Phantom Seer 001-003 – Manga Review
Synopsis: Get into the spirit of this ghostly manga! (Official Shonen Jump Synopsis.)
(Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
Phantom Seer is yet another addition to jump that offers little to set itself apart from everything that’s come before it. The series positions itself as your typical Ghosts/Phantoms/Shinigami Supernatural offering; complete with helpless damsel in distress heroine and a stand-offish male lead, suffering from a dark past. Outside of some excellent art from fledgling mangaka Kento Matsuura (Previously the author of the short-lived Tokyo Shinobi Squad) and Tougo Gotou’s (writer) tight pacing, there’s little else to hold the reader’s attention and leave them eager for more. Let’s Jump In!
Phantom Seer thrust us into the plot right away, perhaps aware that its characters are too thin to hold our interest. We spend just two pages learning that our heroine, Riku Aibetsu, is a kind-hearted, sweet girl that loves to help people. But she also has the mystery ability to sense danger before it arrives. She’s then almost immediately approached by our hero, Iori Katanagi, a mysterious classmate of Riku’s, with rumors circulating that he has psychic powers. Iori then meets with Riku in private, and reveals the world of Phantoms to her; horrible spirits that most cannot see, yet can come to be plagued by.
Because we rush through character introductions, the subsequent revelation that Riku’s ability to sense danger is actuality an unfortunate ability that attracts phantoms, feels distant and unengaging. The development itself is already severely overused across Jump titles, hell the magazine only just cancelled Mitama Security: Spirit Busters back in August, which has near the same plot (the only significant difference being Mitama was a comedy, and Phantom Seer is more dramatic.) But it’s not like Mitama was the first title to do this idea either; tons of previous jump titles have used this exact, or similar dynamics. Another recent title, Ghost Reaper Girl, also operates on an idea only vaguely dissimilar. The problem though, is not that Phantom Seer can’t use this idea, but it needs to make the story its own. And the best way to do that is by offering unique characters, or an unfamiliar twist or complication. Because Phantom Seer doesn’t do that, this title already feels like the most generic of generic Supernatural Shonen.
Riku and Iori are simply put: paper thin leads. Riku barely has a personality outside of being the sweet high school girl young male audiences might be eager to protect. She’s a sort of dream girl, that’s generic enough to satisfy most teens tastes without excluding anyone. Iori is also pretty standard. His big personality trait is an extreme reluctance to help Riku, or really anyone. But when push comes to shove he’ll step up and save the day. It’s a minor variation on the typical prickly personality so many Shonen leads have, and thus feels hardly worth mentioning.
There’s also Iori’s sister, but again she brings little new to the series. She’s ultimately the same type of boss figure you’ll find in a lot of these stories, who forces the reluctant hero to do what he has to do.
As hard as I’m being on the series though, a generic start isn’t necessarily the worst. Sometimes a series can build on that, expand the characters, add those interesting or unique wrinkles that would allow Phantom Seer to feel like something more original and worthwhile. But looking over Chapters 1 through 3 we’re just not seeing it yet. Chapter 2 does the typical “Repeat the 1st Chapter, but in less pages,” though with perhaps a little bit less direct repetition than other titles. We do also get the most minor of additions to the narrative; mainly a flimsy explanation for Iori’s stand off-ish nature. Apparently Iori once had someone sacrifice themselves for him, and ever since he’s been disinterested in helping people. I don’t know that the explanation for Iori’s persona tracks with any kind of psychological sense, but it’s also not a terribly original revelation: Half of all Shonen protagonists suffer from a tragic past.
Chapter 3 adds a little bit more; a supporting character who is Iori’s apprentice/helper and the tease of a dangerous rival character. Right now though, these little additions don’t amount to enough to make Phantom Seer stand out. By the end of Chapter 3 Phantom Seer is still very much your generic Supernatural Shonen tale, just with excellent art and tight pacing. I’m dubious the series can coast on those two qualities for long. There’s still time however. If Phantom Seer can start to impress with unique ideas and more meaty characterization within the first ten chapters it should be able to right itself with audiences. A generic start, as I said earlier, isn’t a worthless one and there’s still plenty of time to build upon it, especially as Jump has become more relaxed with its axing of new, under-performing titles, as they seem to be having trouble finding their next bit hit to replace the heavy-hitting, power house titles that have each come to an end over the last year. This gives Phantom Seer the best playing field one could ask for.
That’s it for this week! Let me know your own thoughts on Phantom Seer!
Phantom Seer is published irregularly in Shonen Jump.