Perhaps you’d like some tea with your Reverse Harem?
What’s the Story?
Umbra are creatures born out of people’s fears and imagination, meaning that everything from werewolves and vampires to haunted pumpkins can be found wandering down dark alleys. When Ton and her friend arrive in London the last thing she expected was to have her bag stolen by one of these spirits, but by a happy coincidence, and a little bit of magic, she happens across the café set up by her Great Grandmother. A café were all of the staff happen to be Umbra (and guys, of course). Ton’s life is about to get a whole lot weirder as she’s thrown into a world of spirits and battles, learning about her Great Grandmother and her own dormant power. Thankfully Dracula makes a really good cup of tea, so we can all sit down and have a chat about it afterward.
I’m of two minds when it comes to this series. On the one hand, if I look at this series cold and analytically, there isn’t much to it and I’m pretty sure it’ll soon be consigned to the black hole where all forgotten anime ends up (if it hasn’t already). However, on the other hand, there are parts of this anime that I really like and I had a lot of fun with. Maybe it’s just because the season this anime featured in didn’t really have all that much that interested me other than a couple of standouts, but honestly I think it’s more than that.
For one, I really like Ton, the main protagonist, she’s very much a step above the typical female lead when it comes to these Reverse Harem shows. For one she’s proactive a lot of the time (which is really something that should happen more, especially in these kind of shows). Ton wants to get involved in her problems and isn’t happy to just sit around while the men try and sort it out for her. When her friend gets kidnapped (which becomes kind of a running gag with how long that plot is stretched on for), she wants to get out there and find her and we see her doing research and coming up with plans. Also there’s the fact that she is a total badass. When Ton unleashes her power she is a beast and I find it kind of funny that all these guys are so desperate to protect her and yet she is clearly the most powerful member of the group.
When it comes to the guys, I know I’ve had a couple of digs at them, but I do like them all. While none of them really get much more than the usual stock archetypes associated with their brand of ‘hot guy’, yet their voice actors and the animators imbue them with enough personality that I care about these guys. One of my favourite scenes is one where Ton and Luke are just stood outside the Café joking around. It’s a completely pointless scene, but you really get a sense of the friendship developing between these two and there are similar scenes between most of the cast. Also I like the fact that the romantic options are never really pushed in the series, if you have a particular ship then the show will accommodate, but it doesn’t force a romance on you, which I appreciate. On another note I really like that this show uses elements of the classic monster mythology, like our vampire turning into mist or being unable to enter a home without being invited first (I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed stuff like that).
Unfortunately now I’ve run out of my favourite parts of the show and I’m going to have to dig into the rest of it. The animation is serviceable, but it’s the script and plotting where this show really falls down. I mentioned the best friend subplot and that really does get stretched out beyond belief, honestly I kept expecting Toad from Mario to turn up and say ‘I’m sorry, but the Princess is in another castle’. It doesn’t help that the series really struggles to find a purpose. I mean the series was okay while it was doing one off episodes with an Umbra-of-the-Week or examining one of the guys. The couple of episodes that where the introductory arc of Midnight Sun where good as well, after that though the series quickly loses what little steam it had.
I put most of the blame for this down on the villains. They never presented a clear danger, oh sure they were dangerous, but I never fully understood what they were after (in fact I’m struggling at the minute to even remember their names). Van Helsing was fun and easy to understand, he wanted to kill all Umbra and protect all humans. Also he was kind of an idiot, but an energetic and fun one. The other two villains I have a problem with (and now I really can’t remember their names). I still struggle to understand what their deal was. One was immortal and wanted power to continue to evolve or something and he needed Ton for this (what he was going to do with Ton I have no idea). The other was…err…a jerk with hacker powers? I think. They did state their intentions (in a pretty hilarious scene where they traded motivations liked they’d just started role-playing and were reading one another their character sheets), but I never got a sense of who either one of these guys were.
Phantom in the Twilight, when it comes down to it, is an above average show. I don’t think it’ll stick that much in the collective consciousness of the audience, but it’s certainly better than a lot of Reverse Harem fantasy-action series. Ton is a proactive, on occasion badass, lead and the rest of the main cast are fairly fun too. It has some inventive uses of powers as well as some classic monster abilities, which I appreciate. However the series struggles with its plot, it often meanders and the villains (aside from Van Helsing) fail to make any impression whatsoever. Unfortunately the series runs out of steam just past the halfway mark, but while it lasted the ride was fun.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.