Phantom in the Twilight (ファントム イン ザ トワイライト) is an original Japanese and Chinese animation falling into the shōjo, supernatural, urban fantasy genres. It is being produced by LIDENFILMS and directed by Kunihiro Mori. I put the series on my list of shows to check out for one reason and one reason only: vampires. Yeah, I’m a sucker for them (no pun intended, well, maybe a little).
Phantom in the Twilight kicks-off during modern times with two girls who have just moved into London to attend university. As they begin walking towards their new apartment, they are mugged by an unseen foe. One of the ladies, Ton, runs off after the perpetrator and ends up getting lost in the midst of London’s towering buildings within Chinatown. Through some plot happenings, she eventually finds herself at a mysterious café, where a group of ostensibly young and handsome men feel a familiarity with her immediately. Upon hearing of her predicament, they volunteer to help her out!
This show… well, this episode in particular, was screaming at me that it is going to be this summer’s Libra of Nil Admirari, by taking itself way too seriously and being wholeheartedly overambitious in creating a convoluted plot-line for an otherwise humdrum premise. These are just vibes that I was…vibing during my twenty-four-minute trek through the pilot. Nonetheless, I could be wrong; good gosh, I hope I’m bloody wrong.
Why did I feel this way, you ask? Even if you didn’t, I shall explain, hopefully without giving spoilers. At it’s core the narrative is about this young woman and her identity that is tied to her ancestry. But there are all of these urban fantasy facets that contribute to the world-building and setting—possibly even to the mystery of who she is—that I can see completely overshadowing the main plot. I can also see these fantasy qualities steering away from the main idea of what the show is supposed to entail by keeping the viewers busy with all of the bishies prancing around on-screen. Now, I don’t mind bishies, I mean I’m a lover of the Free! anime for a reason, but I don’t like it if it erases the narrative, no matter how linear said narrative is.
Another reason I feel like the plot may get erased due to pretty-boy aesthetics is the fact that it is a reverse harem. There are very few reverse harem serials that can go from beginning to end with a decent development of storytelling, character depth, and romance. So much time is spent on either trying to give the lady screen-time with all of the boys involved, or watching the boys bicker back and forth with one other about tedious and inconsequential things. The first episode definitely had chunks of the latter, which detracted from their initial goal of trying to help her get her shit back.
All of these qualities made Libra of Nil Admirari the hot mess it ended up being, and then some.
Yet, in spite of my negative ramblings here… I kind of enjoyed the first episode. The urban fantasy bits, with the mythical creatures (goblins, werewolves, vampires… oh my!), magic powers, mysterious ancestral heritage, all kind of worked for me. It has been a damn long time since I’ve seen, or read, urban fantasy, and when it’s coupled with Chinese cultural aesthetics without seeming to follow harmful stereotypes, I can’t help but find my interest to be peaked.
The main character and one of the eye-candy-bros are Chinese. I like that they weren’t attired consistently in typical Chinese clothing to set them apart and they didn’t have unique character designs to distinguish them as being Chinese. The differentiating aspects are their names. I am staying optimistic in that the series will continue to treat the Chinese people as normal anime characters because I think it really adds to the charm of the series and makes it more natural and flowing.
Of course, I am not Chinese, so I can’t comment on the authenticity or if/how harmful the representation is. I can only speak in regard to what I’ve seen in anime to date.
Other bits I found pleasant includes the action. The scenes were aesthetically pretty, and each movement was smooth, sharp, and crisp. The introduction of the characters was succinct and provided the right amount of information to give you a basic idea of what to expect but allowing room for more information to unfold with the plot. The girl can be grating and whiny, but I like that she’s rather self-assured and not afraid to jump into foray of the fight scenes and help out rather than play damsel-in-distress. The humour is light, occasionally hit-or-miss, but not super forced; it didn’t feel like it was trying too hard to be funny.
All in all, it’s not blow-your-socks-off fantastic, but it isn’t overtly boring or typically humdrum either. It’s slightly above average, more so if you are a sucker for bishies. I want to see how things shall progress, and I am going to try and stay realistically positive that it won’t turn into Libra of Nil Admirari, even if I feel that it may.
You can catch Phantom in the Twilight on Monday mornings over at CrunchyRoll.