「迷惑UFOをやっつけろ！」 (Meiwaku UFO o Yattsukero!)
“Take out the Annoying UFO!”
It’s a curious thing to be introducing the second episode of an anime. When taste testing anime based on the three episode—the notion that a show has one episode to hook and three to impress—the humble episode 02 is nested in an awkward zone between the big opening number of Episode 01 and the series defining development of Episode 03. Episode 02 is usually the place where an anime can calm down a bit and get around to the groundwork that may have been passed over in episode 01 in favour of the hard sell. For us as viewers, it’s where we check for consistency in quality and get a more rounded view of what the story is actually about.
The second episode of Musaigen no Phantom World maintains the formula of the first, in that it is also an episode of two halves, one more serious than the other. The first was a mostly serious fight, relatively high on the action and effects. And it was about putting down an old security robot at the brain-virus company, which 1) handily demonstrates the technology level of this setting and 2) probably ties to an overarching plot, because corporate conspiracies. The second half was about… exorcising a peeping UFO for some girls who live in a stereotype. It’s the hijinks segment! It’s cool; I don’t get to use ‘defenestration‘ enough in my vocabulary (just don’t try it at home, kids. Glass and face are things that should never mix).
But it should be evident by now that Musaigen no Phantom World is a show of two minds. One is just silly fun—they don’t even try to explain why there’s some UFO after photos of damsels in dis-dress, just that it’s a good excuse for the girls to strip down (and we already have a shower scene earlier so whatever). I don’t particularly mind the silliness (and it certainly didn’t do as much brain damage as the Limbo-breasts of episode 01), but only if they totally play it up. If Musaigen no Phantom World introduced too much sanity into the show, the refuge of audacity collapses. And here’s what I fear: that there is a serious side to this anime. When a protagonist philosophises as much as the one of Musaigen no Phantom World, you just know that the author behind him is just itching to show off his reading. I hope he can continue to resist, because unless he does Musaigen no Phantom World will have to start reconciling Loony Tunes shenanigans with high brow themes, which will just make both look bad against each other. Don’t make us think. Don’t even invite us to think. Nothing good can come out of reactivating those brain cells.
Overall, though, the episode was has calmed down somewhat from the pilot, mostly because Musaigen no Phantom World had a lot of explanation to get through. The nature of phantoms (still not sure if things become retroactively real), summoning powers (I remember you. Weren’t you Cerberus? Or an escapee from Eden of the East?), Paroles (way too long in general. There’s a reason why magical girl anime start skipping transformation sequences)—for what could have been just a goofy comedy, there’s a lot of information it wants to equip it with. Perhaps Musaigen no Phantom World realised how much exposition it was piling on, because it had a self-aware gusto about going full lecture mode. By the way, this seems to be the actual purpose of the fairy mascot thing besides just playing the series’ Jar Jar Binks and occassionally discovering plot coupons. She’s here to be lectured at. Whereas in the novel format it’s easy enough for the first person narrator to talk to the reader in his monologue, it’d probably be better for anime to erect a fourth wall as it does here, thin though it may be. Outside of theatre or theatre-inspired traditions, characters that dive into soliloquy just look crazy.
So we’ve been armed with all this knowledge, but one still has to wonder what Musaigen no Phantom World intends to do with it. As I noted above, juggling its substance with its silly fanservice romp will be Musaigen no Phantom World‘s continual challenge. It’s sowed a lot of seeds for plot right now, despite the general frolicking. There’s the device they stole from that company (which our protagonist very wisely plugged directly into his PC) and thanks to that security robot very conveniently blurting out its purpose right before it died, we know that there’s probably a corporate conspiracy somewhere. Then there’s the family situation of various characters. And of course, let’s not forget some newly discovered healing powers (or are they?). I’m guessing we won’t really be getting in those until the party is fully assembled. Right now, though, I’m still not entirely sure about this show, but whatever one thinks about it one must admit to the level polish it has in all areas. I mean, just look at those backgrounds. I’m all for applauding effort, at the very least. Which is why I continue expecting good things from Musaigen no Phantom World. Serious or silly are both fine—just don’t be half-hearted about it.