Posted by psgels on 6 April 2012 with categories: Anime Reviews, Phi Brain



Apologies for the delay on this review, but I first wanted to get all of the new episodes this season done. Phi Brain was a series that many people probably quickly discarded. It started really silly, and the entire premise takes a lot of suspense of disbelief to accept: “yeah, there is this kid who has to solve puzzles in order to battle this evil organization”. Most of the early episodes just consist out of Kaitou (the male lead) solving a bunch of puzzles.

Now, the puzzles are obviously a very big part of this series. If you can look past the silly premise, then you’ve got a series that can be quite creative when it comes to the puzzles that it throws at its main cast. The show actually presents its big puzzles so that the viewer can try to solve them himself, but only if he uses the pause button in the middle of each episodes. The characters in this series are usually very fast when it comes to solving puzzles, and it’s impossible to take everyone into account here. At a certain point int he series this series turns its puzzles into 1-on-1 battles anyway.

In any case, those who did keep watching were rewarded in the character department, because as soon as this show starts developing its character (I’d say with the arrival of Rook, around episode 10), it never stops. Kaitou in particular grows into a very sympathetic character, and the side characters all work around him, and all of them have a good backstory with especially good reasons for their actions. The creators actually convinced me that the entire premise was at least partly plausible. There are times when this show gets a bit too sappy, but the majority was really well directed and had this great combination between action and characterization.

Were the first episodes wasted then? Nah, they’re just silly. Beyond that are very creative puzzles and good stories, although this series does have its points where it completely ignores all of Newton’s laws. The characters are all enjoyable as well, and especially Gammon stands out in his quirky antics as not your ordinary rival.

Visually this series mostly stands out in its designs. Both the puzzles as the characters look unique. The actual animation of the characters is very inconsistent, but it’s nothing special or bad. The music is very well done, though.

This remains a shounen series, and it loses points for being a bit too sappy at times, but this nevertheless this was a very interesting attempt to do something different with the genre that is usually nothing but people throwing superpowers at each other. With some damn good characterization I do recommend this if you’re looking for something in that direction.

Storytelling: 8/10 – Well storyboarded and manages to make solving puzzles fun.
Characters: 9/10 – There is a surprising amount of depth to these charcters, which especially manifests in the second half.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Great designs, decent animation, good soundtrack.
Setting: 8/10 – Creative puzzles, but completely ignores the laws of physics at times. The whole premise of this show is also really hard to buy.

Suggestions:
The Law of Ueki
Kaleido Star
Princess Nine

8 Responses

  1. marthaurion says:

    I thought it was pretty interesting, but then again, I love puzzles (I solve Rubik’s Cubes). I’m pretty wary about the second season…not sure how they’re gonna top Rook as an antagonist.

    • joojoobees says:

      I am wondering about that myself. I’m kind of curious what the new evil puzzle givers are gonna be like, so I think I’ll tune in to the first episode to see where they take it.

      I would really like to see Kaito’s friends branch out a bit on their own. Now that they have been established, they seem to have a lot of potential, but with Kaito around, they seem to get forced into mere supporting roles.

  2. gem2niki says:

    Thanks for blogging this series throughout since so many dropped it! It became such an entertaining series to follow. I’m so impressed by the great characterization that it became one of my favorite out of this season.

  3. tktym says:

    You know, I was really heading into this series to like it. . .but after the first five minutes, it came and by that I mean the female lead drop kicking the male lead, for “comedy” or whatever. That’s when I closed the window and never looked back. I am really tired of shit like that, why cant there just be Normal female leads (a.k.a. moretsu pirates) I Just found that tsundere-whatever the hell it is, poitnless crap that I have seen for the umpteenth time in anime and Im just sick of it.

    • Rolca says:

      I don’t recall gratuitous physical abuse of this sort happening too often. From episode 5 onwards the only regular abuse comes in the form of Nonoha Sweets and Nonoha is the most normal regular character of the show anyway. She doesn’t solve puzzles and gets frustrated because she can’t help Kaito. It eventually gets better and the directors promise more character development in S2.

  4. Et2012 says:

    I just wish the puzzles had been solved more methodically without magical voodoo bracelets or Yu-Gi-Oh style Egyptian necklaces.

    I love shows like Shion no Ou, where the “battle” is purely a mental challenge, but shows where the characters solve these challenges using magic or other plot devices to get through their problems without “thinking them out” step-by-step really bother me.

    I remember learning a ton about the game of Shogi from Shion no Ou. What can I really learn about puzzles from Phi Brain? Do I need to become some kind of sorcerer to solve advanced cross-word puzzles?

    • Rolca says:

      You actually don’t learn much about puzzles from Phi Brain itself because there’s a side-show airing after each episode that does it instead, and that side-show doesn’t reach us. There’s also an episode-related weekly puzzle on the official site.
      The first episodes are classic sudokus and such. The characters occasionally tell a little about how to solve it, but it’s probably nothing you didn’t know of already. The later episodes, as said above, are more akin to fights, but there’s no narrated strategizing, so no luck on this side either.

      All in all Phi Brain is a series about puzzles where you don’t learn about puzzles. A strange thing that isn’t what you expect but for the better.

  5. Hogart says:

    Wow, this really improved. I’m glad I gave it a second chance.. it felt almost like Letter Bee or Kobato in that respect. It was a bit too campy for my tastes, but they really managed to handle their drama and characterization pretty darn well.. much better than most of the stuff that aired that season, that’s for sure. They made really good use of the childhood symbols and events, and I even liked a few of the crazier puzzles near the ending. Here’s hoping season two feels this oddly cohesive.

Leave a Reply

Shoutbox

Name:
Email:
For:  
Mail will not be published
  • Friend
    (Saturday, Nov 1. 2014 05:54 AM)
    The more I use it, the less appealing Deviantart becomes. I’ve only been using it for 6 months and I have some problems with the community at large. I don’t mix well, basically :-/ I think I’ll start posting my art in other places, like Google+.
  • AidanAK47
    (Saturday, Nov 1. 2014 05:03 AM)
    Oh right it’s Halloween….I completely forgot.
  • ninjarealist
    (Saturday, Nov 1. 2014 03:43 AM)
    @Bam And Happy Halloween to you as well.
  • ninjarealist
    (Saturday, Nov 1. 2014 03:42 AM)
    @Emma Wish I could tell you more.
    @Bam I’m going to engage in copious sitting in my room and sleeping because I had a bear of a day at work. Left some fruit-flavored corn sryup snacks on the porch for the kids.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Nov 1. 2014 03:22 AM)
    Happy Hallows’ Eve everybody! Go engage in copious debauchery of the highest order, but just remember to make it back alive ;)
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Nov 1. 2014 02:56 AM)
    @Realist: =< Ah I see, was asking around just in case it was worth watching.
  • ninjarealist
    (Saturday, Nov 1. 2014 02:42 AM)
    @Emma I haven’t seen that one, no.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Nov 1. 2014 02:25 AM)
    @Realist: Have you seen only lovers left alive by Jim Jarmusch?
  • afgm
    (Saturday, Nov 1. 2014 02:05 AM)
    @Syndrom: Don’t strat too hard…
  • ninjarealist
    (Saturday, Nov 1. 2014 01:00 AM)
    @Emma Very true. But a lot of people don’t realize or acknowledge that.

1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · »

Featured Posts

Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis- 04

By now, I have a general idea of where this story is going. Our characters finally face the main villains of the story and starting next episode, I reckon that we’ll get some real story progression because frankly, the past few episodes did almost nothing to get me to care much for the characters, no matter […]

Nanatsu no Taizai Episode 1-4

Sorry for not giving this a first impression but I felt that to do so at this point would be redundant. So Nanatsu no Taizai, or Seven Deadly Sins if you prefer. An anime that certainly does nothing new. Every ounce of which filled with standard shounen battle manga tropes. Yes this anime does nothing […]

Gugure! Kokkuri-San- 04

By now, I have a general idea of how the writers are going to go forward with this show. This show continues to jump the gun without setting up a clear voice for itself while pulling off some genuinely fun comedy, creating this weird combination that is somewhat off-putting yet fairly enticing. However, this episode […]

Grisaia no Kajitsu – 04

That’s it. I give up. I concede. I throw in the towel. I surrender. This is just a travesty, an unsalvageable mess. I have given this more patience than it deserves and it has rewarded me with tedium. The editing is schizophrenic and distracting. The dialogue and events passing by too fast for emotional impact. […]

Your Lie in April – 02 & 03

Your Lie in April has emerged as a bit of a nice surprise in this young season. The fairly popular noitaminA programming block has been pretty hit-and-miss of late, with some very good shows here and there but a much higher rate of complete duds compared to the block’s past. For this reason I approached […]

Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Bladeworks – 03

Well what can I say besides, I told you so. But even though I knew what was coming this is still remarkable. Not only is this episode excellent but it may in fact have topped it’s source material. It is at times like these that it is difficult to be both a Fate fan and […]

Akatsuki no Yona – 03

Hak and Yona flee Soo-Won’s men, but Yona’s mental and physical condition continue to deteriorate. Yona and Hak are both haunted by memories from the past. This was easily the best episode in the series so far. Whereas the first two episodes primarily took place in the present or the future, this episode is mostly spent in […]

Grisaia no Kajitsu – 03

This isn’t looking good. Let me explain, Grisaia has a somewhat nakige visual novel approach. Meaning that it has a comedic relatively plotless first half, followed by a tragic heroine backstory related story arc. Notable examples of this is any Key visual novel anime adaption you can think of. So for the first half we […]

Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis- 03

Okay, so this episode didn’t focus on Leone and Amira’s adventure. Instead, it focuses on building Kaisar’s character and it does so a bit awkwardly. This episode takes Kaisar and puts him into an overly bombastic situation in order to tell us about Kaisar’s past family problems, but it was so out of tone from […]

Latest Reviews

Clipboard06

Nerawareta Gakuen Review – 84/100

Let me talk a bit about Ryousuke Nakamura. For a long time, this guy was my hero. He started off as an assistant director to Monster, in my opinion a big reason why that series got such a ridiculously solid adaptation, and then in 2008 he came with the groundbreaking Mouryou no Hako. No TV-series […]

Clipboard03

Kick Heart

Okay, so I didn’t want to exit 2013 without having seen Masaaki Yuasa’s Kick Heart. It’s only twelve minutes anyway, and I consider him to be one of the best anime directors out there. The story here is pretty silly and mostly serves as a backdrop, so I mostly want to talk about the nature […]

Clipboard01

Kyousogiga Review – 90/100

Everyone’s taste is different, and that’s a wonderful thing because that allows us to have so many different forms of media that all aim toward their own niche. My blog is obviously written from the perspective of my own taste, and even when a show doesn’t cater to it (which is nearly always), I love […]

Clipboard04

Ore no Nounai Sentakushi ga, Gakuen Lovecome o Zenryoku de Jama Shiteiru Review – 80/100

Noucome! You do not want to know how long I have been waiting for a series like this. More than half a decade, at the very least. Finally a series comes along and puts the incredibly overused harem genre in its place. And it actually does it well. Thank you! So to elaborate: the harem […]

Clipboard01

Pokemon: The Origin Review – 75/100

Normally I try to avoid spoilers with these reviews, but screw it, it’s Pokemon. Pokemon The Origin is a bomb of nostalgia. If you haven’t played Pokemon Red, Blue or Green, then you will not enjoy this one slight bit. This really is made as pure undilluted fanservice for the fans of the first games. […]

Clipboard08

Tamayura – More Aggressive Review – 75/100

I’m not going to dedicate a post for my impression for the final three episodes of this series. It was just too boring to write much about. I guess that that gives a pretty accurate indication of what I think about this series. Right at the start of Tamayura’s second season, I asked one question: […]

Clipboard04

Silver Spoon Review – 86/100

When Noitamina started airing two series per season, it was amazing. It’s a timeslot that on average tends to be aimed at a much older audience than usual, and having two series with the same mentality definitely helped to bring more diversity to anime overall. Unfortunately it’s a schedule that could not be kept up […]

Clipboard07

Yondemasuyo, Azazel-San Z Review – 82,5/100

Reviewing a comedy sequel usually is quite simple: in most cases it just drops the bomb and runs out of inspiration, and in rare cases it actually manages to stay hilarious. The tricky thing with these kinds of series is that you need to remain funny, and you need to have the inspiration for that. […]

Clipboard05

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet Review – 81/100

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet tells the storyline of a planet that is completely submerged, with only giant ships residing on the surface, while one of those ships gets visited by this guy and his AI-mecha from this very technologically advanced civilization. Yes, this show is about world building. What this show managed to do […]