Saturday, April 4, 2009
Studio Bee Train has been known in yuri fan circles for animating yuri-friendly series like .hack//sign, Noir, Madlax, and El Cazador de la Bruja, all of which contain some enjoyable yuri subtext, if not text, although as for the content of the series themselves, I like the latter three (Bee Train's "girls with guns" trilogy) a lot more than .hack.
Phantom ~Requiem of the Phantom~ seems to be the latest in Bee Train's "girls with guns" line-up, with its distinguishing variation being that one of the two girls is a guy. The first episode opens with an amnesiac young man waking up in a darkened room without any memory of who he is, including his name. (Another amnesiac protagonist? Way to go, Bee Train.) As he tries to make his way out of the building where he is, a female assasin wearing a mask attempts to kill him with a gun. As she's only "testing" him under orders from a mysterious organization called Inferno (subtle), she eventually gives him a knife and they fight each other hand to hand before he over-powers her, cutting away her mask. He doesn't kill her, but leaves the building, which he finds to be in the middle of a desert. The woman then exits the building and tells him that his name is Zwei and her name is Ein before shooting him with a tranquilizer dart. After he passes out, some people working for Inferno show up and provide exposition, and then the episode cuts to Ein and Zwei successfully completing an assasination. Then more ominous exposition by the agents of Inferno.
Despite its snazzy visuals, Phantom, unfortunately, doesn't bring anything new to the table of its niche subgenre. That isn't to say that it isn't entertaining. It works well as an atmospheric, sexy assasin action-mystery, with slick, ominous visuals and a wonderfully fitting, Yuki Kajiura-esque score. (Hikaru Nanase composed the score for Phantom.) But for now at least, it simply has yet to find its own distinctive "voice" or rise above the precedent set by previous mystery/action/assasin series. And while effective enough, the characters aren't terribly unique, interesting, or charismatic. Ein strongly resembles Kirika from Noir, while Zwei, save for his mad fighting skills, pretty much resembles the dozens of other confused, somewhat bland everyman leads that have come before in anime in both appearance and personality. (I know that he's amnesiac, but still...) He's no Mireille/Madlax/Nadie.
As for the yuri, there isn't any so far (subtext or otherwise), and chances are slim of any popping up with one of the two main characters being a guy and all signs pointing to a romance between Ein and Zwei (which could be interesting if executed properly), but who knows, with Bee Train's track record something yuri-ish might pop up among the other characters. I'm not sure whether I'll follow this series, however. For now I think I'll wait, and if the future buzz around Phantom sounds intriguing enough, I'll take another look.