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.

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Madlax aka What’s wrong with the anime industry

Young women with gun skills? Check. Mysterious organization that runs the world? Check. Quasi-religious mysticism? Check. Noir only lasted one season, but if you started watching Madlax and thought it was Noir Season 2 I wouldn’t blame you. Madlax isn’t a complete copy of Noir, it does tread new ground after about 20 episodes or so. And the new material is innovative in its own way. What ultimately holds it back, what has held many other shows back over time, is that it still feels too much like a rehash of what came before, rather than something fresh and entertaining.

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Middle-aged men drinking tea

As any right thinking English gentlemen will tell you, tea is what our great British Empire was built upon and, well, most of what I knew about Hyouge Mono before it aired was that it somehow involved tea.

Hyouge Mono, who would’ve known? Koichi Mashimo is regarded about as highly for his directing prowess as Bee Train are for their animation. Which is to say, not very highly at all, so I can’t really blame you for glazing over a late-to-the-party series like this, but as any right thinking English gentlemen will tell you, tea is what our great British Empire was built upon and, well, most of what I knew about Hyouge Mono before it aired was that it somehow involved tea. Colour me curious, then, and lo and behold, word begins to trickle down that Hyouge Mono might actually be worth watching after all.

Firstly what’s important to note is that this is a series produced and broadcast by Japan’s BBC-equivalent NHK, bringing with it a higher profile than Bee Train’s typical fare and, therefore, probably more money for animation. It shows, as this is easily the best animated series I’ve seen from them.

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Girls with guns but not much else

I started out intending to write a review of the show Noir,  but while researching (okay, I’ll admit using Wikipedia) I discovered Noir’s spirital successors, Madlax and El Cazador de la Bruja.  Each show was animated by the studio Bee Train.  I thought, great, I can do one big “girls with guns” trilogy review,  but when I started watching El Cazador, I knew that it deserved its own review.  Unfortunately, the show needed its own review because of what it did wrong, not what it did right.

Staring into space

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Bee Train’s bullet ballet Phantom is really good

Welcome

Bee Train doesn’t exactly have the best of reputations, be it their bias for girls with guns or their notoriously poor production values, fact is their work polarises opinion and attracts its fair share of detractors.

I’ve seen neither Noir nor Madlax, was horrified by the low budget vibe I got from Blade of the Immortal and nearly quit watching anime altogether after sitting through the first episode of El Cazador de la Bruja. I know many others share these same ‘concerns’, so I’m going to write something now that may shock and appall many:

Bee Train‘s latest series, Phantom, is really good.

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