OP: 「Flowery Song」 by 汪東城 (Wang Dong Cheng)
「黄昏に生きるもの」 (Tasogare ni Ikirumono)
“Those Who Live in Twilight”
So, Phantoms in the Twilight. A bunch of supernatural pretty boys gravitating around one nondescript girl may sound awfully like an adaptation of a generic, second rate otome game (or worse, actually Twilight and not just the Phantoms therein) and I don’t think anyone can fault such an assumption too much. But Phantom is actually an original anime, and while that doesn’t necessarily prevent it from being generic it usually means that there’s something more up it’s sleeve. Yeah, I know, this pilot was not really that impressive, but let’s see if I can play apologist enough to convince you to give it a chance. The biggest thing: this is an anime that is not set in Japan at all! No Japanese characters, no nothing! Sure, there are other anime that are set in a foreign land with a foreign cast, and Chinese leads in particular are not unique (here is where I deliberately ignore Juushinki no Pandora and instead contractually plug Darker than BLACK again), but usually there’s at least a token Japanese character or at least a scene with green tea. Instead, we’re set firmly in London and there’s not a Japanese character in sight. Sure, the entire cast look and act no different from your usual anime (you can’t possibly convince me that this fop and his stupid hair are actually British) but for an industry as molasses as set in its ways as anime this is already huge deal. There’s something more ambitious in the writing, I would gather, and the writing is where I would like us to focus because the visuals, while functional, are also not particularly inspiring and cannot be counted on to carry the show. The writing, on the other hand… well, to start, there’s two writers, and more is better, right? One of them is Maruto Fumiaki, who wrote, inter alia, White Album 2, Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata, and Classroom Crisis — series I have a special place in my heart for. One thing I enjoy about Maruto is that he’s clever, and also goes out of his way to play around with genres, so while Phantom doesn’t seem like much now I expect to be more as we getter deeper into it.
Not that Maruto is not without weaknesses as a writer. The big one is that appeared in Classroom Crisis is that his anime seem to take a long time to get off the ground. He takes a lot of time setting up the board and pushing the pawns, and while it’s guaranteed that all the pieces will be used at some point in the plot and it’s a very satisfying feeling when they are, I wonder if the time spent putting them into place is worth it. To the point; this pilot spends a lot of time on exposition. Actually, it was basically entire exposition, either to explain the relationship of these girls, or to explain why some ancestor is a big deal, or to explain the peculiarities of the throwaway supernatural creatures that have been called upon to provide the action. Even exposition done organically in conversation breaks up the flow of the narrative, especially when it’s obvious that the information being exchanged is purely for the benefit of the audience more than anyone else. It takes us out of the experience, and my question when confronted with a lot of exposition is: do we really need to know all this info, and to know it right now? Because bumps in the flow affects everything around it, and forces a writer for a time-limited medium like anime to resort to unsavoury techniques to smooth things over. Take the female lead (Kanazawa hana), who needs to be an unbelievably convenient character just for the purposes of cramming everything that happened into this episode into 20-odd minutes. She’s informed enough (about magic and whatever) to not waste time freaking out over weirdness, but ignorant enough to ask all the questions for the audience. She’s smart enough to bite on the plothooks, but dumb enough to throw herself into trouble. She’s bold enough to take action, but weak enough to still play the damsel in distress. Basically, she is called on to do a lot of work, but even that is not enough. We get to the omake and they’re still explaining stuff, and any series that has to do that has probably overreached. Actually, that may be the fault of the writer in charge of setting design, Yano Shunsaku, but it doesn’t look good for the show either way.
Well, once they get into the stride of things in, I don’t know, four episodes or so and there’s not more need for all this exposition I’m sure everything from the narrative to the dialogue will vastly improve. Until then this pilot gives the impression of a bankrupt man’s Mahoutsukai no Yome, and that just will not do. It’d be a shame if viewers give up on Phantom in the Twilight based on just those first impressions, because I do believe it will shape up into something pretty interesting. I’ll be giving it a few more episodes of introduction here on RandomC, and we can pass some judgment on it after that.
ED: 「HOME」 by May’n