout of this fake world…

      Oh, of course this is born out of my mind, so its my speculation

    • March 6, 2016 at 12:03 pmLyfe

      I really hope so. There’s that device thing that Haruhiko recovered from that factory that was never touched upon since.

  • March 5, 2016 at 4:15 amHeisenberg

    I think it’s okay if you’re going to drops this one.

  • March 5, 2016 at 4:42 amWorldwidedepp

    Perhaps with the power of Imagination (these Phantoms) the World became to big, and the manga-ka and Anime director lost into many Trees and are unable to see the Forest

    in short: Where to pick up, so many possibilities. Find the right Water drop in an gigantic Ocean

    as i said, it showed good progression, until they found this strange device, since them all became like “fillers” for me

    • March 5, 2016 at 5:02 amWorldwidedepp

      my Guts are telling me, this anime can have some Glasslip Vibes