I was honestly surprised by this episode. While things had been on an upturn for Phantom World for the past couple of weeks, I wasn’t expecting the Kurumi-centric episode to actually be as good as it is. Usually younger characters in shows like this are used for a more salacious purpose – and it’s utterly disgusting when it is done (looking at you No Game No Life) – but the team behind this one did a great job with fully introducing her and adding her to the team.
Focusing on the last member to join the team, the episode picks up from where we left her in episode five. Bothered by being requested to assist the main characters, Kurumi is riddled with self-doubt and is visually unsettled by the idea of working with the older characters. It’s an absolutely believable reaction for someone who is only, at most, ten years old.
So, when she encounters Haruhiko, her doubts boil over and pull them into a bizarre mindscape reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland if it were populated almost exclusively by bears.
From here the story follows a relatively simple path towards Kurumi getting over her self-doubt about working with the team, and it’s due to this simplicity that it works really well. There’s no need for overcomplicating things with a character of her age, and while people could argue that there should have been more “substance” to the proceedings, there was plenty there for a girl whose biggest trauma in life is her shyness.
KyoAni’s efforts on the animation side also need to be applauded here. While nowhere near as trippy as Puella Magi Madoka Magica, or even some interpretations of Alice in Wonderland, they do a wonderful job making the mindscape stand out. Whether it’s the variety of stuffed bear designs, the bizarre mech that villainous bear king pilots, you can see it below, or the overall environment design, they knocked it out of the park this week.
The only issue with this episode is that it still maintains the monster-of-the-week feeling that the series has had all along. With no noticeable plot in sight, it means that, unless we finally get a Haruhiko-centric episode to round out the main cast next week, this series is in trouble of just floundering. Add in the fact that even in this episode his whole importance to everyone else is negligible, when we’re shown our first of two scenes with the rest of the main cast they are only inquiring into the whereabouts of Kurumi, despite the fact that Haruhiko (due to being with Kurumi) is also absent.
However, at this point in the series, there’s little to believe that he’ll be shown any respect that he deserves as a member of the team. Instead it’s just time to hold out hope that we actually get a storyline to follow through for the next eight(?) episodes.
Overall though, this episode was really good. Everything clicked, and Kurumi is an adorable character who was treated right by the writers and animators; not something seen every day in these sorts of shows. Now with the entirety of the main cast gathered, it’s time to see if we continue with these one off stories or move forwards with a long term adventure.
Episode 6 Rating: 8.5/10
Phantom World streams new episodes Wednesdays exclusively on Crunchyroll.