I think by now we’ve all scrolled over someone’s disappointed wailings on Myriad Colours Phantom World. Maybe you were even one of those left feeling deflated, because you were expecting more from Kyoto Animation’s latest series. But then again, somewhere along the way, perhaps you caught a glimpse of something in its day-glow shades; something that persuaded you, for reasons unknown, to stick with it for one more episode. Both of us had the same experience of the show here at the blog, and I’ve been scratching my head for a while over what strange enthralment the series held. But now, I think I’ve put my finger on it, and the secret was waiting just below the top layer of goofiness and monsters-of-the-week.
Plenty of anime are set in high school, as well we know, especially with the magical high school trend in recent seasons, so the theme of learning is prevalent. But this was my first experience of being directly taught about the magic, mystery and myths of real, painful, confusing, wonderful 3D life through an anime. It’s a celebration of our permanent innocence, and how we are always learning new things about ourselves and the world around us, and once I touched upon this thought, all of its treasures were brought into the light.
Lingering on dreams and the joys, aches and fallible nature of memory and perspective, Phantom World shows its main characters’ childhoods in all their truths, whether happy or hurtful. In a sense, it breaks away from the old rose-tinted spectacles that the school years are often placed behind. In giving us this level plane to view their lives in relation to ours, it subtly shows us the worldly and soulful expansion that anime is capable of achieving, giving us the warm feeling of being among friends and escaping from life’s mundanity, yet at the same time reminding us that real life has its wonders too.
Faith, in particular, has a large part to play here, as Haruhiko calls on the Egyptian god of wisdom Thoth to bolster his phantom sealing ability, and Mai conjures of the elements of the Chinese Wu Xing when she fights, each of them believing in their existence, and that these presences will channel their power through them. They show us the potential of imagination, what we can accomplish through that faith, and in this sense Kurumi stands at the series’ heart. She’s open to the world, an empty vessel for all its knowledge, but still has the imagination to bring its magic to the fore. She’s a fragile, fearful, lonely little soul, but these flaws are all accepted as strength to feed into her growing gifts as a phantom hunter.