In Defense of Phantom’s End

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There are going to be enormous spoilers for Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~ (particularly the very end) within this post. Read at your own risk.

Phantom‘s ending has unleashed a shitstorm in various places around the ‘net — there are people who love it, and people who are incredibly pissed off at it. Lots of Bee Troll and Bee Trainwreck accusations are being thrown around, too. And, I must admit, I was among those viewers royally angered by the ending when I first saw it. “WTF?” I thought. “Reiji and Elen just spent the whole series trying to escape from Inferno, they finally get back at the Scythe Master, and they even find Elen’s home, and then Reiji is killed by some random dude! Just like that! And Elen is left to die herself, or commit suicide, or be alone the rest of her life! What the hell? They’re the heroes!”

But this is why Phantom‘s ending works: Reiji and Elen are not heroes. They are just two people trying to survive and find a place in the world that is just for them, far outside of the bloodshed they know in Inferno. Remember this.

Sure, Reiji and Elen are badasses. There is a certain appeal to assassins, after all. They have a certain mystique about them. What drives a person to kill for a living? What kind of person does that? And assassins usually have such style to the way they do work. However, there is a price to this. Take Reiji. He is raw in the beginning, but as he throws himself into the work more — so that Inferno does not kill him off — Reiji becomes more comfortable in that skin . . . but at the expense of his humanity. There is this confidence that just radiates from Reiji after he “kills” Elen the first time and completely assumes the role of assassin to punish himself and give in completely to his despair. Pimp!Reiji looks damn cool, and he has slick moves, but as he admits many times, Reiji kills people so that he is not killed himself. And, in the process, he slowly loses the essence of who he is until he decides to fight back against those who would have him kill indiscriminately.

It is the same with Elen; she has been killing people to ensure her own survival for longer than Reiji has. Inferno may be forcing them to kill people through various means, and the people they kill may not be the most savory people, but Reiji and Elen kill them nonetheless. That said, know that I am not passing too much judgment on them. I actually like both Reiji and Elen, along with some of the other killers in the series. (Most notably Lizzie and Cal.) But, again, Reiji and Elen are not heroes. They do not kill to fulfill some lofty, noble goal — they kill so that they stay alive. However, as Reiji and Elen march forward, adhering consistently to the mantra of “kill or be killed” they increase the likelihood that there can be only one fate for them, one end to their story. (And, surprise of surprises, it is not a completely happy ending!)

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Reiji and Elen make several attempts to escape Inferno throughout the series. The first time, Reiji bestows an identity upon Elen and gives her a reason to live beyond being a mindless killing machine who can barely stave off the despair of death. But that fails because neither Elen nor Reiji is truly ready at that point to completely shed the assassin persona each has to assume for Inferno. The second time, Elen and Reiji briefly succeed in escaping from Inferno because by that time, each has gone through enough pain to know what he or she truly desires. The third — and final — time, Reiji and Elen seemingly find a beautiful place where both truly belong . . . except it ends it ends with Reiji dead and Elen’s status ambiguous, at best.

Why is this?

The pragmatic explanation is that Inferno finally kills Reiji. Now, the way Reiji dies is unclear, to an extent. The man in the carriage passes behind Reiji, obscures the camera and a single gunshot is heard. Reiji falls to the ground a few seconds later, presumably dead. The obvious explanation is that the faceless man kills Reiji as part of an Inferno job — and I believe that is the correct explanation. It is made clear numerous times throughout the series how important saving face is for an organization like Inferno. The “kill or be killed” motto extends to entire groups, as well. If Inferno does not look strong, then other groups will eat it alive; thus, Inferno needs to kill anyone who wrongs them, particularly after said person runs roughshod on one of the group’s highest ranking members.

But I have read a small contingent of people argue that Elen actually kills Reiji in the small fraction of time that the man passes in front of Reiji. However, I just do not see how she could have done it. She is looking at flowers one moment, pulls her gun out at lightning speed to kill Reiji and then is back to looking at flowers immediately after? Phantom stretches reality (to say the least), but it does not stretch it that much!

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Enough of that, however. Thematically, Elen and Reiji die because they have finally abandoned “kill or be killed” now that they have a true home. The tragic element behind their escape attempts is that Reiji and Elen use killing to escape killing and live as themselves. It is a fact of life that Reiji and Elen must kill to survive in the world they have been pulled into. From the beginning, both Reiji and Elen despair at being forced to kill, but both do it because, at this point, living is preferable to dying. And, in the back of their minds, probably more so for Reiji than Elen, they both have some hidden hope of escaping and being free. These two will try to earn their freedom by any means necessary; if that means killing, then they will bite the bullet (pun intended) and do it, because the light at the end of that freedom is something to hope for.

Most everyone kills to stay alive in Phantom, and most of the deaths come when the killers are unable to kill anymore. Elen “dies” the first time because she opts to protect the Scythe Master instead of killing Reiji. Claudia dies because she is backed into a corner and can no longer defend herself, so she dies at the hands of her oldest friend. Lizzie dies because she cannot kill another person who she believes does not deserve to die. Cal dies partly because she is physically unable to best Reiji, but also because I really think she does not have the heart to kill him. Scythe Master dies because his creations cannot kill Reiji and Elen.

But these deaths have a common theme that I believe is missing from the final death in the series — that sense of living an incomplete life, of not being able to fulfill what one sets out to do. Elen cannot escape with Reiji the first time. Claudia cannot climb to the top of Inferno. Lizzie could not protect her best friend. Cal could not reconcile the pain in her heart until the very end. Scythe Master could not make that perfect killing machine. With the notable exception of Elen (who is “resurrected” later in the series), these people all have lives/goals whose end result is death and sorrow rather than something that can be complete and give them happiness.

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“I will kill. In order to live, I will kill,” Reiji says in the finale, and plenty of times before that. But that final time has a different ring to it, as does Reiji’s death as compared to the deaths of other major characters in the series. Ostensibly, Reiji dies because he, too, cannot kill anymore. However, why can he kill no more? Six months is not that long. He certainly still possesses the talent that allowed him to be one of the best — if not the best — assassins in the world. Hell, I would not be surprised if Reiji knew that killer was behind him, waiting to strike. So, why does he die? Why does he not kill to continue living?

It is because Reiji has fulfilled his mission and his promise. Getting Elen back home, giving Elen her life back and seeing her true smile for the first time is all Reiji cares about. In the back of his mind, Reiji knows Inferno will eventually hunt him and Elen down. Inferno tracked them to Japan, so it is not too big a stretch to say Inferno could track them to Mongolia, especially since Reiji and Elen do leave a trail. Also, Inferno could have received information about Elen’s origins from the Scythe Master before he died, or they could have found the information within files he left behind, or whatever. The point is, Inferno has the means to track Reiji and Elen down, and they will do it, no matter how long it takes.

The thing is, this does not matter to Reiji anymore. He wants to live, for sure, but he knows, eventually, he will probably have to kill again once more to run away and live. And once Reiji gets to this beautiful piece of Mongolian countryside with Elen, he realizes he no longer has to kill. Elen has her home — the place where she belongs — and now, so does Reiji. “Even if I can’t find [my memories], I already have the name [Reiji] gave me,” Elen says. “I have memories of being with you. These memories are enough for me to continue living. These memories are enough for me.” Elen finally has something to give her real fulfillment and a sense of actually being a person instead of a killer. She is free. This is the place where she can show her true smile.

Reiji does not actually see that smile until he is on the verge of death, but he knows from the moment Elen steps onto this plain that this is her home. She is not fooling with him. Even though her memories have not returned, she can feel it in her bones. It is mission accomplished. Reiji and Elen achieve a worthwhile goal that is beyond killing. They simply find a place where they can be humans and live like normal people. Just one moment in this place as Reiji and Elen, even if they are to be killed, is more fulfilling to them than years of killing people just to stay alive as Zwei and Ein.

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Interestingly, the way Reiji dies, it is as if he — and the narrative — almost does not want to taint this pure place. There is this strange sense of acceptance to Reiji’s death. No attempt to defend himself. No suspicious glance at the carriage driver. He just stares straight ahead at Elen being as happy as she can be. And the death itself is not bloody or dramatic. Just a bullet to the back, and Reiji drops to the ground shortly after. It is as though Reiji thinks that if he is going to die somewhere, it might as well be this place, on his terms. No more running. No more killing. He accepts his fate because he is finally free. Reiji dies when he is at his happiest.

Elen’s fate is a bit more ambiguous. The only part I am convinced about is that she smiles at Reiji just before he dies. If Reiji knows it is inevitable that Inferno will catch up with them, then I am sure Elen knows as well. Elen does not smile at Reiji because she is retarded (as some bloggers and forum posters have so sweetly suggested) but rather because her true smile is the one sight she knows Reiji wants to see more than anything else. She is truly happy and wants Reiji to be truly happy before he passes on. In her way, she is as accepting of their fate as Reiji himself.

But what happens to her after that has me scratching my head. Is she dead, too? Or is she alive? All we know is that whoever kills Reiji does so with a gun equipped with a silencer. We do not see the type of gun at all. I am no firearms expert by any means, so I really have no idea how much a silencer would affect the ability to shoot through multiple people — or even how strong a gun one would need to do that in the first place. But since we don’t see the gun, if you wanted to, I suppose you could assume the killer has a firearm of sufficient strength to kill both Reiji and Elen in a single shot. (Plus, this is anime. This series is not completely realistic, anyway.) The symbolism suggests Elen is also dead: Her image fades away after she smiles, she lays in a very deathly sort of pose at the end (in her own Heaven of sorts?) and one petal on the flower is missing.

And, really, just because she says her memories are enough for her to continue living does not mean she will actually continue living. She has just found her peaceful place in the world. But I could also see the side of people who plead the case that Elen is still alive. She could continue living because she finally has the life that Reiji always wanted for her. However, I just cannot see why Inferno would let her live, as well, unless McGuire secretly thought Scythe Master was so annoying that he is actually thankful that Elen killed him!

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So that is my case for Phantom‘s ending. It is a wonderful — though undeniably tragic and sad — culmination of Reiji and Elen’s journey to reclaim their humanity and rid themselves of the bloodshed and death that defined their lives with Inferno. Really, if people are going to have a beef with some aspect of Phantom‘s finale, I think it would be Scythe Master’s masked chicks and how thoroughly they are owned by Reiji and Elen, though understandably so. Elen makes it clear that Scythe Master does not understand true human nature and what people really live for and protect with their lives, which means Scythe Master can never create a “perfect” killing machine. Still, they get freaking curb stomped. The fight is cool, but it isn’t even close.

42 Responses to “In Defense of Phantom’s End”

  1. Leonardo Says:

    Hello. I’m late to the party but I found your blog only recently. I just want to say that I think your analysis is accurate and that I agree almost entirely with your observations.

    I also longed for a truly happing ending for the show: Phantom’s protagonists are so tragic and go through so much pain that I really wanted for them to be happy in the end. In a way my wish has been granted by the author, for all the reasons you have pointed out in your long analysis. The death of Reiji is nonetheless quite painful and heart rending.

    Anyway I agree with you that the actual ending is the “right” one for the show from an esthetic, thematic and logical point of view. You have explained very well the reasons why it is so and I will just add some more observations.

    First of all, the title of this anime is Requiem for the Phantom. The dictionary defines Requiem as “any piece of music composed or performed as a memorial to a dead person or persons”. The title itself together with many small details and dialogue lines spoken by the characters in the early episodes of the show, concurred in building a strong atmosphere of predestination: the characters appear to be doomed to die since the beginning of the show. In the case of Reiji this feeling is very strong: he goes through an event (witnessing the murder) that causes his life to be forfeited. The moment Scythe decides to spare him he also takes possession of the boy’s life. Reiji technically is still alive but we all know that, at the same time, he is already dead. His life (and his death) now belongs to Scythe. This whole situation is similar to the one depicted in the movie Ghost Dog by Jim Jarmusch even if Reiji doesn’t submit willingly to his new role while the protagonist in Ghost Dog embraces his new life as a way to pay the debt he contracted with his savior.

    Second: we shouldn’t forget that the opening song for at least half of the episodes is titled Karma and talks about the endless circle of death and pain the protagonists are imprisioned in. The circle in the end will be broken but there is obviously a price to be paid for doing so.

    In the end the final scene left me with a strong feeling of tranquillity, even if it is very sad indeed. Reiji fulfilled his promise, gifting Ein/Elen with a new and strong personality she could develop thanks to the deep love that grew between these two characters.
    Ein’s evolution is quite interesting in my opinion: in the beginning she has no identity at all. She’s just a death tool and her master and his orders are the only elements she can relate to in order to derive a reason to keep on living. That’s why she can’t let Reiji kill Scythe at the harbor. But her relationship with Reiji has planted the seed of changing. During the fight against Reiji she confesses that she kept on living because of the promise she made to him. She admires Reiji because he is still fighting to keep at least a spark of humanity and didn’t gave up the way she did. He represents to her what she would have liked to accomplish but couldn’t. She still need to find a reason to live outside herself, in a promise, but it’s a progress nonetheless. Not only she starts showing some human desires and passions, but those feelings starts to drive her life so that surviving is not enough anymore: she wants to live and not simply survive! Only in the end she will develop a true personality, the moment she realizes that her long lost past doesn’t define in any way who she actually is. The time she spent with Reiji and the memories of that part of her life are enough for her to know what she wants and who she is. In the end establishing if Elen survives or if she dies is not important, at least not to me. Her new found humanity and the acceptance of her inner self is what counts to me. The fire of life finally burns in Elen and if she dies she dies fully conscious that she is a complete human being. She has succeded in getting back her life and she is no more a puppet. So did Reiji too.

    These are the main reasons why I feel like there is a strong sense of closure in the end of Phantom.

    PS: please forgive my mistakes. I’m not a native English speaker and I tried my best to be clear and correct in writing :)

    • Hey, a late comment is better than no comment at all. Thanks for stopping by!

      Your points about how the title of the series and the OP ties into the main themes of the show are definitely accurate. (Nice shout out to Ghost Dog, by the way. Love that movie!) And your points about Elen’s evolution definitely hit on all the important parts of her character. She grows so much throughout the series, and yet she still has so much more to learn — the scene with the Scythe Master perfectly embodies that, I think. If she were able to completely live for her own reasons, instead of needing something outside of herself to go on, then she probably would have shot him right away; however, she hesitates, if only for a few moments, not because of any loyalty to SM, but more because she is in between abandoning her life as a puppet and being able to live for herself. She still has some attachments to her previous life, but she is beyond it enough that she can eliminate the final remnant of her life as an assassin.

      And no need to worry about your English — I understood you quite clearly!

    • Ill say this just because I wanted to get anothers option first. I realize this series has been out for quit some time and correct theory for the ending has not been observed. Reniji does NOT die. Your curious right? It was the final act of his life to fulfill the promise he gave. When that promise was completed he finally was able to forget the past. A clue about this is in his eyes. And the fact that inferno stated that they would just let the sands of time to be their fate. The noise of the gun was not an actually gunshot but more of a metaphore. His new life as an assassin started with the sound of a gunshot and ended with a gunshot. He can now truly be Reiji and enjoy a normal life

  2. [...] already wrote an enormous post defending the controversial ending of Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~ and won’t be [...]

  3. BlackMagister Says:

    Thanks for writing this, I enjoyed reading it and it helped deal with the confusing ending of Phantom which was stressful to say the least.

  4. Hey, that is some great post! I truly liked it.

    I actually had Reiji’s death spoiled before I saw it. XP I was at first kinda sad because I didn’t want him to die. However, I can’t say it came as a huge shock either. While his death did not seem necessary for the story’s sake, it still was not surprising. As the series went on, the viewer comes to understand a compltely happy fairty tale-style ending is not in order.

    I was glad, however, that he died after seeing Elen happy. I thought it was worth it.

    At first, I felt it was weird how Elen had not reacted to his death at all. In previous episodes, even in that same final episode, she had clearly stated she was aware it was because of him that she had gotten so far as to desire to live. I found it strange. Not to mention that it was even weirder for the assassin not to kill her as well since she was the one that killed the men from the Godoh group. However, it does make sense that she died there too although it was not shown. No matter how happy she was to be home, I do not believe her capable of ignoring Reiji’s corpse. Perhaps what we saw was just what she would’ve done had she (and Reiji) continued living for just another couple of minutes. It seemed more like a dream’s image, somehow. I can’t find words to explain it.

    I too felt Lizzie’s death was sad. I came to like her at the latter part of the series.

    It is very strange. These characters are no saints, but their deaths truly had a sad feeling to them. Even Claudia’s death was emotional. The only exception was Scythe Master’s, of course.

    Is it me or is this show sort of unpopular? O.o Is it because it is relatively recent?

    By the way, I would be delighted to read your thoughts about what Elen and Reiji’s relationship was like? There are some parts to it that can be deciphered in several ways.

    • Haha, I didn’t exactly have the death spoiled from me, but judging from the general reactions to the final episode, I could guess the direction in which the finale headed. But even without those vague hints, the ending itself is not really that shocking, since it’s a common conclusion for stories about assassins; however, the sudden way Reiji is executed is unexpected.

      I think Phantom is about as popular as any Bee Train series — it has a fair number of fans, but just as many detractors since this is a common sort of story for Bee Train, and because it is a notoriously cheap studio. (Phantom looks better than the few Bee Train series I’ve seen, but it’s also clearly not bursting at the seams with budget, either, haha.)

      As for Reiji and Elen’s relationship . . . my memory is rusty, so I can’t whip out any impressive interpretations (like I could even if I had watched the series recently), but something I really enjoyed about their interactions after the timeskip is how they cultivated the perfect life for each other through their interactions at school. Both had been outside of normal society for so long that they really had no clue how normal people truly interacted with each other, but they were able to pretend as much, and their acting comes off to me like that is the kind of life they desire for each other. That tugged at the ol’ heart.

      Thanks a lot for taking the time to comment!

  5. Nanashi Says:

    Exactly what i was looking for Thanks Dude No joke

  6. Thank you for this post.
    I was thinking about the ending as I lay in bed to sleep
    and even when I woke up.
    How I viewed it and how you explained it finally put me at peace with the ending.
    The only thing that actually bothered me is Reiji’s change of location.
    I mean why the f*** did he have to move to the left?
    It made me question where he was going, and if he was still with Elen.
    I had trouble absorbing the wonderful ending because of those questions.

    I’ll just ‘believe’ that he went beside the tree to get some shade and was with Elen the whole time.
    What a mindf*** by Beetrain.

  7. Nyctasia Says:

    This is not “In Defense of Phantom’s End”, but rather “In Defense of (my interpretation of) Phantom’s End”. All you did was to try and prove that both died and justify why. For not one moment have you asked “Why”? Who would benefit from their deaths?

    “with a gun equipped with a silencer”? No, we know it was a semi-automatic gun with a silencer. One of the properties of the semi-automatic guns is that it expels the casing from the bullet shot (like that metal casing appearing somewhere near the end.)

    “how much a silencer would affect the ability to shoot through multiple people”.
    Short answer. A regular pistol can not be shot through one body to hit a second target. The adding of a suppressor will further reduce the power of the show. A rifle with special ammunition is required for something like that.

    Any way, your entire argument here is flawed. For someone to kill Elen, it has to shoot through Reiji and hit her. But she is standing lower then Reiji. I don’t see how a person could ride on the cart and shoot once to kill both. The trajectory would hit Reiji in his leg, around his knee or lower in order to hit Elen for a kill. The “one shot-2 kill” theory is nice for anime, but even in anime geometry works most of the time.

    “unless McGuire secretly thought Scythe Master was so annoying”
    If I remember correctly, he didn’t made a secret of his dislike towards Scythe. He only financed Scythe for Elen, and his attempts at recreating her performances (later Reiji’s performances). When he failed, he was useless.

    Now let me ask you, as I ask any one else: Why would someone kill Reiji and/or Elen? What for?

  8. First, apologies for the random reply in 2011. In my own defense I did just finish this masterpiece, and I must say, I have never been as moved before by anything else I’ve read and seen, anime or otherwise. Requiem for the Phantom, if I may, is simply a tragedy of the highest magnitude.

    Now, onto the ending. Actually, before we move on, let me clarify my position just a tiny bit. I love Reiji, Eren, and Cal. I feel for them, each and every single one of them, and if I was in the shoes of Reiji, I would have done the same – kill anyone I must in order to survive. Watching their characters grow, change, and mature then watching every single hope and dream get ripped apart in front of their very eyes was incredibly sad and heartbreaking. I was rooting for them. I wanted them to succeed. I wanted each and every one of them to have a happy, peaceful life and grow old together, in a little cottage on the beautiful steppes of Mongolia. For those who would attack my opinions, take this into consideration first.

    Now that I’ve said my piece, let me explain to you why I found the ending to be spectacularly beautiful and harsh at the same time. It wasn’t the ending I wanted, nor the ending that made me happy. It was, however, the NECESSARY ending… the grand finale, if I may.

    As viewers we are constantly drawn in the lives of these protagonists. We see all of their sides, from the human and the kind to the cruel and the monstrous. Yet, due to the nature of the tale, and their constant struggle against the strings of fate, that we begin to root for them no matter what. We are quick to brush aside any acts of atrocity as simply a necessity to achieve the final goal of peace, love, and happiness. I’ll let myself be drawn in deep, but I won’t close my eyes or pretend to be blind.

    Reiji and Eren were sinners of the highest order. At their best, they were kind and caring, but even still, they reserved any feelings of love or gentleness towards on another more than anything else, which is perfectly fine and understandable. At their worst, they were monsters, inhuman killing machines who destroyed the lives of hundreds, who blatantly, knowingly and explicitly killed innocent women and children simply so that they could go on and survive, with the hope of escape, peace, and love. Do you know what this creates? For me, this is the karma which came around; each and every sin they commit weighs heavier and heavier on their soul. Lies and broken promises kept Reiji and Eren together. Do you not think then for at least a second, that the guilt might catch up one day? Even if WE want them to live, do THEY themselves want to live? I don’t think Reiji wanted to live, in all honesty. Like Lizzie said – there’s a line that nobody should cross. They both crossed that line, willingly and with conviction.

    One thing that touched me so very much was the realism of this story. In life, it is rare that we can have everything we want, and have it all work itself out in the end. Life is cruel and harsh, just like Requiem. Despite peoples’ best intentions, our own selfishness, greed, despair and hope often get the best of us. This is how I viewed the tragedy of Cal. For me, Cal loved Reiji more than anyone in the show, more than Eren even. He was like her romantic love and brotherly love all rolled into one (no incest shit, he meant a lot to her and you all know it). For a girl with abandonment issues already, having a sister who just died, Reiji taking her in gave her SO MUCH hope and joy!!!

    And then, in a flash, Reiji destroyed that hope and replaced it with despair, and with that joy turned into sadness, resentment, and hatred. Why did this happen then, you ask? Consider for a second, in reality, is it not quite difficult to care about two people (even family members or friends) the exact same way? There are people you love, then there are people you might be willing to risk your life for, and there are people you WOULD die for just to have the hope of them continuing to live on. Well, you get my point. Look, whereas Cal loved Reiji more than anything, Reiji in turn loved EREN more than anything, more than himself, his life, or even CAL.

    ladies and gentlemen!!! This turn of events is the TRUE tragedy. It’s not the ending that’s the saddest part. The ending is just that – and ENDING to the pain and suffering!!! What is TRULY depression and emotionally crushing for me was the fact that Reiji simply gave up on Cal, without much thought or care and simply abandoned her in order to be with Eren. Sure, he thought she was dead. But without even an attempt to find her in the event that she MIGHT have been outside during the explosion, he made up his mind, and chose Eren over Cal at the instant. This is neither an evil nor a wrong choice, but it is just that, A CHOICE, pure and simple. By choosing Eren, he destroyed Cal. If he had chosen Cal instead and left Eren to wait or simply left her until later, she could very well have stayed on as Scythe Master’s pet and I can easily see an outcome of Reiji being forced to kill Eren in order to protect Cal from both her, Scythe, and Inferno. In truth, I see little possibility of him protecting both Eren and Cal. That just seems very unrealistic and childish in my opinion.

    Now you know where I stand on these issues. By writing this I’m actually giving myself some closure because as I said, this series has been incredibly draining for my emotions and psyche. There is no individual I feel more sorry for than another. They were ALL thrust into the machinations of Inferno and Scythe Master, disgusting humans that don’t deserve to be alive, but such is life. For me, this show is about CHOICES, the choices made from emotion as a human being. Choices made from feelings of love and caring, hatred and emptiness. Whatever choices they made, there were bound to be severe repercussions. In real life, you cannot have your cake and eat it too. You cannot save everyone, and you cannot make everyone happy.

    There is nothing sadder than this fact. Death for Reiji and Eren is kinder than this. Living with the knowledge that your choice and love or one person can only lead to the destruction and despair of another weighs heavier on one’s shoulders than any fear of death. I believe all three Phantoms understood this in the end, and they accepted their fates without resentment or fear. The only argument I can see is one for Eren having convictions to life once again due to Reiji fulfilling his promise. But with Reiji killed at that very moment, who is to say Eren DID NOT kill herself? She certainly loved Reiji so much as well. Maybe not as much as Cal, or maybe even more than Cal (at the very end); that is something you can decide. But he certainly meant the world to her, and she has stated numerous times, her life is meaningless without him.

    I’m glad I got this off my chest, and once again apologies for convoluted wall of text. I’d like to end this on a happier note, but no less serious. Requiem for the Phantom showed me to value what we have in our lives, to hold on to those people dear and precious to us, and to be thankful for the peace and quiet. Remember, the choices you make don’t only affect yourself. When you have to sacrifice one thing for another, make sure it’s the right choice. Sometimes it’s better to have something than nothing at all.

    • Johnny Says:

      For me personally, I don’t like to believe that Reiji would have abandoned Cal like that. His immediate reaction would have been to look for her. He would not have moved on without verifying her death. He had more loyalty than that. I view the 3rd arc as complete nonsense. So much of it doesn’t make any sense. I wish I hadn’t watched it actually. I had a feeling that should stop at S02E03 or 04, but I stupidly didn’t. I loved what Reiji and Cal had. And Reiji and Cal in the car was much more real than any of the 3rd arc.

      Oh and Erin was stupid. Reiji would have been way more loyal to Cal than her in my version. Cal represented the return of meaning to his life. And Cal loved him with complete loyalty. How could he have abandoned her? No, that was the dream, and the car ride was real.

  9. Here’s my side note.

    I don’t think Eren is dead. I do think she probably didn’t realize that he was dead yet…or just because she turned it doesn’t mean that she turned all the way to see him die.

    But it’s too unclear to say. I suppose they just want us to jump to our own conclusions and arguments.

  10. OK, here’s my take. I don’t think Reiji believes he deserves happiness. He is all about karma. He believes that the only way for him to be “set free” is by taking responsibility for the pain and death he has caused (Cal included). The only thing that he wants to do before he dies, is to keep his promise to make Eren smile. Eren is looking for a way to be “set free” as well. She doesn’t know where she came from or have any memories. The only thing she has is Reiji.

    Then Scythe and the Zahlenschwestern show up. Eren was like the number sisters, mindless with no sense of self. She now has to add “find my identity” to her “to do” list. Fortunately, (and happily) her discovery of ego involves taking out Scythe through her own free will. In addition, Eren saying “what does freedom mean if you have to kill people for it” and that this will be their final battle, indicates that her being “set free” does not involve killing anymore. (So, no, I don’t think she take’s out Reiji at the end.) Finding “Eren” means losing “Ein” and everything Ein represents.

    Now here is where my overactive imagination starts running in overdrive. They show a quick montage of Sechs’ (or Sieben’s) cracked mask and Cal’s broken watch. Even though the face of the watch is broken, it is still working. To me, there is the possibility that SECHS IS STILL ALIVE. She wasn’t stabbed or shot. She could be the cart driver.

    Eren’s journey to find herself means that she is losing her identity as Ein, which is a good thing. She will no longer be an assassin (and no longer have those skills). They go to Mongolia and find where Eren came from. She has memories with Reiji. She can now “live,” so she is “truly” happy and smiles. Reiji has kept his one promise, and can now except karma without regrets.

    Bang.

    A lot of people wonder who could kill top assassins? Another assassin. Sechs survived Japan and was sent to kill the assassins Ein and Zwei.

    For Reiji, karma has finally caught up to him, and he is ok with it. Also, I think he knew they were being followed. Why did he walk away from Eren in her moment of triumph and from their bags (which could be carrying weapons by which they could protect themselves)? He wanted to protect her. He didn’t want to have Eren kill again (now that she reached her goals) by feeling obligated to trying to protect Reiji from the assassin in the cart. Eren didn’t notice the assassin in the cart because Eren isn’t an assassin, she is a new person. The assassin (Sechs) didn’t kill Eren because “Ein” was already “dead” at this point.

    The title “Requiem for the Phantom” means that the “Phantom” is dead. All of the “official” phantoms are Cal, Reiji/Zwei, and Ein. So yea, Reiji is dead. This is a tragedy. If Sechs is the final phantom, then there is nobody alive now who could rehabilitate/save her. She has no possibility for redemption (like Eren), so she is “dead” inside and still pitiable.

    Eren’s final fate is still a mystery to me. She could be “dead” in two ways.

    Romantic tragedy version; Eren no longer has Reiji, so she no longer has a reason to live. She eats the petal of a poisonous flower (shown in the closing), and fades from existence. She dies, but she dies as Eren and not as Ein.

    Rebirth version; Ein was the psyche that had all the ties to Inferno, Scythe, and Zwei. Ein is dead, but Eren lives on. Eren is incomplete. She doesn’t have a past anymore and she doesn’t have Reiji. Like the flower with a petal missing, she can still go on.

    All the phantoms are dead. Start the requiem.

  11. Moyosore Says:

    I came across the anime & decided to watch all 26 episodes at a go and i gotta say, that ending had me wrecked, and that “Transparent” song wasn’t helping matters either. It still hurts just thinking about it, officially my first anime tearjerker. So the big question..”Who shot Reiji?”. Some say it’s the guy on the horsecart, others suprisingly say it was Eren. I’m sadly inclined to the latter for 2 reasons. 1. If you look at the expression on Reiji’s face when he got shot, it wasn’t shock, it was a smiling calmness, like he was expecting it to happen. Only a phantom can kill a phantom. 2. Symbolism aside, that bullet casing was “in the grass” & not on the roadside. It’ll have been on the road if he was shot from behind. I guess if u think about it, both of them had wanted to die at the hand of the other at some point in the story. But each was still trying to live for reasons hinged on either of them still existing, he for protecting her and her new free personality as well as finding true happiness in it, and her for making sure the one person who gave her that identity was safe since he was the only one who felt her life mattered to her. But there was also 1 more reason shared by both, “to go back home”. When Reiji remembered his real identity, he tried calling home but he was too scared to go back because of all he had done but he ended up going anyway, he wasn’t with his real family but he was happy all the same, living a normal life with even a chance at love (poor Mio). Even the apathetic Eren could feel how he changed as a person, so she wanted that happiness/change for herself too, even if it was for just a little while, which she felt could happen by going back to her true home. The deaths of Cal for Reiji and Scythe Master for Eren also broke that barrier of just “surviving”, him not being together with Cal “again” was a promise 2nd time broken to the other person he was willing to live for when he thought he had lost Eren forever & she killing of her own free will, the one person she was supposed to live & die for broke them inside in ways we can only imagine. Those points marked the end of their phantom shackled personalities, as being happy, meant not being phantoms anymore. So they could now let go of each other, but not before Eren got her chance at being truly “happy/changed”. Reiji had found his home, it was her turn to find hers. The last step was who would take the burden of being the phantom who frees the other from their tortured lives, as Zwei had done for Drei. So Ein freed Zwei, 2 for 3, 1 for 2. Finally, with Reiji gone, Eren now had a choice of living or dying for herself, whether she poisoned herself with that plant petal is left for us to decide. She looked lifeless to me so i’m guessing she ironically chose to die of her own free will. So i say forget the inferno angle, how they died was their choice, no one elses. It sucks but it was better that way i guess, but what do you all think?

  12. Kurtis Says:

    Just finished this series myself & have a theory to voice, if anyone still reads this.

    They reach Eren’s “home”. She says this is it, she’s sure & they can stop searching, “we dont have to go any farther.”

    Reiji smiles, relieved, & WALKS AWAY! This is key for my theory. You see bags on the ground & the sky is a brilliant blue.

    Next scene & Reiji stands seemingly alone, sky is a sunset, there’s a tree now near him & no luggage. Time has passed, shown by the sky’s colour. I think he’s wandered away from Eren. Reiji is now talking regretfully, his past full of shattered dreams, yet how he could not deny this one promise to Eren.

    (I paraphrase a bit here)

    Scene switches to Eren, “Ive found what I needed.”

    Reiji “I promised (past tense) to make you smile.”

    Eren “I have memories”

    Reiji “You’ll be truly happy, I know you will” (He thinks you’ll, not WE will. Listen to the way he’s speaking, its almost like he’s saying goodbye, making peace with himself.)

    Eren- smiling.

    Reiji- cart rolls past, a single silence shot. He’s smiling.

    Eren “These things are my own. I can take them & live, they’re all I need.” (She’s truly happy, fulfilled & whole, or so it seems.)

    Reiji- falls.

    Eren-stands & turns, smiling.

    I believe Reiji shot himself. All thro the series he speaks of regret & guilt, right up to the end he laments that he’s had to kill to live. He hates himself & his life. At first Eren kept him going, then Cal, & then, at the end, his promise to Eren.
    When Eren smiles I think she see’s Reiji gone. She knows or at least guesses at his course of action, that he is now happy, at peace with himself.
    Then she fades. Her old life, her Ein side, fading from her? Or is it time passing?
    She lays on the ground, lost in that perfect moment. Maybe she collapses there till she dies, lost in peace. Then you see the flower, its “perfection” flawed by a missing petal. Metaphor to Eren losing the perfection (so Scythe thought) of her Ein persona? Or is she merely damaged, yet, like the flower, alive? End of credits & you see the bullet, the death of & peace for Reiji.

    Maybe she knew his plan, see’s his fallen form, smiles for him in his final moments, then lays down herself & just peacefully dies? He has his peace, his redemption, & she has her home & can “continue to live” until she peacefully starves?

    One odd thing to note, though, is you see the cart driver loading his vehicle when they talk with the old man who guides them (perhaps a set up??) to the mountain ledge where they’ll “find what they seek.” Does Reiji lead the assassin cart driver away from Eren? Taking the shot, finding his peace, & giving Eren hers?

    I find it hard to believe she could “now continue to live” then eat a single poisonous petal (a single petal? deadly? & the flower jus grows all over the mountainside by a road?) & die? Nor do I believe the one bullet two kills.

    Its all a bit vague but that was the best sense I could make of it.

  13. Moyosore Says:

    Strong possibility Kevin. Maybe he did want to kill himself, and come to think of it, that final gunshot sounded exactly the same as the one Cal fired at Mio’s bag. And the gun type used is Reiji’s preferred sidearm, couldn’t be Eren’s since hers is that magnum beretta. His suicide scene was probably in the original plans but the producers probably felt it would be much kinder to “cover” that part with the passing horsecart so we the viewers wouldn’t feel worse about that ending than we already are. How many of you would have liked to have watched Reiji kill himself? Any volunteers? But no matter how much we try to rationalize/justify what really happened, how they died and why it ended the way it did, all 3 of them got the closure they wanted in their lives before dying. So i guess the best stories really are the tragic ones. I will grudgingly acknowledge it as a unique masterpiece of tragedy, which damn it, it is. And thus my desired closure on the whole subject of the ending.

  14. Moyosore Says:

    Sorry i mean’t Kurtis

  15. I think Phantom requiem for the phantom was the best anime ever!

  16. Sorry about that something happened to my computer.
    I think it is not confusing cause i saw the last episode Eren more then 3 times.
    Reiji died. End of story. Elen did not kill Reiji, the guy in the cart did and obviously INFERNO did it.
    I think Elen died by eating the flower because one petal was missing from the flower. I think there should be more to it because it just ends. I read a afterlife story on Fanfiction.net and i recommend it to you. It shows Elen and Reiji living together and living a normal life, INFERNO stopped looking for them and thought Reiji was dead but he lived.
    So they live together and Elen loves Reiji and wants to marry him and Reiji think Elen isthe most beautiful girl in the world.
    Well i don`t want to spoil it but i do recommended it.

  17. The first time I watched the ending, I was brought to tears. I just thought that INFERNO came and finished off Reiji and Eren, though. I thought there were 2 gun shots, but after watching it again, I was wrong about that. However, I do still think I’m right. Let me explain.

    Reiji is most definitely shot. You hear the gunshot, then his face shows that he knows what happened but accepts it. The way he collapses suggests that he didn’t just throw himself on the ground. That was him dying.

    Then, Eren turns around and smiles at him. I believe she thought he had just lied down. After she fades and the credits finish, she is lying on the ground. I think it is implied that INFERNO took her out, too. The flower missing its petal is kind of like saying that something is missing that was just there (her life). Her body lies motionless, and her eyes are open and she’s still smiling. Her death couldn’t break that smile.

    The bullet casing is proof that the sound wasn’t just symbolic. I do agree that it symbolizes removing them from that world, though. Ein’s gunshot brought Zwei into the world of killing. The shot(s) at the end brought Reiji and Eren out of it.
    —————————————————
    I do wish the ending was clearer and we didn’t have to speculate, but maybe its for the best. I loved the series. My biggest complaint was how Cal matured so fast. o.O

  18. Julian Says:

    However…. Reiji falls on the ground first before Elen turns around, so how can she shoot him? Why would Reiji shoot himself when he has not seen elen’s face to see her smile?

    After the credits, the bullet is on the ground, not on the grass, making it hard for Elen to shoot him….

    When she turns around and smiles, the screen is paused, and thus we can’t see her reaction to the death of Reiji. It appears Elen was just about to confess something to Reiji, maybe her memories, but just before she sees him dead, the screen is paused…….Reiji dies before he can see Elen smile which makes the ending much more sad.

    The ending is soooo open, You guys ever seen an anime which makes you think about it for days and days?

    Anyway, Both of them must of been tired of running away because they can’t escape their fate. Requiem means the death of someone, thus their death is unescapable.

  19. Well, this how I took it from the first time I saw the ending. Reiji is shot in the back by the person passing by on the cart. Reiji’s goal was to somehow help bring about Elen’s true smile, which shows he was looking forward to a future with her. After he falls to the ground, Elen gets up and looks in his direction then quickly reacts with what I thought was a smile, when I first saw the ending. Was her reaction going to be something else? Don’t know, because right when her face seems to start with a smile, the animation is frozen and up comes the credits. But when I first saw the ending, I took it as she smiles after she looks over at him.

    Well after seeing Elen smile at Reiji, my first thought was she took it as he was just laying on the grass relaxing and took joy in it. So afterwords she decides to join him, laying down, relaxing and enjoying the moment herself starring up at the sky, not really knowing that Reiji was actually dead.That’s what i took from the last scene of her being stretched out laying in the field. The bullet shell is shown as proof that Reiji was actually shot and most likely killed and I’m just not sure what to make of the missing flower pedal, but some speculate that it was poisonous and Elen ate it to kill herself after she realized that Reiji had been killed. Before I ever read anything about the flower pedal thing, I did go back several times and watch the ending. And there was a time that I thought to myself, was Elen laying there dead, she was relaxfully positioned and was smiling, but she seemed lifeless. I’m just not sure about what was her actual condition.

    So in conclusion, I was not happy with the ending because I felt like Reiji and Elen deserved the happiness of a peaceful life together since they were forced into a life they were never truly happy with for so long. I definitely didn’t like that Cal was killed, being that she was the unfortunate product of a misunderstanding and manipulation, she deserved better. All and all, this was one of, if not the best, anime I have ever seen! AB3 out.

  20. Hi, various aspects of stated in this article hit the nail on the head for me. However in my opinion, the ending played out in one of two ways:

    I can honestly understand why Reiji would want to kill himself, he had fulfilled the promise he could not break, Erin has found her true self, she can smile for herself honestly, as a real person, because she has found her happiness, she has the memories of their times together, and has an identity of her own. She is whole. Reiji is consumed by the sins he has commited and can now finally release himself. He see’s living now as an illusion. The only was to repent for his sins, and the only way to become truly free is to leave this life. He was peacefull because he knew what he was going to do and had made peace with it. He was the one that pulled the trigger. Hence why one arm hung loose on his side while the other hand was in his pocket. No assassin could touch Erin or Reiji, let alone one not trained by Scythe-master. Furthermore Reiji and Erin clearly wouldn’t let someone else put them to rest. Erin even said that “this is it” when arriving at the final scene. as if stating that it was the end of the line.
    Now, when she spoke of being able to go on living, to me, it makes little sense that she would say that immediately before ending her own life… Unless upon seeing Reiji dead she changed her mind… But perhaps it was all planned in advance, with the idea that they would meet up together in spirit.
    This all acts as a poetic, tragic, but believable end.

    HOWEVER:

    The ending I would rather believe is this:

    Reiji Did not shoot himself. he shot something, but not himself, perhaps the ground. One proof of this is if a person shot themselves point blank with a pistol I highly doubt they would stand for as long as Reiji did. This coupled with him collapsing was symbolic in the sense that he’d rid himself once and for all of his assassins self, and fired his last bullet. With Scythe-master gone, and Inferno seeing no point in chasing two clearly unstoppable killing machines who simply want to run away for good – which was sort of insinuated by the inferno Executives last heard words of letting things go and be forgotten – there was no reason why Reiji or Erin would need to kill again (for the forseeable future).
    Both Erin’s words of: ” you have to go on living, to prove I lived ” (and presumably vise-versa) and what she said about him being the only thing that’s kept her alive, and the very fact that if their memories where enough to keep her alive then what life would there be without him to continue to share memories with? He gave her identity, they know each other better than perhaps anyone ever could (who’s still alive anyway). They spent the series searching for themselves, for normal lives. Now they’ve found a chance at this finally. Despite everything, would they really throw all that away? if they wanted to repent, wouldn’t it have made more sense to live and work in some form of healing or giving or charity? They would die in the end anyway. One could argue about living the lives they’d stolen from so many others. But I’m not convinced that’s reason enough. Unless it had been all planned in advance, Erin would never smile at the sight of a dead Reiji, and Reiji would not have shot himself until AFTER he saw Erin smile anyway, even if he DID shoot himself. Let’s not forget Erin’s thoughts after killing scythe-master: “I’m sure I’ll see you again in hell, but now I’ll stay, I’ll stay with him”. This shows clear intent for them to live a life together.
    Yes, I Reji fired his gun ( I believe they showed the shell of the gun clean and perfect to suggest it never hit him. I saw no body next to it either), But he didn’t kill himself. The way he collapsed certainly insinuated he did, but I’d like to believe it was for dramatic effect, to make the viewer guess, and perhaps because he just let himself go from sheer mental exhaustion and relief.
    Erin was alive at the end as well. She didn’t shoot herself, strangle herself, I doubt she lay there until she starved, it looked like the same day to me, and she looked the same. There was no sign of any wounds (slit wrists etc) on her either. She was merely lying there still, in peace. They where clearly nearby a village, as a little horse and carriage going as slow as it was at that time of day couldn’t have been far from a village or town. I believe they started a real life together there. Also remember Erin’s words to Reiji about returning to Japan together someday to live a normal life.

    In any case, it is all conjecture of course, in my opinion one could argue either way, but it certainly wasn’t an outside force that shot Reiji if infact he was shot at all, the little carriage was to add dramatic effect to the moment, and make people wonder, to make it more poetic. I will continue to hold on to the happier possibility, and follow the idea that they continued to live together real lives, as real people, in peace, and in love.

    A truly great anime, story, and work of art. And one I’ll always love and appreciate.

    Myles Thomas -

    • Thjazi Says:

      Myles- An excellent explanation of the events in that matches the “Road of the Cerulean Sky” ending of the visual novel. I personally believe that you hit the nail on the head.

      It also fits nicely with Beetrain’s history of tragic/twist endings by implying a tragic ending (silenced bullet; Reiji falling) while still holding true to the visual novel’s ending that was the basis for the anime. True that there wasn’t a wedding scene but thats a minor thing, as this was made for an audience that had played the game or could if they wanted.

      Really made me appreciate the ending and the thinking that could have gone into it.

      Well done

  21. Very well written and convincing. I can sleep now after watching that ending. Thank you.

  22. Thanks for writing this!
    My only opinion is that, if the bullet is in the grass, that means it would be unlikely that the guy in the wagon shot them.

  23. Phantom Says:

    Im 19 yr old, a marine, played foot ball, had my fiance die in a car crash, my parents divorced, and broken several limbs and ligaments. yet at the end, I still cried. Im still crying. How the hell can he die? personally my first thought was that she did it. Even with your fantastic blog. I think the writer simply went for the most fucked up end possible. and whats worse than inferno catching up? her killing him. Im still having a hard time with this. they need to make a alternate, happy ending… Also, i can never watch it again knowing that ending. even though i just got 9 friends (2 of them room mates) now watching the series. Holy shit. Holy Shit, Holy Shit HOLY SHIT! still freaking out.

  24. Here’s my interpretations of the ending:

    1) Reiji got shot and dies. The animators just threw that in there because they could. Perhaps just to deny viewers a happy ending, or to emulate other anime where the protagonist dies at the end, or just to cause controversy and stir up discussion about the show, or some combination of the above. This is the ending we see, but it doesn’t make sense.

    2) Reiji doesn’t die. He is, after all, kind of a badass, having survived getting shot 4 – 5 times and nearly drowning. He wouldn’t get killed just like that.

    Instead, the Phantom, Zwei, dies. We see Reiji’s shadow, the darkness within him, fall. He kills the Phantom so that he may live. He shoots down at the ground, or into space, using the passing cart to help silence the shot so as to not disturb or alarm Eren. She turns and sees that the darkness inside him is gone, that he is free now to live a normal life, so she joins him by lying down on the grass and enjoying the peaceful sky. She’s still broken, as the flower with the missing petal indicates, but that’s ok because she’s found peace now, and can live together with Reiji.

  25. Damn… why reiji died :(((

  26. Thanks for the great post, definitely one of the best I’ve read since I started looking for answers. However, I disagree with some of your analysis.

    I think the most confusing element of this ending is the scene where it alternates between Reiji and Eren’s thoughts, it creates the illusion that they were at the same place and Reiji was looking at Eren. However, since we are looking for detailed clues, ie. bullet casing, flower pedal, etc… a closer look at the other clues reveals that Reiji and Eren were NOT at the same place in the end. There are 4 pieces of clues, (1) bags, (2) trees, (3) sky color, (4) landscape, combining them creates the following analysis:

    1. Let’s put the first 2 pieces of clues together to determine the location of Reiji when he gets shot. When Reiji and Eren gets off the bus, (1) two bags were dropped on the ground, then Reiji walks toward the left, leaving the bags behind. Later, right after Eren touches the flower, we get a face shot of Eren that shows what’s behind her, in the lower left corner of that screen, in the direction where Reiji was walking, and not far from Eren, (2) we see a tree. Now, we know that Reiji is standing next to a tree when he gets shot, and if he is looking at Eren in the end, then the tree we see in Eren’s shot is exactly where Reiji is located. That means Reiji didn’t walk very far from where they got off the bus, and the bags that he left behind would have been very close to him. However, in the shot where we first see the horse wagon approaching, there are no bags on the ground anywhere in sight when we expect the bags to be fairly close to Reiji. This suggests that Reiji actually walked farther than the first tree that we see in Eren’s shot, far enough that the bags are no longer in sight. Assuming this is correct, then Reiji is no where near Eren when he falls. This analysis alone may not be convincing enough, so let’s look at the other two clues.

    2. When Reiji starts walking, the (3) sky is blue, and when he is standing next to a tree, the sky is orange. Time has passed from afternoon to sunset. Although it could be that Reiji only walked a few steps to the first tree we analyzed above, and simply stood there as time passed away, there is also the possibility that he actually walked all afternoon, and if he did, that’s a long time to walk and he would be far away. Then we look at (4) the landscape in the background. When they get off the bus, we see continuous mountains in the background, and the elevation of the mountains is fairly leveled, one can pretty much draw a straight horizontal line across the mountain tops. Later, in the scene where Reiji looks at the sunset, the mountains in the background have changed from being at the same elevation to going up and down. If Reiji only walked a few steps to the first tree, then the background mountains would be the same, only if he had walked far away, can we expect to see a different background landscape. The passing of time certainly allows Reiji to walk very far from Eren and the backgroud change supports it. Adding this to the the above analysis, where the disappearance of the bags suggests that Reiji had walked farther than the first tree. I am convinced that Reiji is not looking at Eren in the end, in fact, there were far apart.

    Going with this analysis, here is what I think happened: Reiji wanted to die to escape the “kill or be killed” lifestyle that he is trapped in. In Confrontation, where Reiji fought Eren, he practically gave up and asked Eren to end his life. The fact that Eren couldn’t do it because Reiji’s promise to make her smile was her reason to live forced Reiji to continue living. It was the one promise that he couldn’t break. In Showdown, where Reiji killed Cal, once again the audience is reminded that Reiji believed death to be the only escape, as he “freed” Cal from her suffering. In the end although Reiji didn’t actually see Eren smile, he believed that Eren would be truly happy now that she had found her origin, and that in itself fulfills his promise to her even without actually seeing her smile. For a character who seeks death to free himself from suffering an inescapable cruel destiny, it is not surprising that once he has fulfilled his promise to Eren, Reiji would seek to end his life.

    So, who shot Reiji? While it is tempting to have Eren shoot him in a romantic joined suicide. I believe that Reiji is no where near Eren in the end, which means it couldn’t have been Eren. So that leaves either the cart driver, or Reiji himself. Now, while I don’t believe any other assassin is skilled enough to best Reiji, if we see it in light of Reiji wanting to die for his own version of a “happy ending”, then it really doesn’t make any difference whether he kills himself or allows an inferno assassin to do the job. In Moment, when Reiji killed the child, the actual shooting was not shown, instead the screen went to an alley and the sound of a gun shot was replaced with the sound of a tin can hitting the ground. Similar cover ups are used regularly in this show, so it is possible to say that Reiji killed himself, and the wagon passing behind him simply “covered up” the actual shooting. Alternatively, Reiji may have been aware of an Inferno assassin on his tail, and having fulfilled his promise to Eren, he allows the assassin to give him the peace and escape he desired. Either way, the shooting was not accidental, because right after the shot, we get a face shot of Reiji which shows him smiling. Regardless of who shot him, Reiji happily accepts the outcome, not a drop of surprise on his face. This is solid proof that he wanted to die.

    Now we move on to the fate of Eren. Having established that she wasn’t the shooter and that Reiji had left her and walked to a difference place. When she turned around, the only thing she would see is that Reiji had left. Remember, these two understand each other perfectly, and they have been on the run together for 2 years before killing Scythe, and 6 more month after. Whatever Reiji is up to, Eren knows. If Reiji planned to die after he fulfills his promise to make Eren happy, Eren knows. So when she is finally happy, and she turns around to find Reiji gone, she knows that Reiji is going to die, and she understands that death to Reiji is actually salvation. I believe that finding her origin made her happy, but what finally brought out Eren’s true smile, was knowing that Reiji can now move on and end his suffering, as she was the reason that Reiji couldn’t die up to this point. Knowing that Reiji can finally be happy was the key that allowed Eren to smile for the first time, a true smile.

    As to whether Eren ended her own life by eating the poisoned flower, or she was simply staring blank into the sky, having not a single clue of how she should live her new life. I believe both outcomes are possible and neither is bad. To understand these outcomes, we have to look at the different quests of Reiji and Eren. While they were on the run together both seeking to find Eren’s origin. The two were not on the same quest. Reiji’s quest was to find an escape, an end to the fate that he was trapped in. Without the promise to Eren, he would have died when he fought Eren in the safe house, but the escape he wanted was denied him because he still had a promise to fulfill, and so he moves heaven and earth to make Eren happy, fulfilling his promise to her and finally finding his happy ending in escaping his cruel destiny. Eren’s quest was different, while Reiji wanted a way out, Eren wanted two different things, 1. proof of her existence and 2. a reason to live.

    During their first runaway attempt, Eren was obsessed with Reiji’s passport, because it proves his existence. In the death scenario where Eren eats the poisoned flower, she achieves goal number 1. When Eren says that the name Reiji gave her and their memories together were all she needed to live on, she is saying that she doesn’t need a past to prove her existence anymore, and to “live on” can be purely symbolic as living in memory of each other. In this scenario, Eren is happy that Reiji found his salvation, and she herself have found the proof of her existence, she is ready to die. Not death as an escape like Reiji, but death as a conclusion to having achieved what she wanted to do in life. With both characters having completed their quests, they join each other in the after life.

    In the alive scenario, where Eren lies in the grass with no clue of what to do with her new life, thus the motionless look in her eyes, Eren completes the second part of her quest, finding a reason to live. Again referring back to their first run away, Eren wanted to kill herself in the bathroom having lost her master, and thus her reason to live, she was unable to pull the trigger as she did not have free will at the time, there was no order to kill herself and ending her life goes against her instinct of self preservation. Reiji gave her a reason to live with a new name a promise to find her origin and making her happy. This kept Eren going, but she still depended on another person to stay alive, which she confessed when she fought Reiji in the safe house. In the end, when she said she had all she needed to live on, if interpreted literally, then Eren has finally broke free of her dependence on other people. She no longer needs Reiji or master to give her a reason to live, her new identity defined by her new name and her new memories is enough for her to go on. This is necessary for her to accept Reiji’s desire to die, for she no longer depends on him to shoulder her burdens. The missing flower pedal could symbolize Reiji, as he was an essential part of her life and now he is gone forever. Eren, having found a new life, is having trouble imagining what she should do with it, so she lies motionless in the grass lost in her thoughts.

    Beautiful story made even better by the open ending that allowed fans to fill in the gap with their imagination.

    • Alisa Says:

      Having watched quite a few anime(s) well, I have to say that this anime’s memory will live on. Your explanation, I believe, is accurate, thought it pains. Karma….that’s what all viewers need to know. Reiji is at peace…having fulfilled his promise to Elen. Know this….he always knew death was his only way out….his conscience wouldn’t allow him to live ‘happily ever after’. As you have rightly stated, both knew each other….therefore she knew only death would set him free…thus they all have closure (not forgetting Cal) and we, the audience should find closure and peace knowing that.

  27. Hey, just as a note to everyone leaving fantastic comments on this post (I’m still amazed that people are reading and replying to it more than two-and-a-half years after I wrote it!), I’m not replying to comments not because I don’t appreciate the thought you all have put into your theories on what happens at the end of Phantom, but because my memories of the series are so vague and fuzzy at this point that I’d never be able to do justice to anyone’s comments unless I rewatched the series.

    But, yeah, I’m struck every time WordPress informs me that I need to approve yet another comment from someone totally new to the site. You all are awesome!

  28. It is possible that the man who shot Reiji didn’t see Ein because she was facing the other direction, hunched over, and at a lower part of the hill. I think the killer was only suppose to shoot who he could see clearly and get out of that place without making a scene. Just a thought. d:D

  29. Inuyasha Says:

    Thank you sir, for your touch up on this wonderful anime, I have just finished watching it myself, and was left dumbfounded by the ending, but before assuming anger, or sorrow, I had to venture out and find support for what happened at the ending, and I just so happened to stumble here after another site.. However when reading your long detailed post, the only thing I could feel in myself was that it was in fact Zwei who killed Reiji with a self inflicted gunshot wound, and Ein who killed Eren with the petal of a poisonous flower to which I assume the artist has created, based upon a different flower I found while searching up different poisonous flowers … Yes, I know the victim and the killer are the one and the same, however I feel they murdered themselves, so that they could stay alive, living in death would seem to be such a more wonderful fate, than withering away drowned in sorrow in life. But that is just my own take, it is the conclusion that makes me feel truly happy… What I’m trying to say is, you helped me avoid the anger that was slowly swelling, killing that part within myself almost instantly, and I too could see the picture as a whole at the very conclusion. I am happy with this anime, and rate it a full 5 out of 5 stars, this has truly touched my heart.

  30. shibi Says:

    It seems clear to me that Reiji is dead. The most obvious explanation is that the man on the wagon shot him.

    In addition, Reiji knows that he is going to die as his thoughts are all in past tense. Eg. “I lived a life full of killing…” etc. His only purpose was to bring Erin home, which he accomplished.

    Others have posted that Reiji walks far away from Erin, as evidenced by the shift in sky color from day to sunset. This makes sense, as a way to draw the killer away from Erin.

    The scene where Erin turns and smiles is confusing, and can be interpreted in different ways. The way I see it, it is just an image of her “true smile” that Reiji thinks about before he is shot.

    The most ambiguous part of the ending is whether Erin is dead or not. It doesn’t make much sense that she would kill herself considering her speech about “finally being able to continue living” now that she found her home…

    The only two explanations are that
    A) She is alive, and just looking up at the sky.
    B) She kills herself (whether by gun or the poisonous flower) after finding Reiji dead.

    I personally think she is still alive, but I guess we’ll never know.

    All in all, I loved the series but the ending wasn’t perfect. I don’t mind either of them dying, but at least make it more clear to have some closure.

  31. The ending Does make since but it’s still gay. Reiji was happy to see elen smile and finally be happy. I was Hoping for reiji to go back and hook up with that other girl, and then finally everybody would be happy. But i get the way how it ends. basically They were tryna tell us if they killed people 2 become free, why do they have the right 2 kill and take someones life and think that there gonna be free. gay as h3ll but i knew one of them was gonna die in the end, just didnt think it would be like that. PS. I thought Reiji and Elen kinda had a thing going for each other?

  32. First off thank you so much for posting this! Phantom was one of my fav anime ever but the anime royaly pissed me off but the way you explained it was like a bitter-sweet ending and it suited the anime too so I think it was the best and worst ending possible. It’s hard to explain but I’m at peace with it so thank you!!!

  33. Fallout24 Says:

    He made the one promise he wanted to keep out of every lie he has made was to see Elen smile. Him dieing at that point showed how his life was now complete. I don’t believe he died do to the fact that Elen smiled. After getting her memory back I don’t think she would be worse and smile at death. Especially his death. One of the best stories ever.

  34. Keith Harper Says:

    Watching the last two discs last night and having them getting me all pumped up for the finale, and then having everything calm down afterwards for what seems to be a tranquil ending, at least with the enemies finally leaving well enough alone with the last Phantoms, and then the biggest WTF moment of any anime I ever saw happens (I seriously had to watch it twice to be sure I saw and heard it right, and then Elen smiles?!). I was royally pissed, and rightfully so, as I’ve come to see from reading everyone else’s opinions of the ending. I’ve been disappointed in an anime ending before, but here was the first time I was angry with it, let alone that it was because of my sympathies for the characters and not just the creators trying to screw with you (though they did nonetheless). It has bugged me all of the next day, and that’s what brought me here to make sure I was not alone in my sentiments. I see no matter what I choose to accept as the true ending, I’m still among friends, as we all know very well several reasons why Reiji should die, but when he does, we all still cry “Whyyyyyy?” To find this place, I literally typed “Requiem for the Phantom WTF Ending.”

    I have to admit, after it being already noted, that this place still getting replies after this long is incredible. It really is a testament to the fact that this anime stays with you in all its tragedy and scenarios and choices. It gives you an appreciation of beauty and life, and shows us that no matter who they are, everyone shows their humanity to someone, even cold-blooded killers.

    I also found it slightly ridiculous that Cal became a full-grown woman in two years, when before, it looked like she had barely even hit puberty. That being said, she’s still my favorite character, the favorite character I didn’t know was my favorite until surprisingly late in the series. She turns into a total badass, and by far the most theatrical phantom in my biased opinion, if an overly cruel Phantom at that (I didn’t not enjoy her killing Lizzie, as I had grown to like her once she and Reiji stopped butting heads, and a little before that). I really liked the scene where she is drinking and starts arguing with her late sister and Lizzie about what she’s become. It seems an important piece of material for the whole story and says a lot.

    You guys made it a lot easier for me to accept the ending after reading all these comments, as it opened me up to all these theories and the general sadness of the ending that we all felt pretty heavily ( it truly is something that I’m speaking of an anime here and not something in real life, since its that impressive of a show). This is one of the best animes I have ever seen, and one of the most messed up ones too. I think the most believable ending is that someone in the cart, the driver or someone hiding in it, shot Reiji, though I really like some of the alternatives you guys put out there better. I didn’t even think about Elen poisoning herself with the flower, but it seems like the romantic, sad, thing she’d do after he dies. I want a happy ending, and I guess at the least it would be bittersweet if she joins him in death, but after considering all you guys mentioned, yeah, the protagonists were NOT particularly good people, and the theme song is about karma, and they both feel guilty, and death catches up to most of the other main players, and they still made a lot of waves which would come back across the pool to drown, and the title is Requiem for the Phantom.

    I think maybe I may have said too much without offering any theory of my own on the situation, but I had to say something because this ending has been very prevalent in my head, even while I’m trying to watch a new anime. Sorry for this, but I have to offer this contribution to the stack of comments here so that it bugs me a little less. You guys are awesome for getting so intellectual about the series and almost analytical of Reiji’s death like a crime scene. But I’ve rambled on now enough…

  35. Ben M Says:

    Most my views have been said but what truly infuriates me is the feeling that the makers completely forget Mio and don’t explain what happens to her or her friends. After all she’s the catalyst for Reiji to kill Cal, Reiji to used Cal’s pocket watch to kill the ghosts, Elen’s kind of rebirth and so on.

    I don’t believe the fact that Reiji is prepared to die when she states she is happy with the memories of him and there’s no need for the past as he don’t come across to me as a half a job harry as some of my fellow British may say. He would at least have trained her to regain her old self she cant remember and keep her as his sister , mourn Cal, miss Claudia ( I think Reiji was Claudia’s replacement for Romero ) , Lizzie and marry Mio.

    Best anime ever for me but like most the great anime’s I’m annoyed ill never see another episode again just because the best anime’s go to fast and don’t copy bleach or Naruto to have a few hundred eps and more arcs / chapters.

    If anyone has a link to the manga that would be great ,and also does the manga carry on after this ? Just curious as its 2014 now.

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