I have to live knowing I watched that… Should you?
With such a badass title, you wouldn’t expect an anime called Blade of the Phantom Master to be as unbelievably boring as it is overly simplistic approach to the genre and characters results in a film that’s not so difficult to follow, but by the time the first act starts to wrap up, you just don’t care anymore.
With a breakneck story that lacks any sort of depth to it and only seems to want to race from one fight to another and uninspired character designs, there’s nothing there to grab hold of the audience’s imagination or to suck them into the world that the characters inhabit.
Based on the series by Youn In-wan and Yang Kyung-il, the film takes place in an alternate timeline that is based partially on Korean folklore. The hero (if you’d like to call him that) is Munsu (Jason Douglas), an amhaeng eosa, which is essentially a peacekeeper meant to battle corruption throughout the kingdom. While anime is no stranger to anti-heroes, Munsu has no redeeming qualities at all. Throughout the film, he doesn’t grow as a character, show any compassion or display any sort of underlying motivation. He’s very much what-you-see-is-what-you-get, and frankly, that’s pretty boring. Give us the Vash the Stampede’s or the Spike Spiegel’s, characters that have true emotional depth to them. So, the audience is instead stuck “rooting” for characters they couldn’t really care less about.
As stated previously, the film is utterly simplistic. There’s nothing complex about the story, yet at certain points, I found myself a little lost as to what was going on, and that’s because it doesn’t take the time to create any sort of mythos within the world it inhabits. Instead, it takes a casual approach, every new bit seeming like an offhand addition the writers forgot to mention earlier: “Oh yeah, and there are demons and junk.” So when I found myself more interested in watching my cat sleep and finally glanced back at the screen, there were suddenly guys with wings and zombies running around. It’s not hard to figure out what’s going on when these moments hit, but it’s a minor nuisance nonetheless.
While there are some interesting blends of traditional animation and 3D animation, the visuals of the film are as uninteresting as the characters themselves. Really, most of the blame can be placed on the pacing of Blade of the Phantom Master. There are no peaks or valleys; instead, it just briskly walks through the hour and a half, never stopping to let the audience take anything in. It lacks humor and moments of humanity or great insight to break up action-oriented plot. Well, that might not be entirely true: There were one or two slight attempts at humor tossed in there. Needless to say, they didn’t have much of an impact.
It’s not that I hated Blade of the Phantom Master, but it feels like it wasn’t worth even the hour-and-a-half time investment required. It wasn’t worth the energy to hate it. I simply walked away and found a better anime to watch. That’s probably why it was so hard actually sitting down and coming up with 500 or so words to write about it for this space, and really, that says it all.