Phantom Dream Vol. #04 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, April 30, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Phantom Dream speeds towards its conclusion, and while there's some emotional impact, it feels more disjointed than ever.
Writer/Artist: Natsuki Takaya
Translation: Beni Axia Conrad
Adaptation: Ysabet MacFarlane
What They Say
Tamaki Otoya is the last in a line of ancient summoners tasked to battle evil forces that threaten mankind. Burdened by his duty as a summoner, Tamaki has always found strength from his childhood friend Asahi, with whom he has a deep, emotional bond. So when Asahi's friend is found out to be possessed by a demon, he awakensas the one destined to exorcise demons out of tortured human souls...
Tamaki has resigned himself to a death that will come sooner than he had wished for, but he refuses to let Eiji pass on so simply. To save her, Tamaki must travel to the sepulcher, a different dimension where the dark side of human consciousness resides, even though he has become blind as a result of his juzu beads. While there, he encounters Hyou, Eiji's mother, but is saved from the battle by Asahi. She pretends to be the spirit of Suigekka rather than herself reincarnated as Suigekka (it's less complicated than it sounds), and secretly returns Tamaki's juzu. Though this solves the problem of Tamaki's impending death, it ruined what was, for me, the single most effective element of the third volume: his determination to do what was right, even if it meant sacrificing himself. Anyone who's read Fruits Basket would know that Takaya would hardly let a character die, but I would have liked to have seen his resolution carried out over a longer span than a single chapter. I've also never warmed to Asahi, which means the second chapter was equally ineffective; her return to Tamaki's side just in the nick of time is too contrived for my tastes, as his her reasoning for why she left him in the first place. It's all a very, very dramatic shift away from the first three volumes, which I finally felt were hitting their stride.
Other than the aforementioned problems with the jumpy and often contrived plot, this volume also made me realize how much the oft-repeated concept of reincarnation is wearing thin. Couples vowing to meet again when they are reincarnated is the norm, and after the second or third time, the promises start becoming hollow. And though it may betray my cynicism, this trope makes me stop caring about the tragic fate of the couples--after all, they're going to meet again. This doesn't mean that the "romantic tragedy" aspects of the story don't appeal to me, though. The last chapter focuses on Roka and Mutsu's relationship to the detriment of a rather disturbing development on Hira's part. And while I knew I should have cared more that this very important event was being sidelined in order to highlight just another tragic romance between side characters, I still enjoyed the chapter. Even with the lack of development that pair has gotten up to that point, it might have been my favorite part of the book--and that's not a good sign.
Natsuki Takaya states in one of her sidebars that there were gaps in Phantom Dream's serialization--and oh, how it shows. The impending tragedy that was built up so well at the end of the third volume, as Tamaki resigns himself to his rapidly-approaching death, is wiped away by the end of the first chapter. Eiji's plot is likewise concluded, after which the character is unceremoniously dumped on the sidelines. Asahi enters into the spotlight once again, and Takaya manages to get some emotional effect out of her sacrifice, but the big reveal of her true motivations falls flat. Even the chapter focusing on Roka and Mutsu, while touching in a way, puts too much focus on their relationship instead of the major plot point that happens in the background. The progression throughout the entire book was so abrupt and disjointed that I found it hard to keep up with what was going on, let alone become emotionally invested in it.
Mania Grade: C+
Art Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translation Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Phantom Dream