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Requiem for the Phantom is in our sights…

A Japanese tourist witnesses a contract killing in America and flees for his life. But when he is caught, his ruthless pursuers realise that he has demonstrated an uncanny knack for evading professionals. Instead of ending his life, they offer him a job…

The Phantom is the ultimate assassin, an unstoppable killer working for the shadowy Inferno organisation. But the Phantom is now a team – a sexy lady assassin codenamed “Ein”, and her literal number two, former Japanese schoolboy “Zwei”.

Their targets include arms dealers, drug kingpins and other assassins in a lengthy power-play that collapses into an internal conflict as the Inferno turns on itself. Ein and Zwei must deal with the resurgence of their lost identities, their tense feelings of affection for one another, and the prospect of fighting on opposite sides in a gangland massacre.

Loaded with symbolism, flashbacks and flashforwards, Requiem for the Phantom tells the story of the Ein/Zwei pairing with all the chaotic terror of a firefight, offering glimpses of Zwei’s unwitting recruitment alongside the stories of his attempted escape and his first mission for the Inferno organisation. Writer Yosuke Kuroda paces his scenes with a mixture of brooding longeurs and sudden eruptions of violence and action, deftly encapsulating the long waits and sudden gunplay of an assassin’s missions.

The story began life as a game at the turn of the century, before enjoying a brief resurrection in 2004 as the anime video series Phantom of Inferno. Relatively obscure – and largely available as a bundle with the game – this early incarnation was directed by Keitaro Motonaga and produced by the KSS studio. However, the TV series, now out in the UK, was produced by Bee Train and directed by Koichi Mashimo in 2009, adding another notch to the barrel of the director’s penchant for girls with guns.

Requiem for the Phantom is an explosive anime vision of American pulp fiction – like the notorious Mad Bull 34 and the much-loved Gunsmith Cats, it presents an uncompromising view of a violent, crime-ridden America that is little removed from the Wild West. Like Gunslinger Girl, it seeps an ongoing passion for Italian mobsters. If it has any immediate inspiration, it probably lies with Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse, hype for which would have been breaking in Japan at the time the series went into production.

Lauded by Anime News Network for its “solid plot and a well-hidden romantic heart”, Requiem for the Phantom is a slickly made addition to the ever popular girls-with-guns subgenre. A sure-fire hit with any hitman…

Requiem for the Phantom 1 is available on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.

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