Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom

Reiji Azuma, a young Japanese man travelling in the United States, gets inadvertently caught up in the middle of a gangland murder. As a result, he is kidnapped, drugged and brainwashed, robbed of his memories and identity, and held at a fortified encampment in the desert. There, he meets a mysterious young woman named Ein (“one”); dubbed Zwei (“two”), he is trained by Ein in the arts of infiltration and assassination. Eventually, he learns that this is at the behest of a criminal organisation calling itself Inferno, which is fighting its way to the top of the underworld over a pile of rivals’ bodies. Together, Ein and Zwei form an unstoppable hit-squad dubbed “the Phatom”; but while Ein seems completely subservient to their handler, a sinister Inferno executive known as Scythe, Zwei retains echoes of his humanity. And, one day, Zwei recovers his identity and persuades Ein to make a bid for freedom…

Based on a computer game created by software developer Nitroplus, “Requiem For The Phantom” was produced by anime studio Bee Train and originally aired on Japanese television in 2009. While it contains superficial plot similarities to other anime series like “Gunslinger Girl” and “Black Lagoon”, “Requiem For The Phantom” is a much darker meditation on the nature of identity and what it means to be human, unleavened by either the pathos or the gallows humour of the other two series. Essentially constructed around three story arcs (a third character, Drei – “three” – appears later in the series), “Requiem For The Phantom” is violent, nihilistic, and – as an exercise in coherent story-telling – not without its narrative problems. However, the main relationship between Ein and Zwei is both believable and moving, and the series contains genuinely affecting moments as it explores issues such as the bonds of loyalty, the limits of friendship, and the consequences that attach themselves to the promises we make. The twist at the end also lifts this series above the ruck of what is a very crowded genre field.

© Text Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2020. All rights reserved.