Phantom in the Twilight has flown well under the radar this season as a Chinese co-production with an otome game premise. This week, Nick and Michelle explain why it deserves a second look.
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Micchy, I'm really excited for today. I've been wanting to talk about this show for a while, so let's just dive right into one of my favorite engrossing supernatural otome anime!
By which I mean the 2015 classic Dance With Devils
As much as I would love to humor you by joining in a Dance with Devils gush-fest, I regret to inform you that our actual subject du jour features 100% fewer musical numbers but also 200% more adorable girlfriends.
I know it's become a cliche to ship otome protagonists with their supportive best girl-friends but come on, you're just asking me to strap on my yuri goggles for this one.
Pictured: two Very Close Friends™ and their pumpkin son
Oh right, I guess there are boys in this show too sometimes.
Boy are there boys! In case Phantom in the Twilight's title wasn't a giveaway, it's bringing us some vintage supernatural romance boys from sexy vampires
to hot werewolves
to uh...zombies who really love the 2nd Amendment?
Hey, credit for throwing one curveball in there. Everyone knows girls love shirtless, gatling-toting, Chinese hopping zombies. So it's a truly under-served audience.
Meh, I just don't get what's supposed to be sexy about zombies. (pushes Sankarea box set behind a curtain)
But yes, despite starring the most obvious girlfriends possible, Twilight is still an otome anime, so it's set on trying to sell us the various pretty dudes that our protagonist, Ton, encounters when she travels to London and uncovers her Great-Grandma's supernatural past.
Sure, there's some conspiracy brewing in the background with shady guys trying to awaken Ton's supernatural side. But as it goes with these types of anime, the unspoken point of the show is to parade as many lovable boys around as possible, an admirable goal if ever there was one. Of course, lean too hard into the pretty-boy-party aspect and the bland protagonist will get short-changed. Luckily, Phantom in the Twilight sidesteps those usual pitfalls to deliver both cute boys and a surprisingly engaging story around the main heroine herself.
Usually in these shows (DanDevil included), the heroine exists to be protected by her cadre of cute anime boyfriends. In Phantom in the Twilight, our protagonist straight up shield-tackles werewolves.
I don't remember anything like this happening in that book all the tweens were obsessed with 10 years ago.
And that's a big part of what makes the show enjoyable. Ton's an active agent in her own story. When Shinyao gets kidnapped, she actively takes part in the seach and objects to the guys trying to sideline her when it's her problem in the first place. And instead of brooding over hot dudes saving her and swooning, her relationships with all of them progress as they learn to work together and trust each other's judgment.
Well, that's true for some of the boys. Brad - I mean Vlad - still does a lot of standing around looking vaguely condescending while ignoring everything Ton says.
But just about every other character acknowledges that he's a selfish dick, so it's all good.
He's the most stereotypical of the show's love interests, but I'm honestly okay with that since Ton never accepts his BS. Even when she temporarily loses her memories and Vlad takes this as a chance to keep her out of danger, his argument is framed as patronizing, clearly ignoring what Ton actually wants.
Plus even with amnesia she still rejects him outright.
She's such a good character, with plenty of spunk and determination. The girl takes no shit from anyone, and she's not about to give in just because some guy with no chill thinks she can't handle herself.
Plus she's got good faces, and you know how weak I am to those.
Ton's a lot more of a Haruhi Fujioka (Ouran) or a Yona (Yona of the Dawn) than a Haruka Nanami (UtaPri) or Chizuru Yukimura (Hakuoki). She's a character first and an audience insert second. There's absolutely nothing wrong with otome games where the player characters are basically blank slates for the audience to work with (and god knows shoujo romances do this just as often), but it is really nice when otome or shojo heroines get to be characters in their own right. Growing up, I was never into the idea of having a million cute boyfriends, but kickass shoujo heroines? Give me more of those.
Yeah, Phantom in the Twilight assigned the blank slate archetype to one of the boys instead.
Or at least, Wayne was
just the boring tech ghost until the mid-season climax revealed he might be the Devil...?
Wayne is a good boy, I will not hear this slander about him being boring.
I'm just saying, if this were a dating sim he'd be the route I never finished, because I got distracted by the hidden Sexy Eyebrows Grandpa route.
He does have the single most extra spear I've ever seen.
But yeah, there's this whole plot where the tech company that produced the spy cams on everyone's phones brings in a vampire slayer to deal with the Twilights.
Right. In its back half, Twilight's started digging more into the main villain's plan to reawaken all of Ton's great-grandma's powers through her for some reason. So the stakes have started getting a lot higher. We even see a straight up execution!
Shinyao's new boyfriend was too good for this world.
Granted, he only stayed dead long enough to show up in the post-credits comedy skit, but it was still pretty brutal.
Sidenote: I usually hate chibi comedy stingers (lookin at you, Petit Clover), but Phantom Twilight Plus is just tongue-in-cheek enough to be great.
If only he'd survived long enough to have a proper love triangle with Ton and Shinyao, that would've made my day.
He had no chance regardless, so maybe it's better this way. A bullet to the head probably hurts a lot less than a broken heart.
I knew I could count on you to get that reference.
Of course, what do you take me for?
While it sadly can't be as good as the unimpeachable wonder that is Aquarion EVOL, Phantom in the Twilight's been a solid show in a pretty up-and-down season. It's got some unpolished visuals and the boys' designs aren't to my tastes, but it's easily the most engaged I've been with an otome property since...well...
Seriously, watch Dance With Devils.
While Phantom in the Twilight isn't quite as memorable as the weirdest shit that happens in DanDevil (which has a song with the English phrase "Emo Liar" repeated in the chorus), it's still a pleasant enough watch. And besides, I can't say I've ever wept over a jack-o-lantern before now.
They say there's no use crying over smashed pumpkins, but I did anyway.
If you like well-written heroines, reverse harems, or just feel nostalgic for your vampire phase in high school, I humbly request you give Phantom in the Twilight a shot.
And if none of that does it for you, there's always Sexy Eyebrows Grandpa.