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by Rebecca Silverman,

Phantom of the Idol


Phantom of the Idol Streaming
Together Yuya Niyodo and Kazuki Yoshino are the idol duo ZINGS, fighting their way to popularity…sort of. While Yoshino is an enthusiastic, hard-working idol, Niyodo couldn't care less, putting in the least work he can get away with in order to get paid. Everyone despairs of him, but things are about to change: one day Niyodo starts talking to a girl he sees backstage who turns out to be the ghost of idol Asahi Mogami. Asahi can't let go of her love of being an idol, so she and Niyodo make a deal: she'll take over his body and continue to perform while he's just along for the ride. Absolutely nothing can go wrong and no one will notice a thing…right?

At a scant ten episodes, Phantom of the Idol is a show that knows not to overstay its welcome. You'd think that would be a good thing, allowing for tighter writing and a lack of unneeded fluff, and in some ways, that's true – every zany idol-based event that the protagonists have to participate in is kept to a manageable level of bizarreness, and the jokes don't really have the chance to outstay their welcome. But this makes the series' most unfortunate decision even more baffling: in a show with such a limited episode count, why would the anime choose to enlarge the role played by Niyodo's fangirls?

On the plus side, if you resented their presence in the anime, it's absolutely safe to pick up the manga; the anime fairly closely adapts volumes one and two (of a current six; the series is ongoing as of this writing) apart from adding in a considerable amount of fangirl scenes. Their appearances in the two adapted volumes are limited to one semi-lengthy extra manga in volume one and the equivalent of four pages total across volume two. Their role in the story is, presumably, to remind us that even though Niyodo's a terrible idol by most standards, he still piques some fans' interest. But the story isn't really about them, and their part doesn't need to be extended, which is the anime's greatest flaw. By giving them space, we lose the opportunity to see how Asahi and Niyodo form a team and become the basis of ZINGS' increasing appeal, and they also take up time that could have been used to show us the impact Asahi's (living) career had on Hikaru Setouchi, one of the series' top male idols. Instead we're stuck with grating characters who are plainly meant to be funny, but (for me at least) very much miss the mark.

Luckily there are other elements of the show that work quite well. The switch between Niyodo and Asahi-in-Niyodo's-Body is very well done, particularly when we add in Fumiya Imai's performance as both. His voice is flexible enough to make them sound like two totally different characters, and he nails both Niyodo's dead delivery and Asahi's intense perkiness. Likewise, the visual distinction between the two characters is good, with Asahi-Niyodo having a pastel wash and regular Niyodo's slumped body language emphasizing the slightly darker cast to his colors. Yoshino largely plays the straight man to Niyodo and Asahi, but this helps to highlight how he really does care about his fellow idol while also relying on him. Yoshino, we're told, has been offered solo gigs regularly (presumably after everyone realized what a mistake signing Niyodo was), but is too shy to get on stage by himself. He needs Niyodo to make him feel safe, even if Niyodo looks to others like a dead weight holding Yoshino back from true stardom.

This relationship, as well as Niyodo's with Asahi, culminates in the final episode, which is ZINGS' second-anniversary concert. While I'm not sure we needed to see the entire concert, which makes things feel a bit dragged out even as it shows us that Niyodo can in fact hold his own, it does end on a high note, with Niyodo recognizing that ZINGS isn't just him and Yoshino anymore. Asahi may not have quite lit a fire under his lazy ass, but she has shown him that there's value in the work, and the finale really does feel very poignant, mostly for Asahi. All good ghost stories need an element of tragedy to truly succeed, because the key factor in someone becoming a ghost is their death. While Asahi is largely portrayed as driven, bubbly, and enthusiastic, it's also important to remember that she died while she was still a teenager, when her career was just taking off. In allowing her to become a part of his life and career, Niyodo is acknowledging that she still had a lot of living left to do, and there's a bittersweetness to that which works well.

It's also partially acknowledged in the character of Hikaru, who was inspired by Asahi's performances to both break out of his shell of anxiety and to become an idol himself. As Asahi's number one fan, he's the first (and really the only) person to figure out what the difference between Niyodo's two modes looks like, and in his determination, he becomes an inadvertent fan of ZINGS and Niyodo specifically. His storyline nicely mixes humor and something a bit darker, because he's still truly mourning Asahi's death. But in seeing him becoming an active fan of Niyodo, we're seeing him pick himself up and move on, finding something else to love (or at least obsess over) in a way that makes for a nice emotional throughline for the character (while also being really funny, as he gains a reputation as “Head Wrap Guy,” ZINGS' number one fan).

The visuals for the series are the same uneasy mix of very nice and kind of awkward, with the major issue being the dancing. While the choreography looks basically the same for every single ZINGS number, the bigger issue is that the animation is like a time machine taking us back to the early 2000s. It's not as ghastly as the earliest stuff, but there's still something offputtingly uncanny about it, although it's not enough to distract us from the god-awful costumes ZINGS wears on stage. Hopefully the fur collars on a hoodie and a sports jacket are meant to be entertainingly bad; all I could think was how hot the poor guys must be.

Phantom of the Idol isn't a terrible show, at the end of the day. Its last few minutes are effective, its music catchy in a goofy pop way, and there's some good voice acting throughout. But it is hampered by the increased presence of the fangirls, whose obnoxiousness drags the whole thing down, and by visual shortcuts in the dancing. This is a case where I'd suggest picking up the manga instead.

Overall (sub) : C+
Story : B-
Animation : C
Art : C+
Music : B

+ Good voice acting from Niyodo's VA, some very funny moments, and a good last few minutes.
Extended presence of the fangirls brings things down, dancing is not up to par. Generally lacking visuals.

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Production Info:
Director: Daisei Fukuoka
Series Composition: Yasuko Aoki
Script: Yasuko Aoki
Daisei Fukuoka
Shota Hamada
Tōru Hamazaki
Episode Director:
Tatsuya Fujinaka
Daisei Fukuoka
Shota Hamada
Tōru Hamazaki
Hiroyuki Oshima
Shinichirō Ueda
Takashi Yamamoto
Unit Director: Daisei Fukuoka
Music: Myu
Original creator: Hijiki Isoflavone
Character Design: Saori Hosoda
Art Director: Chihiro Ido
Chief Animation Director: Saori Hosoda
Animation Director:
Katsuzo Hirata
Saori Hosoda
Hisae Ikezu
Hiroshi Kosuga
Yūta Masaki
Takahiro Mizuno
Makoto Muroi
Megumi Nagayama
Dai Ōhara
Takahiro Sakai
Ryotaro Takamura
Tsubasa Tanaka
Wen Shan Zhong
Translation: Seong Ho Moon
Sound Director: Fumiyuki Go
Director of Photography: Ayako Honma
Norio Fukui
Aya Iizuka
Tomokazu Iizumi
Takeshi Jinguji
Sayako Muramatsu
Toshiya Niikura
Tomoyuki Ohwada
Takema Okamura
Shinya Suzuki

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Phantom of the Idol (TV)

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