One series that I missed the initial buzz about was Myriad Colors Phantom World (Phantom World). For whatever reason, I just didn’t check it out, despite it showing an unusual tactic to win a limbo match and doing it’s best to break the cliche of an anime protagonist getting a handful of a woman’s chest when they first meet. So from my limited knowledge, I assumed that this was nothing more than an ecchi series that people happened to like. Boy, was I wrong, and I found myself enjoying Phantom World more and more with each passing episode, thanks in large part to everything it brings to the table from both an emotional and an entertainment level.
The setting for this series was fascinating. An experimental virus is accidentally exposed to the world, giving humans the unique ability to perceive phantoms. Spirits, Yokai, Phantoms, and every other type of mythological creature could now be seen by everyone, instead of making people feel they are going crazy or hallucinating. So this change in everyone’s brain has led to those with special abilities trying to help keep the peace for humans and keep evil phantoms at bay. We follow Haruhiko Ichijo and his adventures in the Phantom Hunting Club as he and his growing team do what they can to help out those in need. He’s joined initially by Mia Kawakami and a phantom that goes by the name of Ruru. These three aren’t looked at as the most capable phantom hunters, so they begin recruiting others to join their ranks to eventually become a very formidable team.
What jumped out at me from the gate was how amazing the action animation was in this series. Before I realized what I was getting into with Phantom World, I was impressed with how much effort was put into an ecchi series. When I looked up which studio produced this and saw that it was Kyoto Animation (Beyond the Boundary, Amagi Brilliant Park, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid), immediately things started to make sense and I knew I was in for a huge treat when it came to the animation. I especially enjoyed Mai’s fights, and was excited every time she duked it out against a phantom. The fights were fantastic, and the choreography of each one was smooth on the eyes. The dynamic camera angles showcased her ability as a melee fighter, and was a strength that I think a lot of people will come to love. But every member of Haruhiko’s team looked terrific when they were involved in a battle. It was aesthetically pleasing when multiple people teamed up to take on a phantom (especially towards the end of the series). The artwork is just tremendous, and every character’s ability, coupled with watching Reina use her ability (phantom eater) was probably my favorite thing to see over and over again.
However, it wasn’t just the action scenes’ art and animation that blew me away. The effect used on phantoms, when they’d be blurry and pixelated, was cool. I loved both effects, and when the phantom would disappear it would give off a sound effect similar to a corrupted computer virus. The scenery in a lot of the series looked great, too. That’s always been a strength for Kyoto Animation anime, and something that I never worry about when they are involved in a project. If you are a fan of excellent animation, this series is something you’ll enjoy.
Phantom World also has a lot more action than I was expecting, making the series much more engaging. It isn’t just a slice of life series, so while it has some elements of that, the action is exciting enough to hold viewers’ attention (especially those who don’t usually enjoy a slice of life series). Mai’s fights are the highlight of the battles, due to how she can punch and kick her way to victory (I enjoy brawler characters in anime). But I also found the lore of this series especially fascinating and something that I think fans will appreciate as well. As mentioned before, everyone was exposed to a virus that gave them the ability to notice phantoms. Some companies work on researching all these subjects about phantoms (legal or illegal).
The characters were also very likable, which was something that I was hoping for. I was worried about the characters being too cliched, but I never felt like they were at an annoying level. All the tropes were there (Reina being the rich girl with strict parents, Koita the aloof girl who can’t smile, Mai, the tomboy), but the tropes felt more natural than what you’d see in a shounen anime. Haruhiko was also a pretty impressive lead to follow. He knows a lot of useless trivia (which I find cool) and I enjoyed the fact that he is one of the smarter characters in this series. He has his moments of feeling useless to his team, but I enjoyed the way his brain worked and his opening speeches about all different types of theories (some of this stuff I would love to do more research on, especially Schroedinger’s Cat).
And what many would find more bearable was that the harem aspect was almost non-existent. It seems clear to me that Mai has a thing for Haruhiko, which is fine. And even in a later episode, each girl mentions how awesome Haruhiko is which makes them blush. But that aspect was never really developed in this anime. You’d see pouting faces now and then, but there was never the typical antics you get in a harem anime. Mai didn’t get overly jealous when Haruhiko was helping out Koito. Reina didn’t mind the “flirting” between Mai and Haruhiko. In the OVA episode, the rest of the girls weren’t getting a suspicious vibe when Haruhiko and Mai were alone late at night. It simply felt like the girls respected and enjoyed his company, more than just wanting to “be” with him. So instead of getting the typical girls’ fawning over the main character for attention, they just do their job and have fun along the way (which gave off a positive dynamic within the group).
This also meant that the fanservice wasn’t as present as I thought it’d be. You’d have a few scenes with Mai in her gym shorts, her yoga poses in episode two, and the hot springs episode, where she had her backside painted with a paintbrush (with many of the girls wearing their school swimsuits). You could even talk about how Ruru is dressed, and some of the camera shots on our female leads. I think the closest we get is when we watch Mai transfer her power of the five elements to her fists (depending on which element she uses). But the level of fanservice isn’t even close to what I thought it’d be when I assumed that this was a mere ecchi series. That can either be bad or good, depending on what you wanted to see in Phantom World.
This series at points also had terrific emotional appeal. Watching Reina struggle to find her voice and happiness despite how strict her parents are is something that I’m sure people can relate to. The backstory of Haruhiko’s parents, who are divorced (mom left him and his dad), was also quite the bomb drop. You start to feel sympathy for Haruhiko, knowing that he’s living alone but wants company to have that “family” feeling (you see that clearly during episode 11). Throughout the last few episodes, you see how much Haruhiko was affected by his mother leaving him (and even remarrying), which is something I’m sure kids who have divorced parents can also relate to.
However, it wasn’t the perfect series I make it out to be. If there was one thing I wish this series did was to more thoroughly flush out all the characters than what they could do in 13 episodes. If this series was longer, I think we would have gotten a more in-depth story, especially the difficult home life Reina has had with her parents. Maybe we would have learned a little more about Koita, with her finding the phantom that ruined her childhood and life. It would have been nice to see her regain some happiness thanks to the support from her teammates. Plus, I wanted to look at how Haruhiko’s relationship with both his mother, step-father, and father would develop after the last arc. Or maybe we could learn more about Mai, and why she’s alone (and feels lonely) and why she’s interested in Haruhiko. It felt like we didn’t get to learn much about any main character. They were just there, and we don’t get to explore each character thoroughly enough. The closest is Haruhiko, but even with him, there are so many more questions that I wish we could be answered.
So if anything, finishing the series left me craving more episodes. I wanted to know how Haruhiko and his family evolve together after the ordeal with Enigma. How would his father feel knowing that Haruhiko has reconnected with his ex-wife and her husband? Plus, I’d love to see how the relationship of Mai, Reina, and Koita develops with Haruhiko. Not that I’d want to see more harem antics, but considering what Haruhiko did to help all three of them to become better people, I’d like to see how his help was felt by the girls on a more personal level. This seems particularly relevant when looking at Mai and how she seems to feel lonely despite having a great group of friends.
I also didn’t like how episodic this series was. There was only one little thing that kept the series together, and all you needed to do was watch episode two, and you’d be able to follow the series at any point. The only thing that was tying the series together was the fact that Ruru found an old device in the area where they were fighting phantoms. It’s not the worst thing in the world, and this is more nitpicking than anything, but I wanted things to be more closely related than just a phantom/problem of the week. Perhaps I find a more connected story more enjoyable if I binge watch it, compared to seeing episodes one at a time. But again, this was more of me being picky, rather than anything that inhibited me from enjoying the series.
The voice cast was a treat, especially the main characters. Micah Solusad is performing at his best as Haruhiko. He fits perfectly with being able to deliver serious and thought-provoking opening monologues while matching the exasperated voice that he seems to have when tired and stressed. I enjoyed the enthusiastic tone that Amber Lee Conners gave Mai (although some of her dialogue felt weird, but that’s more due to the translation rather than her acting). But I Conners as Mai was a great fit for her acting ability. Natalie Hoover was also cast perfectly as Reina, as she had her mannerisms and sweet, soft tone down to a “T”. And as for Jeannie Tirado, she’s played a few other characters like Koito and doesn’t disappoint in Phantom World. While Koito seems stoic and monotone, I didn’t feel Tirado was stiff in this performance and she gave the character more life than I was expecting.
This series is part of the partnership between FUNimation and Crunchyroll, and the release was pretty sweet. It includes all 13 episodes, with the OVA episode all in English. However, there are seven countermeasure shorts that aren’t dubbed. They are all six minute long shorts that I enjoyed, and I thought it would have been great if they were dubbed so we could hear the acting of the English voice cast. I was a little surprised at the level of fanservice that was in the shorts, but it wasn’t anything too ridiculous. The limited edition release comes with some cool art cards.
I’ve finished watching Myriad Colors Phantom World thinking that this series is a lot better than I thought it’d be. I wasn’t expecting to be blown away as much as I was, and I even think that this is a series that would be great on Toonami. It has a decent amount of action, beautiful characters, and a fun little story that was animated beautifully. It’s an entertaining series that has a few fanservice elements, but I think it does enough to gain some following in the U.S. I enjoyed it and hope that others will too. Dare I say, it would be something that I could see Toonami looking into considering it has all the elements that fans of the block like.
Pros: Animation is the show’s strongest aspect; wonderful emotional appeal; steller fights to watch; enjoyable characters
Cons: A lot of character development isn’t flushed out; too episodic; wanted more than 13 episodes.
C.J Maffris is an editorial writer for Toonamifaithful.com. You can follow C.J on Twitter @SeaJayMaffris