Episode 09 – “The Strange Tale of the Bakumatsu Phantom”
I just realized that we haven’t seen hide nor hair of that darned electric device that Haruhiko picked up from the abandoned warehouse, which was really the closest thing to creating an overarching plot in Phantom World. While it’ll be certainly difficult to create any sort of substantial story out of that one piece of machinery, it’ll be incredibly disappointing if we don’t see it return at all. Though the fact that I had totally forgot about the device up until now shows that it’s not particularly relevant to my enjoyment of Phantom World because I think the series’s strength lies in its character-driven, episodic vignettes rather than a serious throughline.
That being said, I feel like the opportunity to seriously explore the idea of a talking Phantom that wants to interact with humans was lost in this episode. What could have been an interesting discourse in existentialism, as this is really the first case other than Ruru that we’ve seen a talking Phantom with a personality, instead turns into another goofy montage of events. Personally, I can still enjoy that kind of irreverence, but I can see how people may get frustrated with series’s seeming lack of coherence. It teeters between light-hearted fun and more serious themes, but never quite reaches the fullest potential of either side of the spectrum.
One can attempt to pick apart narrative and plot execution all day long, but I seriously need to give more attention the sheer level of production value that KyoAni puts into their work. The animation, especially in action sequences and quick-changing facial expressions, is always fluid, and it’s something I always notice in their series as I flipped through, frame-by-frame, looking for screenshots. Of note in this particular episode is the voice acting, as the actors have to act as actors in a play, and when things go astray during the performance, this adds another layer to the voiceover rabbit hole. Just thinking about how difficult voice-acting a scenario like that in a realistic fashion gives me even more respect for the very talent seiyuu in the industry.
“I am a Phantom born for drama and living for drama.”