It Bugs Me: Phantom World Episode 2

So we’re back with episode 2 of Phantom World. Oh boy. Make sure you’ve checked out my post for episode 1 before you continue. Everyone ready? Then let’s go.

Now, how exactly will this one start?

Oh, we’re going back to this thing again. I’d call KyoAni out for using recycled animation, but then again, they’re the ones who animated every episode of Endless Eight separately, so let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s just the same thing animated differently. Instead,let’s focus on what’s being said. What’s being said is “blah blah smart-sounding words, KANT, hey did you hear what we just said Kant is a philosopher guys look at how smart we are.” And from there it launches right back into the “yeah, our perceptions changed” bit again. Are they going to do this every week? Jerk themselves off in a different way to get to the same conclusion? Because let’s be honest, much as it’s great that a show’s encouraging people to look into philosophy, I highly doubt that Kant is going to have any sort of meaningful impact on it.

At this point, I’m going to have to rescind a complaint I had in the last post about how it seemed weird that they dealt with phantoms like sealing them since it seems like that destroyed them. Here, they pretty clearly state that sealed phantoms are not necessarily destroyed and can potentially come back. So there. I got an answer.

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Also, who exactly is this guy giving his monologue to? If it’s just the audience, that means he’s breaking the fourth wall in a show that doesn’t otherwise do that. Personally, I like to imagine that he’s not actually talking to anyone and it’s just that dressing up in a lab coat and acting like he’s teaching a class is the only way he can get himself hard.

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If I could work Photoshop better, here’s the point where I’d superimpose his face over that Ancient Aliens guy’s.

We start off the episode with a little bit of a recap. Haruhiko explains that Reina Izumi did, in fact, join their team. Okay, sure. But then it gives us this.

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I know I shouldn’t rag on this since it sets up the “I should focus more on summoning now that I’m not needed to seal,” but still, why is this necessary? We saw the last episode. We know that he can seal phantoms. Why do you need to explain it to us?

There’s a writing principal referred to as “show, don’t tell.” The idea is basically that simply telling the audience information rather than conveying it in a way that lets them figure it out on their own simply lacks feeling. The reason so many amateur writers tend to tell when they should be showing is because, contrary to what you might think, showing takes more effort. You can’t just say that a character was sad. You have to set things up in a way that the reader understands that the character is sad without flat-out stating it. Put in other terms, it’s the difference between Darker than Black, where the show dropped you into a world and gave you enough clues to figure out how it works on your own, and Darker than Black 2, where it explained everything in detail.

This scene could have easily been cut. Even if you give it the benefit of the doubt and say that it’s a recap for people who missed the first episode, well, the first episode managed to convey the same information without actually flat-out stating it. Can’t you just have some dialogue within the episode that conveys this information when it becomes relevant rather than having Haruhiko monologue at us? The way it’s presented, it comes across as condescending, like we’re too dumb to remember or figure it out on our own. And since the show comes across as condescending, it makes it all the more infuriating when it tries to be smart.

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This isn’t relevant to anything that’s said before it. Ruri just feels the need to throw in her full name at one point, completely unprompted. You couldn’t do it back when she was first being introduced to Izumi, or when she’s introduced to the next girl (which happens literally seconds later)? Or even have Izumi forget her name briefly?

Ruri provides a bit more comic relief throughout the rest of this scene, and it quickly becomes apparently how much she’s going to be getting on my nerves throughout the show.

We start getting into who Koito Minase is a little bit after that, as their club’s adviser explains who exactly she is. Apparently she is very powerful, and people treat her differently because of it. Then we see her engaged in battle, and–

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Looks impressive enough at first glance, though the fact that it requires an obnoxious chant before every use coupled with the fact that it’s proving to be pretty useless in this situation doesn’t really give a lot of credence to her apparently being super strong.

The rest of the team shows up and tries to figure out why exactly the devs have decided to nerf Minase.

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No it’s not.

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Yes it is.

So why is she having issues? Well, it’s because the phantoms are emitting antiphase noises. What’s that?

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Oh. It’s yet another high school level science fact. Look, I know it’s weird to rag on this kid and call this high school level trivia, considering he’s, well, a high school student, but this was presumably written by an adult. Although, all things considered, I’m not actually that sure. It kind of feels like it was written by a student who was learning about various things in school, thought “this kind of interests me,” and somehow shoehorned it into whatever he was writing at the time. Which hey, good for you. It’s a great way to start writing. But it shouldn’t have been turned into a TV anime.

The worse part is that this is really all that distinguishes Haruhiko from any other random anime protagonist. He constantly spouts trivia. It’s like they specifically wanted to avoid making him generic, so they gave him a quirk. The only problem is that a quirk of the personality does not a character make. It doesn’t give him a personality or any sort of character depth. He’s not unique. He’s not anything other than generic. He’s just generic with an obnoxious gimmick.

Anyway, the battle continues. Minase chants that overly long phrase to activate her powers far too many times, Mai fondles herself to activate her magic, Izumi nom nom noms everything, and Haruhiko is redundant. You know the drill. They win. Ruri stumbles across this thing and brings it along with them, which I’m only bringing up because it’s probably important later.

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There’s a short scene at Haruhiko’s place that has them trying to figure out what’s up with the MacGuffin Ruri got her hands on, provides a little fanservice, and shows of Haruhiko’s absurdly huge collection of books. Because he knows things, guys! That makes him a unique and exciting character, right? Whatever. Next scene, new location.

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See, this justifies my rant at the beginning a bit. We know you have summoning abilities. You already told us this at the beginning of the episode. You could have completely avoided mentioning it until now, when the information has actually become relevant. Despite what I said earlier, telling instead of showing is not inherently bad. You just need to know when to do it. Now, when it sets up the coming plot point in the second half and is a natural response to a reasonable question? That’s a good time to tell. But you completely fucked that up by telling us that earlier, making this redundant instead of a natural way to introduce information.

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Oh, hey, are we going to get some new blatant exposition? Yes! Yes we are! Paroles are those chants that the characters do that make their special abilities easier to use. Izumi’s asking because she doesn’t use a Parole, which is apparently unusual. But it still makes no sense for her to not have any sort of concept of a Parole whatsoever. I mean, she’s been living in this world where people have these powers for probably around 16 years, and she’s never once heard that term before? That implies that there’s absolutely no form of education on how to use these abilities whatsoever. There’d have to be at least some form of teaching or coaching regarding this, right? I mean, even assuming that these kids are the first generation of people with these abilities, there still has to have been some form of teaching regarding them. They clearly learned the term “Parole” somewhere, unless they just adopted it for no purpose.

Although I wouldn’t put that past Haruhiko, considering what he says next.

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Oh my God, shut up. Nobody cares. This character quirk isn’t charming or endearing. It just makes him an obnoxious know-it-all. And they have nothing to do with the show thematically. That’s the real issue. It’s just thrown in to sound smart.

Now, allusions are not inherently bad. I think Psycho-Pass uses them really well. They’re just as blatant as they are in Phantom World, but in Psycho-Pass, it’s all important. Whenever someone talks about an author or a philosopher, it either reveals something about their character or about the ideas presented in a story arc. It’s not just saying “Plato had a theory about ideal, perfect forms,” it’s demonstrating that theory by showing how the idea of something can seem more real than the thing itself. When a character goes on about her favorite Shakespeare works, it reveals something about her psyche, and when she talks about Kierkegaard, it’s because his philosophies are relevant to her point about the nature and purpose of art. All these ideas tie into an overlying theme regarding the idea of individuality within a perfect society. Is it pretentious? Maybe. But it’s pretentious with a direction and purpose. In Phantom World, it’s just to provide the illusion that the show is smarter than it really is. You can tell in the moment that Saussure’s theories of linguistics aren’t going to be in any way relevant to the plot or themes. They’re just namedropping him because they can.

Anyway. Back to the magic system. For something that has names like Saussure and Kant attached to it, they’re really not delving into how exactly it works. Why does a Parole make it easier to use, and why don’t you necessarily need one? A good magic system is in-depth enough that questions like this get answered. I’m really disappointed this show is just saying “that’s the way it is” instead of delving into why. It’s been established that something has changed in the human brain because of a virus. Are Paroles a neural thing, then? Is there something about the process of chanting that’s linked with the part of the brain that allows use of the abilities? It could be, but I don’t expect the show to cobble together an explanation. After all, it only gives off the illusion of being smart. All it can really do is parrot facts.

Now we truly launch into the second part of the episode, which focuses on a UFO that’s been hanging around the girls’ dorms, peeping on them, and taking pictures. To complete their task, they have to set up residence in a room that is uncomfortably pink.

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The staff of this anime tries to slip one by us

They realize that they’re not going to be able to lure the UFO out until the girls start changing. And of course, just because Haruhiko wasn’t paying attention and doesn’t immediately flee from the room….

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Wacky misunderstandings followed by physical violence? What a hilaaaaaaaaarious, unique joke!

So Haruhiko chills in the hall for a bit until Mai calls out that the UFO arrived. And despite her telling him literally seconds ago to wait until it does, she still gets upset at him walking in on them half-dressed aaaaaaand….

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Immediately after this, we get a quick shot of Haruhiko walking back up the stairs. And at this point, you know immediately that he’s going to go out the window at least once, maybe twice more. It’s a visual gag that’s really telegraphed. I mean, it’s not a terrible joke, but it’s hugely predictable. There’s actually audio evidence of me calling it as I watch.

The girls call him back in, and he once more accidentally finds himself in a compromising situation. At which point–you guessed it–

 

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Back out the window…

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…and back up the stairs.

Actually, I think I changed my mind. Remember last episode, when I got furious about how they avoided the accidental grope by doing something that’s more or less the same as the accidental grope? Well this is the same fucking joke. It’s a guy accidentally coming across as a pervert, then the girls reacting completely illogically and exacting violence upon him. Nobody acts like that in real life. Of course, that’s probably because these situations also never happen in real life. They only happen in anime, and they happen constantly in anime. Honestly. You can drop it already, Japan. It’s not clever or creative anymore.

Haruhiko summons Marchiosias, who he’d been drawing as a giant, threatening-looking beast. Of course, what he actually summons is a cute puppy with wings. I’m not going to complain about this one, even if it is a pretty stock joke that I’ve seen too often to find funny. At least it’s not offensive.

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This is, though.

And somehow, all that’s happened after going through a second-story window three times is that one of his fingers got a tiny cut. Of course. The only reason even that much happened is because it allowed him to summon Marchiosias, and it allows the show to do this.

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Hooray! Magic fanservice healsucking!

And then Minase shows up again. Looks around the room. And then says this.

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It’s framed like she’s walked up there to reveal that it’s her room they destroyed. But that can’t be right because we see the two girls who live there and it doesn’t seem like there’s a third. So she walked all the way over just to be an ass? I mean, maybe it’s possible that she meant to come to compliment them but changed her mind when she saw the mess they created, but that doesn’t make much sense either. How did she know where they were or what they were doing? Maybe the adviser told her, but there’s still no reason for her to care. She just shows up and acts all tsun-tsun, then leaves.

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Ah, yes. A profoundly meaningless statement. Clearly alluding back to the absolutely pointless Saussure discourse. The only issue is that we haven’t really seen the world change notably, and we haven’t seen anything about language changing. Neither of those things had anything to do with the episode. It’s just another thing that sounds deep on the surface level but is ultimately meaningless. Another. Fucking. Illusion. That opening segment is becoming more and more apt as the show goes on, for all the wrong reasons.

As Haruhiko’s dumb, pointless monologue ends, we see another shot of the MacGuffin Ruri picked up mysteriously turning itself on. That’s where the episode ends, and I guess that means I’m out of things to say. Boy am I enthusiastically looking forward to how great the next one will no doubt be.

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