I’ve loved phantom thieves since I was a kid. Their fantastical flair and ability to steal anything from under anyone’s nose fascinate me to this day, even if their wild stunts do sometimes defy the laws of physics. Their fondness for theatrics are shown through the costumes they wear, which make them very fun characters to cosplay!
Without further ado, let’s begin!
1. KAITOU KID
Starting off with a classic and one of my favourites! Magic-obsessed teenager Kuroba Kaito by day, elusive-yet-showy thief by night, Kaitou Kid’s deft sleights of hand, outrageous tactics, and daring escapes (including driving a car out of a skyscraper window) have dazzled fans since 1987. Although it seems like he steals for the fun of it, Kid is actually trying to find and destroy a gem that grants immortality before the organisation that killed his father can get to it.
You can find him in the Magic Kaito manga, the 2014 adaptation Magic Kaito 1412, or the Detective Conan series (which is known as Case Closed in the US), where he often appears as a rival of the main character, Edogawa Conan.
Many of the side characters have fairly simple designs as well, so this is a great group cosplay idea for beginners!
Kuroba Kaito and his alter ego, Kaitou Kid
Kaito’s childhood sweetheart, the energetic Nakamori Aoko
One of the few who are a match for Kaitou Kid, the genius detective Hakuba Saguru
2. PHANTOM R
Another teenager in disguise, Phantom R is a thief slightly unlike his more traditional associates – he returns the artworks he steals! He only pursues treasures that may hold a clue to his missing father, and has no need to keep them if they do not prove to be useful. When he isn’t busy sneaking around in museums, the swift Phantom R spends the remainder of his nights jumping over the rooftops and theatre balconies of Paris with his pet dog Fondue as he evades the police force. The rollerblading police force. When he isn’t up to his usual hijinks as a thief, he prefers to flip pancakes and toss treats to Fondue to the beat of the music in this funky (and, sadly, obscure) rhythm game from Sega.
Plain (for video game standards, anyway) student Raphael is actually the notorious Phantom R
The skilful violinist Marie crosses paths with Phantom R one fateful night
The son of the police inspector who pursues Phantom R, Charlie Vergier is one of Phantom R’s rivals
3. KAITOU JEANNE
The 1998 manga Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne (which saw an anime adaptation a year later) reveals the secret life of high school gymnast Kusakabe Maron. A modern day reincarnation of the French heroine Jeanne D’Arc, Kaitou Jeanne is Maron in her transformed phantom thief/magical girl state. Though, technically, she does not steal anything – she is on a sacred mission to save God which involves defeating demons that just happen to reside in artworks. After the demons are defeated, the artwork disappears so it seems like they were stolen. Thus, the public begins to call her a phantom thief.
Jeanne’s rival, Kaitou Sinbad. Unbeknownst to her, Sinbad knows of her real identity although she does not know his.
Jeanne and Sinbad’s companion angels, Fin Fish and Access Time.
4. KAITOU JOKER
A phantom thief with admittedly less noble goals than the ones above, the eponymous Kaitou Joker loves to go after treasures as rare and flashy as his bright red and purple outfit. However, even if his aims do not include saving God or uncovering the truth surrounding a missing parent, the proud Joker adheres to the age-old phantom thief code of honour and makes sure he sends the treasure’s owner a notice in advance so they can prepare for him, making it a fair game of wits. Despite the show mainly appealing to children, the antics of Joker and crew are capable of entertaining an older audience, too!
Top: Joker next to his enemy, Shadow Joker, and the main big bad of the series, Professor Clover.
Middle: Hachi, a young ninja who decides to follow Joker after witnessing his miraculous escape from atop a skyscraper. Beside him is Dark Eye, the assistant of the blue-haired Spade. Spade has been Joker’s friend and rival since childhood, along with Queen, who is next to him. Her companion is the talking dog, Roko.
Bottom: The man who taught Joker, Spade, and Queen everything they know about what it means to be a phantom thief – the legendary Silver Heart.
5. ARSENE LUPIN III
Left to right: Zenigata Kouichi, Ishikawa Goemon XIII, Arsene Lupin III, Jigen Daisuke, Mine Fujiko
I confess, this is a series I have not yet watched or read (forgive me!) – however, as one of the most popular and oldest phantom thief franchises of Japan, Lupin III deserves a spot on this list.
In this story, Arsene Lupin III (a.k.a. Wolf) is the grandson of Arsene Lupin, one of the earliest phantom thieves (known as a “gentleman thief” during his time). As the world’s greatest thief, his adventures take not only him and his gang all over the world, but also Inspector Zenigata Kouichi, who has made it his life’s mission to capture Lupin. However, Zenigata is constantly outsmarted by him, the sharpshooter Jigen Daisuke, and swordsman Ishikawa Goemon XIII. Although the Inspector cannot catch up to the thief, the devious Mine Fujiko often does, both as a comrade and a rival.
Consistency is not favoured around these parts, but hey – more variety for you guys, but I guess more laundry for them…?
A man with an outfit that speaks louder than everything on this list, and a story just about as bizarre as his naming sense. Although his first heist was a great success, his attempt to conceal his identity and divert suspicion was not. Mask☆DeMasque’s grand plan involved stashing his costume in a nearby bin, then donning his day work uniform and pretending to investigate the crime scene. However, somebody spotted the costume and found out that the thief was actually Ron DeLite, a security guard. What they didn’t find out, though, was that Ron decided to become a thief because his meagre paychecks couldn’t support his beloved wife’s tendency to spend really, really big.
It only gets more ridiculous from here, but I guess you’ll have to find out what happens during his trial by picking up a copy of the DS/iOS game Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations!
Yep, he turns up to court like this
Zvarri! I present, the ace detective Luke Atmey!
Although not in the same game (find her in Ace Attorney Investigations!), Kay Faraday is the heir of the “Yatagarasu” title, a thief who prefers to steal and expose the illegal secrets of those who wish to stay hidden
6.SPECIAL SHOUT-OUT – PERSONA 5
This highly anticipated game has been scheduled for release this year, and although there is not much I can write about so far, the designs and trailer (which you can view below) are simply spectacular so I thought it was worth mentioning!
While we are waiting for this game, why not catch up with the previous Persona titles if you haven’t already? Persona 3 and 4 are the most popular, with many sequels and adaptations, but 2 and the original Persona are worth experiencing too. Don’t worry if you can’t or don’t feel up to it, as all the titles are standalone.
That’s it for now – I hope you guys enjoyed reading this list! Of course, it does not cover all the other wonderful phantom thieves out there, so give them a share of the limelight they deserve in the comments!