REVIEW: Phantom of the Idol is Funny but Flounders in Presentation

Season aired: Summer 2022

Number of episodes: 10

Watched on: HIDIVE

Translated by: Son Phan Le

Genres: Comedy, Music

Thoughts: Where do I begin with Phantom of the Idol? It’s a crazy story about Niyodo, one half of a boys’ idol duo group called Zing. He cares less about being an idol and only joined to make money. After the manager threatens to fire him, to which he responded with a deadpan “Okay” and only lamented about the loss of easy income, he finds himself face-to-face with the ghost of an idol named Asahi, a rising star idol who died right when she broke into the industry. Unwilling to part with his easy income while appealing to Asahi’s desire to remain as an idol, Niyodo proposes for Asahi to possess his body so that they can both win.

The premise is ridiculous, but it’s also heartfelt and funny. The first two episodes are a little slow with less-than-stellar jokes and a slog of an introduction to the situation, but the story and jokes improved with the third. What started as a gag comedy of an incredibly lazy and manipulative man turns into a fire-forged friendship between two guys and a ghost girl without ever losing its comedy by the end of the series. I was genuinely sad to see that there were only ten episodes since I could tell there was so much more to the story.

While Niyodo starts out as an annoying protagonist who just complains and gripes with a deadpan tone, his interaction with the other characters is what elevates him and brings color to an otherwise stereotypical “I hate my life” man. His shallow disposition gives way to a person who’s surprisingly insightful, intelligent, and confident. He might not care for much in life and just wants a job that allows him to never worry about his future, but his self-awareness and self-reassurance makes him a perfect match for the two other protagonists. 

Adorable interactions

Asahi lives to please, even as an idol ghost, and Yoshino, the other member of Zing, has a sunny disposition that tricks the viewer from noticing his low self-esteem and nervousness on stage. Throughout the series, you learn why Niyodo does fit in as an idol — nonchalant confidence is attractive, after all — and why Yoshino wants to stick with him, despite being the more popular one with many professionals asking Yoshino to go solo. Niyodo’s lax nature gives Yoshino purpose and anchors him in an industry he still finds terrifying.

Surprisingly, the title of best characters of the series belong to three hardcore Niyodo fans who adore him for his unmotivated behavior and fall into even harder idolization once Asahi possesses Niyodo to form a lovable, happy, and motivated side. The series dedicates minutes in every episode to show the three girls hanging out at the same restaurant to fangirl together. There’s a heartwarming camaraderie to three complete strangers with completely different personalities forming such a strong bond, while also commenting on how ridiculous and funny idol fandoms can be. 

Since this is an idol comedy anime, there isn’t much plot, but there is plenty of time for music. I can definitively say that the show has some of the best music I’ve heard in idol anime. I often gripe that idol anime music sound too similar to each other that I have trouble distinguishing between the songs and the voices. Phantom of the Idol manages to take a hard left in avoiding one of my biggest complaints of idol anime by introducing a variety of different song genres ranging from hard rock to ballad to pop. Yoshino and Niyodo’s voices are also incredibly distinct, so I can always tell who’s singing which line when they aren’t singing together. This distinction rings clearly — especially when Niyodo sings while Asahi is possessing him, and her voice as Niyodo is far more expressive and at least an octave higher.

Really awesome music

This makes Niyodo’s seiyuu, Fumiya Imai, insane in the best ways. Fumiya Imai voices both Niyodos with a dull, very deep, slow, and guttural voice as himself, while the Asahi-possessed Niyodo has a brighter, high-pitched, fast, and clear voice. Additionally, Fumiya Imai only started voice acting in 2019. An almost-brand-new voice actor pulled off one of the biggest gaps in character voices and personalities I’ve ever heard and sells it so well that I triple-checked the cast to ensure that it was a single person voicing Niyodo throughout the series. Then, he takes it a step further by not just voicing them differently, but singing differently depending on the person in charge of Niyodo’s body. I can’t praise his performance enough.

However, the CGI dancing, a staple in idol anime, undermines a lot of what the stellar music and nuanced singing brings. Phantom of the Idol’s is particularly wonky. The fact that this is a pure comedy anime is its saving grace as I am able to ignore the robotic CGI and flat GameCube-era faces more than if this was a more serious, dramatic, coming-of-age idol story like other idol anime.

Its normal animation doesn’t fare any better either. Phantom of the Idol unfortunately joins the growing list of uninspired and mediocre-at-best animation series that has come out throughout the recent years. There are moments of clarity where the characters’ faces are expressive and beautiful, but they are far and few between. The direction of the art is boring to say the least with no framing techniques, no lighting techniques, and no coloration manipulation. The animation happened for the sake of existence.

Comedy allows the anime to get away with bad animation

So where does that leave my final opinion? Well, I still thoroughly enjoyed the series for the characters. The mangaka who wrote this, Hijiki Isoflavone, knew what they wanted from the story and delivered it successfully. I am genuinely attached to the characters, jokes, and music. However, its lackluster adaptation through animation did hit the series hard, so even if I would like others to check out the anime, I also would understand if they choose to skip it.

Rating

Plot: 6 (Multiplier 3.5)

Characters: 7 (Multiplier 3.5)

Voice acting: 8.5

Art/Animation: 4

Soundtrack: 7.5

FINAL SCORE: 65.5

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