What's it about?
Setting: Contemporary Japanese high school
People have become able to see 'phantoms', which covers spirits, demons, anything supernatural. Some adolescents were born with the ability to fight and seal any phantoms causing trouble, which they do by joining their school's phantom hunting club, forming teams and trapping phantoms for rewards. In this episode we meet one such, made up of knowledgeable Haruhiko and athletic Mai, as they try to recruit the genteel Reina.
How's the fanservice content?
*Not an actual game yet, but give me time.
Opening credits aside, the first fanservice is at 3 minutes 30 seconds in - our introduction to Mai.
Fanservice Assessment rating: Obvious, first because of this:
But maybe that's just for the kidneys - when she summons the power of other elements she uses a different movement, right?
The other reason this show is rated Obvious is this scene:
What's good about it?
Ghosts and monsters aren't exactly new territory for anime, but making the 'phantom' label applicable to any supernatural presence gives them ample opportunity to come up with a fresh angle each episode. They're also going for goofy (unlike your standard vengeance-seeking utility poles, which tend to take things more seriously), making for a fun monster-of-the-week set-up. We don't get hints of a larger arc in this episode, but they do give some backstory about how humans developed the ability to see phantoms which could open some interesting doors.
Despite being surrounded by fanservice Haruhiko makes every effort not to sexualise any of the women around him. Mai treats Haruhiko like an annoying younger brother and Haruhiko treats Mai like his boss - it's a fun dynamic to watch.
Between proud, blunt Mai, gentle, polite Reina and Haruhiko's mischievous genie phantom Ruru, the female characters have very distinct personalities (and Mai is the only one with her cup size, unlike some anime which seem to have a D-cup minimum standard for Japanese schoolgirls). For his part, unlike a lot of male protagonists in this season's anime Haruhiko is neither everyman nor superhero. He is a voracious reader who is physically unfit and a little flaky but insistent that he pulls his weight in the team when Mai makes pointed comments about it.
For what it's worth, this episode passes the Bechdel Test (do at least two women have a conversation about something other than a man?) with ease, as Mai and Reina discuss phantoms and Reina's old school even in their few minutes on screen together. This team is far from finalised, and I expect the other incoming characters to interact just as positively.
The show is genre savvy, which I always appreciate, and even though it subverts fanservice tropes in a way that generates more fanservice I like how self-aware the humour is.
I also enjoyed the fight sequences. I'll take martial arts over mecha any day (sorry, Gundam - I still love you though!), so - boob physics aside - watching Mai fight is a treat.
The writers also used both fight scenes to give us more information about the characters rather than stopping everything for a pretty showdown, which, again, I always appreciate.