Reviewby Luke Carroll, Mar 18th 2010
Blade of the Phantom Master: Shin Angyo Onshi
Is he the last of phantom masters?
Legend tells of a secret army, the Amen Osa, the phantom masters. Hidden warriors waiting to strike from the shadows to protect justice and defend the Jushin Empire from tyrants thieves. But Jushin has fallen, and its citizens live in fear of zombies, beasts and sadists.
Now from the ashes of destruction, a hero appears to defend the people. His name is unknown, and no man knows who serves. Is he the last of the Amen Osa? The answer will be revealed when the blade of the phantom master is unleashed.
Holding no relation to Blade of the Immortal which Madman released last month, Blade of the Phantom Master is a rather straight forward action-adventure title that feels more like a disjointed tale than it does a well rounded story. Created as a special collaboration between Japan and Korea, this 90 minute action-adventure tale based on the first chapters of a long running Korean manhwa manages to hit almost all the right boxes when it wants to, but its lack of narrative continuity and a set of unanswered questions leaves the movie feeling more like two separate episodes of a television series glued together than it does a theatrical film.
Our journey opens up with a rather broad narrative explaining the back story. There was once a land in the east known as Jushin, where special warriors call the Amen Osa lived. These warriors would travel the land with the objective of helping the common people and fighting against misgovernment. Chaos fell over the world though, and Jushin fell. There however remained one Amen Osa who continued to roam the world. It is here in a hot desert that we first meet the protagonist Munsu. Barely walking and dehydrated, his life is eventually rescued by a young man called Monlyon. This meeting —cut short by a very obvious battle with desert hobgoblins— serves as nothing more than a linking prelude to the first real story about a town run by a power hungry leader. What unfolds soon after is a lengthy set of action pieces that showcases both the demon summoning powers of an Amen Osa as well as the destruction and acrobatic abilities possessed by an eventual ally come bodyguard, Sando.
After another lengthy series of clips that give us an insight into the awkwardness of Munsu and Sando's early relationship, we are thrown into a second tale of a child and the mysterious island he lives on. It is in this second half where everything unfortunately falls flat. The story is decent and the action —Sando's fight especially— is done nicely, but the ending rounds up nothing about the film at all, and asks more questions about Munsu and his journey than it cares to answer. As a result, the film feels nothing short of incomplete, something which an extra story or a few extra scenes could had undoubtedly helped with.
Thankfully the animation doesn't share the same incompleteness that the story does. Produced back in 2004, the visuals still look quite respectful by today's standards. The character art is also quite decent, although the second half does contain a few uninspired cast members that wouldn't look out of place in a Shonen Jump tale. The background art is certainly the highlight though, consistently producing detailed water coloured backdrops that match the scenes and art direction wonderfully.
For an action-adventure film, the background music is surprisingly low key. It works quite the treat though, with a mix of small eerie tones and quick thunderous actions pieces that blend in flawlessly. The dub, produced whilst originally in ADV's hands, is fairly decent to listen to with a 5.1 track that does a passable job in directionality, despite much of the voice work and action happening in front. With a plot that reeks of action scenes, Jason Douglas gets right into his teeth chewing bad ass role as Munsu. Michael Dalmon also does a neat job of the Lord Byon, really bringing his greedy bipolar image to life.
Unfortunately our editorial copy of this release did not include any extras.
Blade of the Phantom Master is essentially a series of wonderfully made action pieces, jammed in between some average conversational work and blended together by an overall story that is just in pieces by the end. But it's not all bad. Treating this film as a number of parts rather than a whole provides a much more enjoyable outcome that should please action fans. Shortcomings aside, Blade of the Phantom Master is still a rather decent tale that really begs to have been made into a fully fledged television series.
© YOUN IN-WAN, YANG KYUNG-IL / Shin Angyo Onshi Project 2004
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Action scenes are great to watch, first half is well done
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