Phantom Thief

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The Phantom Thief is a special class of criminal. An elusive and fantastic thief who can be long gone before the victim even knows what hit him. Just as likely to be an antihero as a villain.

There is no single set model of the Phantom Thief, but they usually have some of the following characteristics.

Particularly common in Japanese media, stemming from the popularity of Arsène Lupin in Japan. The Japanese word for it is Kaitou.

Compare Gentleman Thief and Classy Cat Burglar. If part of their motivation is the thrill of stealing then they are also The Kleptomaniac. See also Loveable Rogue, Anti-Hero.

Examples of Phantom Thief include:


  • McDonalds' Hamburglar.

Anime and Manga

Comic Books



He's the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad's despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime--Macavity's not there!

  • Comus from the Ellery Queen short story "The Dauphin's Doll" in Calendar of Crime.

Live-Action TV

  • Kamen Rider Diend has a character actually named Daiki Kaitou, but he's only partway to being a full-fledged Phantom Thief. He has the "theft of valuable objects" and "uses trickery and illusions" bits down, but his personality boils down to "real-life Troll" for his victims (especially Tsukasa), and he steals not out of a sense of social justice but because he enjoys it (though that's just his assertion, in truth it's because he's trying to fill the void left behind by his brother being brainwashed by a crime boss).
  • Il Ji-mae[context?]
  • Parker on Leverage is this, being the only member of the team to never have been put in prison.

Video Games

  • Trilby epitomizes this trope in The Art of Theft. He continues to be one in The Chzo Mythos, though he soon finds his chosen vocation can be stressful.
  • Neeshka from Neverwinter Nights 2, although certainly interested in money, mostly sees burglary as a sort of competitive game, taking delight in difficult heists.
  • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations, Mask☆DeMasque (yes, complete with the star) is a Phantom Thief - and he's your client. The same case gives us his self-declared Ace Detective rival, Luke Atmey.
    • Guess what: he really isn't. Further guess what: he really is but he didn't commit the theft in question - that was Atmey, who was responsible for putting him up to most of his previous heists and was using this one as an alibi.
    • It's an awesome moment when you get the loveable little bastard cleared of all the crimes he actually did commit, almost by accident.
    • Ace Attorney Investigations has another in "The Great Yatagarasu", a sort of Intrepid Reporter version of the Vigilante Man. The Yatagarasu has two odd quirks compared to other phantom thieves. First; the Yatagarasu doesn't steal much that's tangible. Rahter, the thief makes off with evidence of dirty dealings and makes them public. Secondly, the Yatagarasu doesn't actually send calling cards to the victim beforehand. Rather, the victim doesn't know that their info was even stolen, until it shows up on the news, having been delivered to the authorities alongside a calling card. Actually, there's three of "him", all Cowboy Cops. One however is The Mole planted in the group to keep them away from a smuggling ring. They are Byrne Faraday, Detective Tyrell Badd and Calisto Yew (She's the mole.)
  • In the Thief series, Garrett is a classic Phantom Thief and Anti-Hero, though he steals for his own gain as well as for the thrill of it.
    • The higher difficulty levels impose a code of honor (no killing humans; zombies and the like are fair game). The Fandom takes it further still, with a common Self-Imposed Challenge being the Ghost run - a playthrough in which Garrett gets in, steals everything not nailed down, and gets out again without anyone even suspecting he was ever there.
      • To clarify, Ghosting means leaving no evidence anyone was there. No unlocked doors (lock them again), nobody looked round and asked "What's that noise?", no broken windows, no doused torches (in Thief 2, which this is very popular for, re-lighting torches is easy) and definitely nobody injured or killed. The only difference is all the loot is gone.
  • Skye from Harvest Moon DS Cute is widely known as "Phantom Skye". He doesn't seem to steal for any other reason other than for the fun of it (or, should you choose to woo him, to meet with the player).
    • Actually, Skye steals because he wants to make really good curry. The items he steals are ingredients and other people's curry dishes (to taste them).
  • Kasumi Goto of Mass Effect 2.

I'm the best thief in the galaxy. Not the most famous.

    • She would lampshade leaving notes and signs of her robberies by saying her partner\lover Keiji got her out of the habit.
  • Sly Cooper.
  • Wario Master of Disguise features Wario becoming one of these using a magic wand he took from a real phantom thief.
  • The Phantom from Maple Story, the member of the Thief class among the original Five Heroes who sealed The Black Mage.
  • Most versions of Carmen Sandiego.

Web Comics

  • Geist from the webcomic Heist. He lives in a superhero universe and only his former clients even know he exists.
  • The unknown rook (thief) in Snow By Night, who goes after objects having to do with hearts. Even the other rooks are baffled by this person. Turns out the thief is Snow By Night, a manitou with magic powers, which explains why she is so hard to find.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • Shego from Kim Possible. It's better to steal things than to buy them, because doing so nets you something important in the tools of the trade; experience.