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Phantom Dream Vol. 1
Author/Artist Natsuki Takaya
Phantom Dream follows Tamaki Otoya, an ancient summoner, as he battles to protect humanity from evil while also pursuing a romance with his childhood friend Asahi. Things don’t start off well as Tamaki doesn’t want anything to do with his bloodline, especially with a mother as pushy as his, but Tamaki’s powers need to awaken if he is to ever find his place in the world.
Natsuki Takaya, the creator of Phantom Dream, is better known for her work on the manga Fruits Basket, one of Tokyopop’s biggest sellers in recent times, so it comes to no surprise that the company is raiding the back catalogue of the creator. Phantom Dream is the creator’s first work and unfortunately for the most part it is quite obvious that this is the case. It’s by no means a slur on Takaya, but there seems to be a very messy feel to Phantom Dream as a whole, both in art-style and in story.
Let’s tackle the art first. While there are brief times where the Fruits Basket quality starts to shines through, most of the time the manga feels like it is quite a mess. There are plenty of wavy lines crossing entire pages and so many inconsistent details leaving a pane flow that can be at times, very difficult to follow. It ends up being more of a chore to read than an actual pleasure.
As for the story, I’d imagine in 1994 it would have faired much better, but fifteen years later and it seems incredibly generic. While there is genuine romance there, the actually stories themselves are just so damn shallow. You keep yearning for a deeper meaning to everything, but it boils down to Tamaki being a Ghostbuster without the proton pack and huge collateral damage. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by manga like xxxHOLiC, but I just need something more to my supernatural manga than just forcing demons away.
While I’ve been very negative about the manga, it really isn’t all that bad. One thing that seems to stand out is that time hasn’t done wonders for this series, especially after Takaya was propelled to fame with Fruits Basket. There is nothing chronically bad here, and for something a little different or to see where the creator started out you could do a lot worse. It’s just a shame there is very little here to hook you in so that you want to keep reading.
Nothing particularly outstanding, but there are worse manga out there.