Hey friends! After the 2016 winter season ended, this was a series that I wanted to review since before this series even properly ended. However, this series was so…note-worthy that addmanrcace also wanted to review it. So, we decided to combine our mixed views on this series in one big review. And so, here we are, doing a Myriad Colors Phantom World Review.
There comes a time when you know you’re most likely going to get disappointed by a person, a thing, or an event and you just go for it anyway. You have this faint, but palpable glimmer of hope in your mind that maybe–if the conditions are correct–things may work out in your favor. However, the big bully named Reality comes and smacks you across your poor, woefully misguided face and reminds you that the world is not your fantasy and doesn’t give half a shit about what you want. Musaigen No Phantom World, or as we call it here in America, Myriad Colors Phantom World, was the show this past season that indelicately reminded me how not all that shines is gold. The plot of this series had the potential to be something exceptional. The jist of the story is that after some biological fiasco, certain people can now see entities known as phantoms. Although they were present in the world beforehand, nobody had the ability to see them. Some phantoms are innately harmless while others torment and manipulate humans. In comes our band of heroes: Haruhiko Ichijou, his companion Ruru, Reina Izumi, and Mai Kawakami. Along with other groups of students at their high school (what a surprise), they fight phantoms that are obtrusive to the lives of other people. So, they fight spirits, meet new friends along the way, and…that’s about it.
The term “wasted potential” gets flung around incessantly these days. This series could be a case of wasted potential–but only if it was trying to accomplish something decisively greater than what it did. No matter what, I have a lot of issues with this series. Firstly, it sets itself up as if it will have a legitimate plot line only to devolve into a “monster of the week” setup with the exception of the final two episodes. I loathe shows that do this. If I wanted a show that was a cock-tease, I would’ve watched To-Love Ru: Darkness or something. Like the large pile of other shows that do this, Phantom World incorporates a subtle plot point into every 3 episodes or so. Of course, they are never revealed to be important until the last few episodes…just when you forget about them completely. Also like other shows of this nature, the plot roped in at the end is rushed, lazily implemented, and completely irrelevant to everything else that occurred in the series. It was one of those dumb plots that was weaved in solely for the purpose of having all of the characters come together for one last hurrah! Unfortunately, in doing so it also gauged open a few plot holes at the end. To close out this little tirade, the series also becomes a harem. I knew this would happen. I knew this would happen. In spite of my gut feelings, I made the counter-intuitive decision to watch this series anyway. I would call this series wasted potential, but I can’t quite do that. Why? I can’t because I believe this series never attempted to be anything else than a harem cleverly disguised as an action/fantasy series. It never tried to be complex or mentally provocative. Hell, it didn’t even try to come off as anything more substantial than skin-deep. Sure, it had the 1 to 2-minute narratives at the beginning of each episode. Even though some of them incorporated some abstract theories in them (e.g. Jungian psychological theory of mental development), they were heavily diluted versions and were only present to set a foundation for the episode. I guess in those regards, the show did fine. As it just so turns out, harems are not my preferred types of anime.
It wasn’t completely vacant of enjoyment value though. I mean, aside from aesthetics, a few of the episodes carried some entertainment value based on their story lines. Though a heaping majority of them were either non-creative or straight-up stupid, a few peaked my interest and were concepts that showed flashes of both entertainment and imagination. I also feel like after the first couple of episodes (everyone knows the infamous boob-limbo scene) that the fanservice became less frequent and exploitative. Sure, it was still noticeable and had its moments of being mildly intrusive, but it was never on the levels of say… Fairy Tail or Highschool of the Dead. And hey, the series looks pretty.
So, since Phantom World did such a bad job at being a show about something, it had to make up that lost ground somewhere. So, for a good majority of the time, it seems to be about the people in the show. As Ringwormsherm mentioned, it’s a harem and has a “monster of the week” storytelling style. Those two things are the prime ingredients for making character based episodes! Unfortunately, this isn’t really where Phantom World shines either.
There are six staple characters, give or take a few for some episodes. Haruhiko is the lucky main character of the day, and he’s pretty dull. He’s smart though; he knows a lot of information and likes to ramble on about useless facts that he knows about, but he is generally useless in every other way. I know that harems typically have this dull MC archetype, but Phantom World tries to be more than just harem, so this is really disappointing. It may be a bit harsh, because Haruhiko’s counterpart, Ruru, kind of makes up for his shortcomings. She is Haruhiko’s little phantom buddy. She’s essentially a tiny, flying hot chick, which is kinda weird but not too weird (until the last episode, then it does get actually weird). Ruru is basically the comic relief character, and she even succeeds on the occasion. Most of the time, however, she’s just an annoyance and a distraction. As a pair, Haruhiko and Ruru aren’t terrible, but they aren’t great either. Also, despite being the mainest of characters that Phantom World has to offer, they don’t actually have much development at all (until the last episode, when development is unnaturally shoved down your throat).
The better characters are the supporting cast. While I say “better”, I’m not really sure if I mean it. Everyone else gets their own story/episode and a little bit of development, but I don’t know why. None of them have an interesting enough story to make it feel worth it. If they did, they’d have made the story about them. Anyway, Mai is the sporty, big-boobed girl. She’s strong and good at physical activities. She is friends with Haruhiko and works directly with him to fight against the big, bad phantoms. She rags on Haruhiko, too, and is the closest thing to a tsundere that the show has to offer. Reina is the “new girl” that is kind-of shy and likes to eat a lot. Oddly enough, I think that she has the most development out of all of the characters. At the very least, I found her background and story to be the most interesting, but even then, it felt generic and boorish. Koito is another classmate of Haruhiko’s. She isn’t initially part of their “phantom hunting” group, but instead works alone very efficiently. She’s the stoic,”too cool for school” kind of girl, which you can tell because she’s always wearing headphones around her neck.
Anyway, over the course of a few episodes, the group finally is successful at wooing Koito to work with them. By wooing, I mean saving her life repeatedly and asking her to join them… repeatedly. Lastly, there is Kurumi. I can only guess that Kurumi exists solely to make one person happy: the writer’s wife. It is literally the only thing that makes sense to me. She adds nothing except being cute. While every other character and every part of the show takes place in and around high school, Kurumi is in elementary school. She got her own bullshit episode, and even that just reinforced how “kawaii” she was and tried to explain why her teddy bear, Albrecht, was actually a great fighter, electrical engineer, and hacker (why?). I can’t hate Kurumi, because she’s like 8 and adorable, but she didn’t belong in the series at all.
Despite being generally uninspired, the one area where Phatom World kind of shines is its diversity in powers, phantoms, and situations. I enjoyed the “powers” that the cast had and I usually enjoyed whatever they were fighting. Haruhiko wasn’t a good fighter, but he could summon supernatural creatures and seal phantoms by drawing them. Mai could draw power from specific parts of her body to enhance how she fights in using the elements. Reina basically ate the phantoms. Koito was able to use the sound of her voice to effect things in different ways. And Kurumi had a magic teddy bear. While not super cool or super imaginative, all of these different aspects crossed with unique phantoms and situations made for some genuinely enjoyable experiences. It really wasn’t ever predictable.
This should be short because honestly, I’m just repeating myself with all these Kyoto Animation shows. The series looks downright beautiful. The color palate is vibrant and the animation style is signature KyotoAni cuteness. The fluidity of the animation isn’t anything short of masterful and as always, their meticulousness is prevalent in the subtle body language of the characters.
Once again, like as I said in my Kyoukai No Kanata review, KyotoAni isn’t known for how well they do fight sequences. However, the fight scenes in Phantom World are fluent, absolutely dazzling, and left me ogling at them the whole time. The soundtrack, while not the peak of musical quality, is surprisingly above-average and deserves mention for that. None of the tracks stuck out or anything, but they set the tone remarkably well and were quite beautiful at times. The opening was also pretty damn good. Electronic dance music is really hit-or-miss for me, but the OP for this series not only worked for me but also worked for the series.
addmanrcace: What really got to me about Phantom World, especially now that I’m actively thinking about it, is that is was made up of mostly bad parts, but it turned out to be okay and a little enjoyable. It was beautiful, imaginative, dull, and pointless all at the same time. I can’t personally recommend this to any type of anime watcher, except maybe someone that wants to watch all of KyoAni’s stuff. Since it wasn’t actually bad and I did enjoy watching it at a lot of points, I’ll have to settle with giving it a 6/10.
Ringwormsherm: Sigh. There’s a whole catalog of issues that I have with Phantom World. I could list them all off, but I think everything I dislike about the series can be effectively boiled down to one overarching problem: The series took an imaginative concept that was backed by a LOT of funding and decided to execute it in the most painfully generic and creatively-vacant way possible. The fact that this series essentially devolved into a harem covers why the characters are so bland and uninspired, why they receive bare minimum development, the fan-pandering, and why the plot only exists in the last two episodes. Even though the production value of this series is through the roof, the series really has nothing else to offer and was a massive disappointment in my book. It could’ve been so much more, but it wasn’t and that’s why I can only award it mediocre 4.5/10. Thus, addmanrcace’s and my scores culminate in this series getting a 5.25/10 and a recommendation to skip it completely unless you are dying to see the now infamous “boob limbo” episode.