BLADE OF THE PHANTOM MASTER
September 2nd 2012 00:52
Based on the original manga Shin Angyo Onshii by In-Wan Youn & Kyumg-Il Yang
Director: Jouji Shimura
Screenplay by: Jouji Shimura & Mitsuru Hongo
Producers: Bunsho Kajiya, Jee-Hye Yang, Kazuhiko Yusa & Sang-Don Lee
Starring: Jason Douglas (Munsu), Nancy Novotny (Sando), J Shannon Weaver (Monlyon), Michael Dalmon (Lord Byon), Vicki Barosh (Hypnotist), Blake Shepard (Jyun), John Swasey (Fuan Bo) & Brian Jepson (Yuite)
Produced by: Bandai Co Ltd, Hakuhodo DY Media Productions, Shogakukan Productions Co Ltd, The Klockworx Co Ltd & TV Tokyo
English Language Version by: FUNimation Productions
Running Time: 90 minutes Rating: MA15
Roaming around one day in a local chain store looking for a Father’s Day present I managed to come across this particular anime and having some extra cash on hand I decided to purchase it. One transaction and a walk home later I stuck in the trusty old laptop and sat back to watch the drama. Apparently this anime is a major production between a group of Korean film makers and Japanese film makers who have elected to adapt a major Korean manga, or manwha as I believed it’s called in Korea, for the screen. Certainly the work on which this anime feature is based; Shin Angyo Onshii is both popular in Japan and its native country. You can actually read a translation of the manga online at www.mangareader.net although I confess I myself haven’t gotten around to doing that yet…
Sadly though Jushin is no more, its king is dead and the Amen Osa are all but destroyed except for one solitary lone man…sounds kind of familiar…for over a thousand generations the Jedi were the guardians of justice in the Old Republic…but I’m waffling. Only a single member of this august and legendary body remains and he is out roaming the wilderness seemingly at random with no real objective in sight or purpose. That is deceptive although it takes the entire movie for us to discover precisely what this solitary figure is seeking, the fact that he has a quite clear objective in mind is only revealed in the last moments. Which to me after watching this feature indicated the serious flaw in the whole affair…it didn’t feel like a movie, in fact what it felt like was a pilot for projected anime series rather than a feature.
Hopefully my feelings are on the money, that this feature is just a hint of things to come, though at the present point in time this flick remains as it is, entertaining if somewhat flawed as a feature in terms of structure. In terms of drama, action, effects etc it’s on the money. The makers obviously pulled at all stops in terms of the animation, especially involving the phantom soldiers that the Amen Osa, Munsu, is able to summon to do his bidding. These individuals look truly frightening and at the same time impressive…although the CGI has also been used in other areas, particularly in the depiction of flowing water and the ocean washing against the shore which conveys a certain degree of ‘reality’ and ‘solidity’.
But in terms of story things are sadly a bit lacking…apart from the fact that we have the protagonist, Munsu, the last Amen Osa there isn’t really anything seriously driving events other than his wanderings and as I remarked earlier it’s not until the dust is settled that you find out why he’s wandering and what he’s seeking. Consequently what you get in terms of narrative is two episodes stitched together to give us the feature…which is more apt for a series pilot rather than a feature film. Don’t get me wrong though the story elements employed are entertaining and provide intense action and help to unfold character development, but rather than being a part of an overarching whole they’re more like vignettes letting the audience in on why certain things are the way they are rather than leading up to some climactic conclusion. Now if you were watching this as part of series then it wouldn’t be so bad…but as far as I can tell it’s a film and I felt somewhat let down.
Interestingly though the key protagonist Munsu, whilst coming across as something of a curmudgeon, has a rather unique view on affairs now that Jushin is ended. His view is that the people have to look out for themselves and not rely on magical solutions…on one hand this could be seen as a cop out, yet I tend to look on it as him being a harbinger of sorts. He is saying in his own way that the old system is no more and that for a new one to arise it needs to come from the people themselves, not from hoping for heroes of old or magic. They need to take charge and work to build righteousness and justice in the land on their own rather than relying on the survivors of the old regime. All in all I found Blade of the Phantom Master to be entertaining if flawed…worthwhile checking out if your curious and have some time on your hands…
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