Review: Musaigen no Phantom World
Title (English): Myriad Colors Phantom World
Title (Japanese): 無際限のファントム・ワールド
Animation Studio: Kyoto Animation
Genres: Action, Comedy, Fantasy, Supernatural
Ah yes, here comes yet another review of a Kyoto Animation anime by yours truly. As I’ve mentioned multiple times, this is my favourite animation studio, and they’ve made some of my all-time favourite anime: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, K-On!, Kanon (2006), Clannad, and Hibike! Euphonium (as of right now anyway: the second season should air this year and we’ll see if my opinion changes). There are stinkers in their history like Tamako Market, and Kyoukai no Kanata, but there are also the aforementioned anime. I mentioned in a ranting Tweet that being a Kyoto Animation fan is much like being a Nintendo fan: capable of making the greatest mediums in their respective industries, but not always doing it. This theme popped up in my head repeatedly as I watched through Musaigen no Phantom World which, judging from general public opinion, is one of their worst showings in recent years. I felt the same throughout most of the anime as I was debating if this, or Tamako Market, would grab the unwanted title of my least favourite KyoAni anime. Now, where would Musaigen no Phantom World end up on this KyoAni fan’s list?
Story and Characters:
In the near future, an explosion at a chemical factory leaks out to the public. The chemicals force a change in human’s brains allowing humans to see Phantoms, beings that live alongside humans that were previously invisible. Phantoms range from being friendly helpful beings, to being openly hostile. The chemical reaction also causes some humans to develop supernatural powers. A decade and a half later, some of the newborn humans born around the time of the explosion are now Phantom hunters, and they track down and seal Phantoms that are causing problems. The protagonist, Haruhiko Ichijou, and his female teammate, Mai Kawakami, form a team to hunt down Phantoms. Unfortunately, they’re one of the worst teams in the school, and look to augment their team with new members. They initially recruit Reina Izumi, a Phantom eater, to start.
Musaigen no Phantom World has a very interesting concept. Early on, they mention that not everything has been discovered with Phantoms, which opened up a realm of possibilities. There was plenty of opportunities to do a story about solving the mystery of the organization that owned the factory that exploded, especially as they had moved onto research about the chemical reaction. Unfortunately, Musaigen no Phantom World ends up squandering every opportunity to tell a good story, and instead becomes a disappointing episodic anime. They dabble in some light character development for the main cast of characters, with only Haruhiko and Mai getting any significant development. The majority of these episodes are massive fanservice bait, including being hypnotized by a family of Phantom rabbits and sprouting ears and a tail, everyone slowly becoming cat-like, and a hot spring episode because why not, they nailed everything else. Imagine every possible moe fanservice thing you can think of, and it’s likely they did it at one point or another in this anime. However, it wasn’t all bad. The episodes were still rather enjoyable, and I kind of enjoyed the light-heartedness of the episodes.
The main reason why I wrote that introduction in the beginning was a direct response to episode 11, which brought out a sense of realism and genuine touching moments that contrasted the previous 10 episodes. It was a big standout episode that brought out the best of Mai and Haruhiko, and it reminded of the moments of sadness and heartbreak that defined Clannad. Right after I watched that episode, I went on a Twitter rant about how good that episode was and how frustrating it is that something that good is going to be hidden under a sea of mediocre episodes. If all of the other episodes could have been like that one, it would easily have topped my list of favourite KyoAni shows. The final couple of episodes were what I’m sure most people wanted out of Musaigen no Phantom World to start off with, but instead it just ends up being tagged on at the end. It’s almost as if KyoAni just wanted to prove it could come up with an intriguing story, just for show. Unfortunately, that leaves us with 10 episodes of just regular Phantom-catching.
When it comes to characters they can be endearing, depending on what you were expecting out of the anime. In addition to Haruhiko, Mai, and Reina, there’s also Koito Minase, a girl with the power to attack using her voice, and Kurumi Kumamakura, a girl with the power to enlarge her teddy bear to fight. For me, they weren’t too bad, but I wish they could have been developed more. Many of those fanservice episodes could have developed the characters more instead of just catching Phantoms. Each of the characters gets their own development episode, but a couple of them get more than one episode for development. The cast is all right, but nothing truly special.
… Oh and there’s also Haruhiko’s Phantom companion Ruru. A character that’s so forgettable I almost forgot to include her here, and even in my First Impressions, I completely forgot.
Musaigen no Phantom World disappoints on its story, or lack thereof until the end, with average characters. They do leave it open for a second season, and if they do make one, it better be more like the end of the anime here.
Art and Animation:
I could cut and paste my usual Kyoto Animation Art and Animation sections into Musaigen no Phantom World. KyoAni never skimps on its art and animation budget, and they’re consistently one of the best. There’s not much to say in terms of art and animation as it’s KyoAni’s usual top quality. Since this anime followed KyoAni’s last anime, Hibike! Euphonium, I can’t quite help but compare it to Hibike! Euphonium‘s stellar animation. Musaigen no Phantom World isn’t as well animated as Hibike! Euphonium, but Hibike! Euphonium was a truly special case. The fight scenes look pretty good, which is a big plus for an action series. Granted, KyoAni adds a lot of effects to their action scenes, which can make it a little hard to follow on occasion.
Kyoto Animation is one of the few anime studios with a truly distinctive look to all of their anime. If you’ve seen a KyoAni anime since Hyouka, you already know what Musaigen no Phantom World looks like.
Sound and Music:
I don’t often say that a voice actor is perfect for any particular character. However, Musaigen no Phantom World has one. Saori Hayami voicing Reina is absolutely perfect. I can’t imagine another voice actress doing Reina nearly as well. The other voice actors also do a good job with their characters, and this might be due to experience. For the first time in a while, Kyoto Animation hired veterans to voice their characters. I will say that the two new voice actresses, Azusa Tadokoro who voices Ruru, and Misaki Kuno, do show a little bit of inexperience. They’re still decent, but it’s hard to compare them to the other cast members.
I mentioned in my First Impressions of Musaigen no Phantom World that I didn’t like the opening song, “Naked Dive”, by SCREEN mode. That has changed dramatically. I had the song on repeat for a while, and will still play it on occasion. This means that my streak of liking all KyoAni’s songs remains intact, as I still like the ending song, 純真Always (Junshin Always) by Azusa Tadokoro. I do like her singing voice, even if I wasn’t a fan of her character. There is also one background theme in particular that played in the last two episodes that really helped out with the darkened mood by the end. I enjoyed it, and it got me hyped up for what was happening.
Musaigen no Phantom World came in riding on a wave of hype, especially since this would have been the first time since Kyoukai no Kanata that Kyoto Animation has done anything remotely action-based. Unfortunately, all we got was an episodic, fanservice-filled anime with a story concept that was really interesting, but never bore fruit until the end. It’s a shame, since I still feel like if Musaigen no Phantom World was done a different way, it would have been a really good anime. Perhaps if they didn’t mess around so much trying to be cute, they actually could have gotten a good story out of it. Now, as someone who likes moe anime and light-hearted stuff in general, this may be a surprise that I didn’t like Musaigen no Phantom World. However, there are certain times when I have an expectation for an anime. Musaigen no Phantom World didn’t appear like it was going to be an episodic, almost slice of life-like anime. It looked like it could have genuinely had an intriguing story. This anime will join Tamako Market as something I can say was bad for trying to pander too much to the moe fanbase, and not delivering. This anime was still better than Tamako Market thanks to the final arc and characters, but that still places Musaigen no Phantom World as my second least favourite KyoAni anime. Even after all is said and done it was a fun ride, but one that had more lows than highs.
+ Good music
+ Good art
+/- Still generally enjoyable, as long as you weren’t expecting a story out of it
– Weak story
– Uneven character development
– Over-reliance on fanservice
What are your thoughts on Musaigen no Phantom World? Leave your thoughts in the comments!
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