Review by: Edward Zacharias
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $19.98 US
Running Time: 90 minutes
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now
Sometimes it takes a few dozen bullets to bring about peace and justice.
In an interesting collaboration between Korean and Japanese animators and storytellers, the manga-manhwa Shin Angyo Onshi has been released as a full-length animated feature film in theaters and – thanks to the folks at FUNimation – is re-released on DVD. I have to admit that I liked the manga but really loved the movie more so seeing it again made me glad that this new release will give anime fans that never heard of the series a chance to enjoy this action-packed animated film.
Inspired by Korean folklore, Blade of the Phantom Master tells the story of a land that has become overrun by tyrants and dictators soon after the fall of the Jushin Empire. Long gone are also the protectors of justice and the innocent that were once called the Amen Osa or, as they were also called, the Phantom Masters. Oh, but walking the desert with his guns resting in their holsters is a man named Munsu who collapses from the heat. When he wakes up, he finds out that a young man by the name of Monlyon has given him water and saved his life.
Unfortunately, they are attacked by savage creatures known as Desert Devils that kill the kind young man whose one wish was to one day be an Amen Osa to free his people from a tyrant as well as save the young girl he loves but was taken in as the dictator’s bride. Munsu, who is clearly not your typical hero seeing as he uses the corpse of the young man that saved his life as a shield, escapes the Desert Devils and the desert only to find himself in the country Monlyon wanted to free.
The corrupt lord is a cruel man who has not only taken the throne by force but has citizens of his kingdom fighting against his armed guards for his amusement. As Monlyon had mentioned, the girl he loves – Chun Hyang – has attempted to kill herself but the Lord has a plan to transform this delicate and sweet girl into something else entirely. As a ceremony is being performed on the girl, Munsu enters town disguised as Monlyon only to reveal his true identity to the tyrant as well as another juicy bit … he’s also an Amen Osa!
As Munsu battles the forces of the evil Lord with his twin pistols but he has the power to summon the dead warriors of Jushin called the Phantom Soldiers. Just as Munsu finishes off the Lord’s guards and inspires the people to overthrow the evil dictator by force, a young girl jumps into the fray wearing very little but unleashing attacks that makes the skilled Amen Osa recoil. His attacker is none other than Chun Hyang, transformed into a swift, power and vicious fighter. With the man who had stole her away from the young man that loved now dead, Chun feels the vacant feeling that warriors without a master or any direction feel.
Having sensed that Munsu means to fight for good and seeing that the young man she loves is dead, Chun is reborn as Sando and asks to be Munsu’s bodyguard on his travels. At first, Munsu doesn’t warm up to the idea of having a girl follow him around and then there are times that he hoped that she would give up the idea of being his bodyguard/servant but the two travel together like they do in the early days seen in the manga. They even put an end to an arms dealer’s business in the name of justice.
Still, when a young man who escaped from his island home washes up on shore and begs Munsu for help, the Amen Osa is reluctant to help out until Sando give him a puppy dog look that has Munsu accepting to help. What they find is an ideal-looking island that seems at peace thanks to a seemingly kind physician who helped save the island. What exactly happened and why they consider the young man – named Jyon – a sick young man in need of needle to fix his ailment is a mystery that Munsu can’t help but want to look into on his own.
As Munsu digs deep into the history of the island, he is attacked by a female assassin that would have killed him if it wasn’t for Sando. It’s evident that somebody wants him to stop snooping and as he discovers what is going on he attempts to get Jyon to accept that the physician is no saint. The island’s dark secret will not fail to shock as the Amen Osa and Sando fight to reveal the truth about what the physician did to keep the island inhabitable. Trust me when I say that you won’t see the plot twist until it jumps out at you in the end.
On top of the great story, interesting plot twist and visceral fight scenes, the animation is some of the best and even the CG effects works well within the beautifully rendered animation. The characters are also interesting and you won’t be able to help but wish that this were an anime series instead. We really would have liked to have seen more of Munsu and Sando to the point that 90 minutes just isn’t enough. That’s high praise, indeed, and Blade of the Phantom Master certainly deserves it.
In the end, Blade of the Phantom Master is a fast-paced and bloody good action anime film that deserves to be among your growing anime collection. Sure, it’s on the short side but by the end, you’ll already have warmed up to the characters that you will enjoy every second of this action-packed series. If a good violent anime film is what you’re looking for then look no further because this one has it all.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
After the fall of one of the greatest empires, the Amen Osa have long since been destroyed along with it … until a lone gunman comes along to bring justice and peace to the land once more. Of course, he must go through an evil tyrant and then a physician who might not be the savior everyone makes him out to be in an island that holds a terrible secret.
VIDEO QUALITY: A
The animation is actually quite gorgeous and the CG effects work well within the movie to make up some of the cooler visual moments like when the Phantom Army is summoned.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
The English dub cast is good enough to give the original Japanese voices a run for their money and I loved the Japanese voice cast that includes Romi Park. The score by Kow Otani is traditional, beautiful and haunting.
On top of the Production Sketches, clean opening and closing animation and the few trailers on the disc, the best extras come in the form of interviews with the Japanese cast (Keiji Fujiwara, Sanae Kobayashi and Romi Park). Then there’s the Making of Video of the CG effects and the storyboard-to-screen translation that will surely please future animators. The disc even includes the original film trailers and television ads.
With more than enough edge-of-your seat action scenes and a story with plenty of twists and turns, Blade of the Phantom Master is a Must See if you love a good anime flick with plenty of blood, bullets and great characters. I, for one, think it’s too short but that makes this a short thrill ride worth savoring.