In some ways a step from where the series started, Phantom Dream still can't handle balancing an overly-complex plot with a huge cast of characters.
Writer/Artist: Natsuki Takaya
Translation: Beni Axia Conrad
Adaptation: Ysabet MacFarlane
What They Say
Asahi truly defected to the Gekka? But why? What other secrets are hidden in the past, and when the factions of the Gekka and the Otoya begin to shift, where will Eiji's loyalties fall?
Asahi may have abandoned the Otoya for the Gekka to embrace her previous self, "Suigekka," but Tamaki refuses to give up on her even when she goes so far as to try and kill him herself. Thankfully, this is the start of the overall theme of the volume: Tamaki shifting his focus away from Asahi and towards what must be done for the good of humanity. It's a little abrupt at times, sure, but it's nice to see a hero who puts saving his girlfriend aside in order to save everyone else. The second confrontation between the two, when Tamaki acknowledges that she is Suigekka and bids her farewell, is decently effective. The first, when Asahi reveals that she is Suigekka, is a bit sloppier, particularly when one of Hira's servants shows up but doesn't kill Tamaki because it "would be beneath him." It's the kind of plothole that's so gaping that I can't even get my mind around it. That aside, while Tamaki is being set up as the self-sacrificing hero, he's growing more and more likable by the chapter. His narration on the last page is a strange mixture of resignation and hope, and one of my favorite parts of this installment.
Eiji and Asahi don't come off as well as Tamaki in this volume. Asahi is past the point of redemption for me, particularly when she's shown to waver between Hira and Tamaki after she's already stabbed her former boyfriend. Eiji is meanwhile coming to terms with the fact that he's been used by the Gekka, and eventually escapes to join with Tamaki. The physical change he undergoes (which I won't give away here) is odd and out of left field, not to mention unnecessary; it's just something extra to add to the evil-ness and strange rituals of the Gekka. His defection to the good guys is very abrupt, but does highlight the emotional vulnerability and childish naiveté of his character. It just doesn't make him any more likable--instead, he comes off as more pathetic than anything else, and reading page after page focusing on his weaknesses is dull. At the very least, his dedication to Tamaki is admirable, and it provides an interesting scene between Eiji and Asahi that highlights just how far their characters have come (or gone) from where they first began.
Though there are some things that are better than the first two volumes, Phantom Dream's third installment falls short yet again. The plot is far too complex, and watching the plot summary at the start of each chapter get longer and longer each time it is used only makes it more obvious. Some of the dramatic moments are effective, but others fall flat because the characters involved haven't been fleshed out yet. It's not a terrible series, and Takaya's art has improved quite a bit since the first volume, but the story just can't hold up under its own weight.