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Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~ #1 PDF Print E-mail
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R2 DVD Reviews
Wednesday, 23 November 2011 00:00
Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~Two young people, no memories of the previous lives, just that they've been trained as the ultimate assassins in the employ of a shadowy crime syndicate. That's not going to mess with their heads at all, is it. Ein and Zwei are the killers in question, and their story is certainly intriguing...

In the underworld, there's no more sought-after - or feared - assassins than the pairing codenamed Phantom. Known simply as Ein and Zwei, their entire existence is simply to kill, and train to kill. Zwei had once been a tourist, but after witnessing one of Ein's hits - and shown some impressive natural ability by quickly locating Ein's sniping point - he was captured, his memories erased, and given a choice - train to become an assassin himself, or die. Not much of a choice, really. Choose to die, and that's it - choose to live, and there's at least a chance that he'll be able to escape and rediscover his missing past. And so Zwei's undercover life begins...

This is a little complex in places. The series is based on the visual novel Phantom of Inferno, which I reviewed a few years back and wasn't overly impressed with (I promised in that review that I'd eventually try and finish the game, and update the review when I did - I have to admit it hasn't been back in my DVD player since then). The game first spawned an impressive 3-episode OVA series (also reviewed here), which was obviously successful enough to lead to this TV adaptation. The basic premise in all three outings is the same: Ein and Zwei have been captured by organised crime group Inferno, subjected to intensive training (and, in Ein's case, a certain amount of brainwashing), and given a simple choice: kill for Inferno, or be killed. In such circumstances, life is always going to be the better option.

Inferno itself is an organisation filled with internal divisions as its members jockey for influence and power. Ein and Zwei initially come under the control of the appropriately-named Scythe Master, a truly evil bastard who has developed the conditioning techniques used to create Ein and Zwei - he's opposed within Inferno, though, by the beautiful and manipulative Claudia McCunnen who, using her knowledge of his true identity as leverage, uses Zwei as her tool to ruin Scythe's position in the organisation, furthering her own aims in the process.

Ein and Zwei get caught in the middle of all this manoeuvring. Living and working in close proximity to each other, and constantly under the stresses and strains that go with all the killing they have to do, it's inevitable that feelings eventually develop between the two - but with Zwei retaining a sense of his own identity and eventually deciding that he wants to get both himself and Ein out of their cycle of death, and Ein under the influence of Scythe's conditioning and feeling that she's got nowhere else to call "home" anyway, circumstances conspire to separate them and throw several problems in the path of love and freedom.

That's the basic setup, then. The 26-episode series can be split neatly into three arcs, and this volume is essentially the first of them: Scythe's rise and fall, which is political maneuvering and thuggery at its best. The jockeying within Inferno forms the backbone of the story, punctuated with impressively done hit-job scenes to remind us what Phantom are really about.

In a way, the series is almost another of Bee Train's "girls with guns" shows, having a lot of the gloss and style of shows like Noir and Madlax - but with a more believable setting, and that's what really makes it appealing. It's digging deep into the underside of life, with characters varying between the trapped (although both Ein and Zwei are ultimately comfortable with the life the've found themselves in), the ambitious, and the complete bastards (with 'Scythe Master' really going the extra mile in that department - although with a name like that, it's really no surprise). There's none of them that could really be considered likeable - some sympathy for the predicament of Ein and Zwei, and that's as far as it goes - but it's the way they interact and the events going on around them that make them compelling to watch. A good first half to the series that's well worth watching.

Rating - ****