Phantom (also w/Game Bundle) (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, February 28, 2006
What They Say
Kei traveled to a new city to start a new life. There he sees the girl of his dreams Ai for the very first time. Strangely, he spots her from 500 meters away while she is crouched behind a military issue sniper rifle picking off mobsters. Soon Kei's uncanny alertness comes to the attention of Ai's employers, and he is given a simple choice: train to become an assassin, or be marked as Ai's next target.
Based on the video game, Phantom is a fairly tight 3 episode OVA series that serves up some good violent gunplay action.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series has a fairly straightforward stereo mix to it but it makes out a bit better than average with some of the scenes with the gunshots having a good bit of oomph to it with the impact. There is a fair bit of directionality when it comes to all the gunplay but for the most part the dialogue aspect is center channel focused and most of the ambient sounds and music has a full sound to it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 2004, the transfer for this three episode OVA series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The transfer is for the most part pretty good and on our main setup it looked nice and clear with solid black levels, something that's important here with so much of it taking place at night and in dark settings. Watching it on the 23" set in the office with about a two foot viewing distance, there's a bit more noticeable edge fuzziness and chroma noise to it in the character designs. You can see this more in mid range shots where the dots jump all about the character designs. While not a standout transfer when you mix the two elements together, it's pretty decent overall and how it looks will vary on the setups involved.
The front cover is nicely laid out with the logo down along the right side while the rest of it is given over to the main characters looking unsure as their clothes are being shredded around them from knives. The character design, while whisper thin, look good here with the red and black background and the skintight outfits certainly don't hurt it. The back cover provides a number of shots from the show and character artwork around the brief summary of the premise and the shots do a good job of selling the show as big on action and skimpy clothes. The technical features and basic disc information is clear and easy to find in the technical grid. No insert was included with this release.
The menu layout is basically a reworking of the main cover but with brighter cleaner colors and the character artwork being resized a bit so they aren't matching in height anymore while just under a minute of the vocal song plays along to it, a welcome treat that makes it easy to keep the menu on the screen. The layout is pretty standard for Media Blasters releases with quick access and easy navigation, especially as there are no extras. The disc picked up my players' presets fine but the full subtitle track is the second listed English track so it default to sign/song subtitles unfortunately.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
A three episode OVA series, Phantom is based off of the computer game of the same name and is essentially a big gunplay action piece that works with a fair bit of style, a minimal plot and a lot of blood and bullets flying all over the place.
The show revolves around a Japanese teen who we know only as Zwei that had just finished his high school career and managed to get into the college of his choice. To reward himself, he's off to America to visit Los Angeles for a month so he can live the life and experience some fun before getting into the next part of his academic career. Everyone's happy for him and encouraging him to do it so he's in a great state of mind when he gets there. Unfortunately he ends up getting left out at the wrong place and finds himself walking along a less than reputable area where he gets caught in the middle of an assassination of some unruly characters.
Zwei finds that he's able to pinpoint the assassin rather easily and while on edge as she's actually quite some distance away with a sniper rifle. He races to get away from her but only finds himself confronting her in an alley. Before she's able to kill him though, the assassin's boss shows up and saves him from death as he can tell that Zwei has some amazing skills to be able to find out where his assassin was. The girl, Ein, doesn't seem to care either way and Zwei finds himself now being trained as an assassin alongside her. The pairing actually works out well in the test runs as he's got an innate skill at all of this but it's not until their first mission that he snaps completely into character and becomes an incredible assassin. His life has now been forced down this road from the minute he saw Ein and he has no choice but to live it or be killed by her boss instead.
The show moves into fairly standard territory where it deals with the jobs they do, the growing familiarity between Zwei and Ein as well as a larger plot that both of them get wrapped up in that brings the short series to a nice close. It's a fairly concise storyline in all and if done as a feature length piece would fit the minimum runtime for a movie, though it'd be one that's essentially a template that's been done many times. The show has a good bit of style about it and since it's an OVA it has little problem showing the blood, of which there is a lot, as there are always men in suits willing to throw their lives away easily to kill the intruders. The animation for it is pretty clean looking and the designs work nicely in a minimalist way but they're also not complete stereotypes either, particularly Ein, who doesn't feel like we've seen her design a million times before.
For a video game to anime conversion, Phantom certainly isn't bad but it is something that isn't terribly original either. It flows well, has a decent enough story that keeps you watching for the length of it but it doesn't leave you wanting more when it's over which is good and bad since there isn't any more made. If I hadn't seen similar shows for so many years and was newer to anime, this one would stand out more and be something that I'd remember for years as part of my introduction to it all, but with as much as I've seen it's another in along line of similar shows, regardless of how well it's been done. With a combination release that has the game as well, fans of the game and the show will make out well here and that release definitely has a bit more interest to it.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: C+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
Running time: 90
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2