Anime of the Past: Phantom Quest Corp.

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

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Phantom Quest Corp.

Phantom Quest Corp. is a four-episode horror-comedy OVA series that was released between 1994 and 1995. Animated by Madhouse, it tells the tale of a collection of goofballs in the supernatural-hunting business. But does it make an impression in its brief run?

The strength of Phantom Quest Corp. lies in its main character, Ayaka Kisaragi. Voiced by Rica Matsumoto, she’s the founder and central member of the small business; a powerful spiritualist with an unusual assortment of tools, including a lipstick tube that doubles as an energy sword. However, she is also the company’s biggest liability. Her insatiable need to party, which leads her to spend her evenings getting drunk and singing karaoke, as well as her shopping habits, leave the business in constant debt.

Phantom Quest Corp.

Ayaka divides her time between hunting the supernatural and singing drunken, off-key karaoke.

Ayaka has a few recurring allies as well, though most of them don’t get enough screen time to receive much personality. Mamoru, a young boy, serves as Ayaka’s assistant, accountant, and receptionist, responsible for everything from struggling to balance the books to simply making sure that Ayaka doesn’t oversleep each morning after her long nights of partying. Kozo Karino is a middle-aged police lieutenant that frequently aids Ayaka in her cases, clumsily finding himself in one precarious situation after another, and sometimes needing rescue.

Phantom Quest Corp.

Such as the time he dangles precariously from the Tokyo Tower observation deck, seemingly to no one’s concern but his own.

The remaining members appear too infrequently to make much of an impact. Suimei is an elderly fortune-teller that provides assistance to Ayaka even as Ayaka tries to shirk her way out of paying her expenses. Nanami is a teenage part-time employee with a mild-mannered temperament and uncontrolled pyrokinectic powers. And then there’s Rokkon, a burly, bearded exorcist that shows up on occasion and has very few actual lines. Not because he’s a strong, silent type, but simply because not much dialogue was written for him.

Phantom Quest Corp.

It’s a fun cast of characters, but most of them don’t have much to do.

Like the cast, the plot of Phantom Quest Corp. is also thin, in that there really isn’t a central story thread connecting one episode to the next. Each is simply another case that Ayaka and the others investigate. The first is a tale about a blood-sucking vampire with a comical twist. The second has to do with mysterious deaths piling up at a hospital and a mad surgeon. The third episode turns things around by featuring a noble spirit in the ghost of a young archaeologist that wants to help his still-living girlfriend complete a museum exhibit while dealing with the lecherous financier. The fourth and final episode deals with a direct threat to the Phantom Quest Corp. in the form of a self-described “Esoteric Buddhist Sect” that, through their own spirit-hunting actions, attempt to drive Ayaka out of business.

Phantom Quest Corp.

But not so esoteric that there aren’t books on it.

Overall, it has the feeling of being an attempted starting point for a franchise that never really took off, leaving what has been produced both shallow and marginally unsatisfying. All that came of Phantom Quest Corp. following production of the OVA series was a light novel published in 1995 and, oddly, an English-language graphic novel published in North America in 1997. There’s little substance to the OVA beyond its humor, which makes it for amusing light viewing appropriate for the Halloween season, but little else.

Phantom Quest Corp.

Despite their twists, the episodes cover some well-tread territory.

That being said, the humor presented is actually funny. Ayaka is an amusing lead as the most irresponsible member of Phantom Quest Corp. ironically in the position that requires the most responsibility. Her interactions with the rest of the cast, both recurring and not, are what give the series its entertainment value, in addition to the action sequences in which she does battle with vampires, esoteric Buddhists, and other oddities.

The artwork and animation are well-produced. Madhouse has a long line of involvement in beautifully animated works ranging from Record of Lodoss War and Perfect Blue to X and Demon City Shinjuku. Though its aesthetics differ from their more elaborate productions, Phantom Quest Corp. doesn’t break from that trend. It’s certainly not the studio’s most detailed work, but it is still pretty to look at, and the artwork suits the comedic tone of the series well.

Phantom Quest Corp.

Ayaka and her bad habits are a primary source of the humor in Phantom Quest Corp.

With little substance to sustain it, Phantom Quest Corp. has largely been relegated to a footnote in anime history. The four episodes that comprise it might make for an amusing evening, but there are certainly more substantial shows and films out there that could scratch the same itch. On the other hand, Ayaka is a great lead, and it might be worth watching if you’re in a mood for something short and humorous.

Phantom Quest Corp. was released on DVD by Pioneer Entertainment (now Geneon Universal). The DVD contains both the original Japanese with English subtitles, as well as an English dub. The series is not rated, but is recommended for ages 13+ by the publisher for violence, brief nudity, and adult humor.

And now, it is time for me to say good-bye. This is my final column for oprainfall. Kind of an odd note to end on, I know, but it’s still October and I felt like keeping in line with the Halloween theme. For those of you that have followed and read this column, I’d like to thank you for your interest. It’s definitely been a fun ride; one that I didn’t think I’d be on initially when I started writing for oprainfall over a year ago. I haven’t been pleased with every column I’ve written, and I’ve done my best to tweak and improve the format here and there, but I hope you’ve all enjoyed what I’ve written. As for why I’m leaving, there’s no need to worry about me; this move was my decision. Life just gets busy, and I don’t have the time to properly contribute to the website while also pursuing other interests. But who knows? There’s always the chance that I might come back, so we’ll see.

As for the future of the Anime of the Past series, oprainfall has writers that are more than willing and able to step in and contribute. Though it might not always be on a weekly basis, you can still expect to see columns dedicated to the anime of yesteryear on the site. I hope you’ll stick around to check them out.

Thanks again for reading,

Justin Graham

About Justin Graham

Justin joined Oprainfall through…belligerence. (Note to others: This is not a good way to get noticed. This sort of thing only works once.) When he’s not writing about games or waxing nostalgic about anime older than a large portion of the site’s audience, he can be found playing JRPGs or beating up lots of dudes in Dynasty Warriors.