Musaigen no Phantom World Episode 1 [First Impression]

Kyoani didn’t find a way.

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Impression

As I’m sure you all know by now, I’m very partial to Kyoani. I like their deep pockets, and them often animating ‘Honourable Mention’ submissions to their Kyoto Animation Awards light novel contest usually means that it’s harder to produce something mediocre. In fact, I loved their last project Hibike! Euphonium from beginning to end, although that came from a scarcely-known, already published novel rather than a story competition. I liked Chuunibyou and Free! well enough, and both of those came from that contest. Hyouka was great. The only recent Kyoani I found myself not liking very much at all was Amagi Brilliant Park.

Phantom World reminded me of Amagi Brilliant Park.

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Phantom 1 Img004I really wasn’t all that impressed by this first episode, to be honest. And that really disappoints me. I kind of expected Kyoukai no Kanata, but got some kind of fanservice and comedy-filled variant of it instead, with no real semblance of a plot thus far. Usually the whole point of a pilot episode is to get people interested enough in it to want to continue, but Phantom World seems to not be following that formula much at all – it’s info-dumping the setting and introducing the characters, and trusting that Kyoani fans like myself will watch it regardless of how good or bad it is at least for the first three episodes. I admit that that’s most likely what will happen, because I still believe that Kyoani will find a way, but it’s not looking too good so far.

Phantom 1 Img003Why is its setting not good enough to get people interested? Because it’s basically Kyoukai no Kanata again, except worse. It’s set in a world where a virus has twisted the perception of reality and imagination for humans everywhere, allowing them to see ‘phantoms’ – which is here a term used to encompass ghosts, spirits, youkai and so on. A select few members of the population are born with supernatural powers that allow them to fight phantoms, as although some are harmless, others are disruptive and need to be defeated. Ichijou Haruhiko and his personal loli phantom belong to the phantom-hunting club at school, and is in the worst-ranked team with a big-breasted girl named Mai onee-sama. So far, he’s been trying to recruit more people (i.e. girls) to join his cause so that they can do better.

Phantom 1 Img005I told you it was like Kyoukai no Kanata. In fact, if we remove everything Kyoani-related from their classic character designs to their latest Mio and Sunohara expies, this plot actually sounds an awful lot like a school battle harem – a guy is special somehow, but is either the worst-ranked or a failure at fighting and is surrounded by a bunch of girls. And there’s fanservice everywhere, especially on Mayonnaise-sama’s part. I get that she has a nice body, but is it really necessary to have her boobs jiggle everywhere when she fights a phantom? Is it necessary for her to grope her boobs before activating an elemental spell? Was that entire last scene, where she rhythmically times the repeated bouncing of her boobs to play limbo with a bunch of phantoms who need their spirits appeased, really necessary? For real? Is that really how you wanted your very first episode of this series to end, Kyoani? It’s only been a day since Phantom World aired and I’ve already seen Mayonnaise-sama compared to all sorts of Kyoanis from Mori Summer to Sento, and honestly I’d rank her beneath them both.

Phantom 1 Img001Let it be known, however, that I’m not disinterested enough in this to not proclaim a best girl and all that. Reina-chan is adorable, especially when she opens her mouth to unrealistic proportions to eat phantoms. I hereby nominate her as best girl until we learn more about that Renge-lookalike loli who also looks very cute. It’s definitely a plus that Reina is voiced by Hayami Saori, although it’ll take some time for me to get used to it – from her character design she looks like a girl who’d have a soft, cutesy voice rather than a mellow and calming one like Hayamin’s. It’s because of Reina-chan and because of Kyoani that I’ll continue following and blogging this show, at least to the three episode mark to see whether it gets better. I’ll trust Kyoani, because they’re the only studio I care about who hasn’t ever severely let me down after I’ve placed my hopes in them. It’s watchable either way, but to me it’s fallen far beneath expectations enough to be a disappointment.

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tl;dr Phantom World is weak. Is this really the same studio who did Euphonium last summer?

Possibility of Watching: Moderately High
Possibility of Blogging: Moderately High

Vantage

I love cute things.

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11 Responses

  1. zztop says:

    Deep pockets is right – I hear Kyoani’s going to move into a newly constructed office building made just for them (they were previously renting office space in a building).

    Most likely the shenanigans here are from the source light novels; but at least it’s only 2 volumes long!

    • Vantage says:

      I hope Kyoani continues to find a way now that they’ve climbed another rung on the property ladder.

      If they’re from the light novels, then that slightly worries me because Kyoani clearly deemed these shenanigans part of a good enough story to win their Honourable Mention. At least the infamous idol episode in Kyoukai no Kanata was filler (although I will admit I really liked it). Violet Evergarden better be nothing short of a masterpiece, whenever it gets its anime adaptation.

  2. Wanderer says:

    “Is it necessary for her to grope her boobs before activating an elemental spell?”

    Um…yes, actually. Those with proper knowledge may be able to note that her powers correspond to the five elements of Chinese mysticism. Eachs of those elements corresponds to specific internal organs. And energy can be awoken in those internal organs by stimulating specific meridians on the body. She has to deliberately massage specific locations on her body to activate each power: you’ll note she did something entirely different when she called on water than when she called on metal. There are whole books on this sort of thing in Chinese medicine, so it isn’t just a thing in this series for fanservice.

    As for me, I quite enjoyed this episode, although perhaps because I’ve been seeing it in a different light than some folks seem to have been. And… that’s actually kind of the point. I believe that whole speech in the beginning about perception and the demonstration of optical illusions is much more important than just a lead in to “hey, we’ve got weird critters in our world now!” I think the underlying message of the series may in fact be that perception DEFINES reality.

    Note Whatshisname’s room when he wakes up. While he’s still half-asleep, his brain not really engaged or recognizing anything beyond the things he is directly interacting with, the entire world around him is nothing more than vague, colored blocks. Perhaps that is more than just an artistic choice. I’m thinking that perhaps the world itself did not really have any real form, until he perceived it and his brain defined it, giving it detail. Essentially, the world around him only is the way it is and appears the way it does because THAT’S THE WAY HE THINKS IT SHOULD BE/APPEAR. (Note, I’m just using him as the example we have. This would apply to anyone observing that world. I’m not trying to attribute specific godlike status to that character)

    I could be wrong. It’s entirely possible. But I think there are hints there for something deeper than we’re first seeing on the surface. However, if I’m right, I suspect that depth isn’t going to reveal itself blatantly right away: any foreshadowing of it will probably be subtle until some distance into the series.

    • Vantage says:

      I will concede your point on the five elements, although it still does feel like Kyoani had an awfully ulterior motive in picking her waist and boobs (especially when the loli fairy then starts talking about about how those boobs never cease to amaze her).

      It’s interesting you mention the changing state of Whatshisname’s room as he wakes up, because at that point I hadn’t yet been disillusioned by all the fanservice and found the shifting blocks rather odd. I don’t think it’s an artistic choice either, because pre-airing promo material has in fact depicted all the main characters with parts of their bodies distorted into irregular blocks. The reason I wasn’t fond of the episode was precisely because it failed to capitalize on this beyond having it as a tiny bit of foreshadowing. Even if it later develops, and I do hope that you’re right in it doing so, it’s difficult for me to praise it on grounds of such a vague future possibility. Phantom World has instead chosen to largely define itself as a fanservice-laden show filled with silly antics, which is not what a lot of us signed up for.

      It had a really good opportunity to shift its tone when during the cemetery scene (where they saw a familiar scene for the first time, in a cemetery which was apparently never there before) but Reina was all that came out of it, and the show chose to finish by dancing with tsukumogamis.

  3. goi says:

    This was surprisingly good 1st ep…time for the remaining eps to disappoint.
    I expect this to end like the rest of their crap, mc x main girl.

    • Vantage says:

      Hahaha, that’s pretty much the opposite to my expectations – I didn’t like this episode, but expect the remaining ones to get better!

      Do they all end with MC x main girl? Only the ones with romance as a main theme, really – like Chuunibyou and Clannad. Arguably Hyouka maybe, and Tamako took until Love Story before anything happened.

  4. Mai-Mai-Mai-Mai music hits me so hard
    Makes me say, “Oh my Lord,
    Thank you for blessing me
    With the athleticism to limbo this”

    It feels good, when you know you’re down
    A super dope homegirl from the phantom town
    And I’m known as such
    And this is a girl, uh, you CAN’T TOUCH

    *ahem*

    • Vantage says:

      So you’re in the Mayonnaise-sama camp (for now). May Kirby swiftly convince you in future episodes that she is best girl.

      • While I didn’t intend to mislead you with this lyrical adaptation, I must inform you that currently I am actually most fond of Reima and Haruhiko, even if it’s only slightly more than I am fond of Mai, Kurumi and Ruru. I haven’t forgotten about the last mysterious character we saw, but we haven’t been properly introduced.

        As for ranking Kurumi up with Mai and Ruru, I just feel like I got more valuable characterization out of her than either of the other two. Understandably, Mai didn’t have time to drop hints about herself in addition to the obvious about her character like most of the others did, since she was spearheading the action department this round. As for Ruru, well, she was busy being our friendly neighborhood Phantom and acting side-kick… but she is an curiously *specific* manifestation for a Phantom, so I see potential for quite the origin story.

        • Vantage says:

          I think Mai will spearhead the action department every round. I mean ‘action’ in more ways than one, by the way, which I’m honestly not really too keen on seeing any more of as you can probably tell. It’s been basic, entry-level fanservice so far, and you’d think Kyoani would find a way even with fanservice. We’ll see.

          I honestly had no idea who Ruru was until near the end of your comment! She’s apparently an original character (like Dekomori, Kumin and Mori Summer) so Kyoani can take her anywhere they want. Kurumi looks like she has rabbit ears. She’s cute, but I’ll reserve judgment on her until she actually has a proper role in an episode.

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