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Girls with Guns: Men Please Apply Within

For a different perspective on Phantom see bateszi’s review here.

After eight years, three series, six girls, and lots of guns, Bee Train has revolutionized the girls with guns genre by adding… a guy. Men, you too can aspire to be a professional assassin, the last bastion of gender inequality has officially fallen. Joking aside, Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom is a solid effort by Bee Train. Unlike Bee Train’s earlier series Noir and Madlax, Phantom is based on a visual novel. It lacks deep characters but the show was an enjoyable and action packed addition to the girls with guns genre.

Phantom follows the same formula as earlier girls with guns shows while changing enough things to keep the genre fresh. The biggest change was the addition of a male assassin. Still, Phantom doesn’t depart dramatically from Bee Train’s original stories. It features a petite female assassin that looks like she is 14 and has the emotional capacity of a doll. One new technique that does improve the show is that it jumps forward in time, by a few months or even a year, in several episodes. The time shifts lets you see how major events in the show play out and keep the story moving forward at a good clip.

The main appeal of Phantom are the action scenes. As with Noir and Madlax, Phantom contains plenty of assassinations, car chases and shootouts. Hand-to-hand combat also plays a prominent role in the series. The choreography in the fights, particularly the knife fights, is excellent. Overall, the show is well animated and it looked beautiful on blu-ray.

What ultimately keeps Phantom from surpassing earlier Bee Train efforts is the character’s lack of depth. When the gun fights stop, the show goes nowhere. It is possible that Bee Train isn’t responsible for the lackluster characters, maybe they adapted the underlying materially faithfully. Still, the result is that the series lives and dies by how good the fights look. Other anime series like Black Lagoon and Darker than Black have done a great job of creating compelling characters who are motivated by a range of emotions. Rock, the main character in Black Lagoon, is a mid-twenties guy pulled into a different world, much like the main character in Phantom. Rock grows during Black Lagoon from a spineless salary-man into an assertive outlaw. In Phantom, we learn the main character is driven by a need for revenge, and that he cares for his partner, but overall he seems flat and unrealistic. The main character’s lack of emotion ultimately makes it hard to care what happens to him.

Phantom has faults, but I’m still willing to recommend it because it doesn’t face much competition in its genre. Among new shows, Crunchyroll’s simulcasts only includes one gun heavy show, Upotte!!, which doesn’t even try to be realistic. The trend away from pure action anime seems to mirror what’s happening in the United States. Gone are adrenaline fueled hits like 24. Instead, comedy and fantasy shows like Two Broke Girls, Big Bang Theory and Game of Thrones reign supreme. The economy may be to blame and the international uncertainty and gloom might draw people to shows with relatable characters like New Girl or to escapist fantasy like Game of Thrones. If you are still a fan of action shows, and have already enjoyed Black Lagoon, add Phantom to your queue.

Comments

illegenes says:

Phantom was a mixed bag for me – on one hand, I really enjoyed the ‘plot twists’ and the fight scenes were absolutely beautiful and well done, but on the other hand, the characters lacked any sort of compelling depth to them, as you said. My main question is what did you think of the ending? It’s gotten mixed reviews so I was wondering what you thought of it.

dengar says:

I didn’t love the ending, particularly the last few scenes. Still, I understand why they went in that direction and I thought it was an appropriate way to wrap the story up. It’s just not how I would have ended it.

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