Episodes seen: 1-20 of 24
It is the year 2100, and on the colonised Moon, a project is under way to explore new aspects of energy. Amami Kurau is the daughter of the chief scientist on the project, and on her 12th birthday, she accompanies her father to the lab to observe the experiments. Then something goes awry, and Kurau is struck by twin bolts of light. In the aftermath, her father is dismayed to find that his daughter is no longer his daughter. Rather, her body is now home to two energy entities with fantastic powers.
Herself the Elf sez: Kurau: Phantom Memory starts off with a bang - in the first ep we see child Kurau 'replaced' by the alien Rynax, but it seems that there has been some sort of melding, since the new Kurau has all of her old memories and becomes more like her old self as days go by. Then we cut to ten years later, where she has become an 'agent', sort of a spy/thief/bodyguard, a job where she excels by using her supernatural powers in secret. She is always lonely, though, as her 'pair' (all Rynax energy beings are twins) is still asleep within her. Then one day her twin awakes, and her adventure starts.
Kurau's powers are really cool and the CG animation is pretty spiffy, so it's easy to get caught up in this series right from the start. Plus I was really impressed to see a cool, competent heroine that has superpowers without having to wear some stupid magical girl outfit or have giant boobs. Kurau is pretty tomboyish, but when her twin (whom she names Christmas) shows up she's very sweet and protective so we get to see both sides of her personality. At its core the series is about love, empathy and struggling to live one's life simply against all odds. The general feel is sweetly subdued and nostalgic with scattered points of excitement.
The show is somewhat uneven in its pacing - there are some high points of action and tension, while several (too many, IMO) episodes are devoted to showing the bond between Kurau and Christmas - but despite that the story is interesting enough to carry it off as long as you're fairly patient and don't mind a more leisurely pace with the plot. The art and animation are nice and clean, although sometimes simplistic (it is TV after all) and the CG is very well done. The music is very nice too, with a hauntingly beautiful ending song by Yukari Katsuki and a delightfully light and frothy opening song by Akino Arai.
With an interesting premise, good writing, and a quietly cool and stylish tone, Kurau: Phantom Memory is poignant and beautiful and definitely recommended (although not if you have a short attention span). It's definitely a refreshing change after so much of the derivative, regurgitated crap we've been seeing in anime.
Available from ADV.