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
  • Bam
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 09:55 AM)
    Or as we Persians call it “Yalda’s Night”.
  • Bam
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 09:55 AM)
    Happy winter solstice y’all!
  • Emma
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:47 AM)
    Though Aidan this is your chance to throw up a full review as a blog post that isn’t for an ongoing series.
  • Emma
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:37 AM)
    Wait, ha I’ve figured it out, most of his work I couldn’t give a toss enough to get immersed in the plots either. Though yes I got immersed in Saya, which really goes to show that if a story is good enough to me I should be able to be fairer and not be too hard on the characterization.
  • Emma
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:32 AM)
    Even though his works alienate me with their poor characterization, still still I was able to not care about that issue in Kikokugai and Saya no uta.
  • Emma
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:24 AM)
    I forgot to say also a few pages back it needed more action scenes also. I could honestly see myself getting distracted from the thinness of it if there were more.
  • AidanAK47
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:24 AM)
    I wasn’t tying Gargania and Aldnoah. Hell Gargania was a step in the right direction for characters. Problem was that Gen only gave an outline. It Gen can’t write characters then he should leave them to other people and just handle story structure and the plot. It worked pretty damn well for Fate/zero.
  • Emma
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:21 AM)
    But I’ve got a feeling Juno might not be so bothered by psycho pass 2 I do recall him saying before it aired he gave off the suggestion wasn’t going to come down hard on Tow.
  • Emma
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:20 AM)
    *I’d
  • Emma
    (Monday, Dec 22. 2014 06:20 AM)
    I really wish Juno was here, really would right now because I’ love to see him argue for psycho pass 2 and Expelled from paradise.

1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · »

Featured Posts

Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Bladeworks – 11

Well here’s something you don’t see often in shounen series. Consequences. It’s another quiet episode and due to Shirou pulling that magic trick last episode he is now suffering from after effects. Having what looks to be a painful night and going through the day with the left side of his body numb. Though it […]

Recommendation corner 02 – Light novels #1

Its very easy to disregard the light novel genre completely as it is responsible for the creation of quite a number of unoriginal, bad and shameless pandering anime in recent years. However there still are worthwhile stories within the genre. They are just a little less known.   Mushoku Tensei Description: A 34-year-old NEET otaku […]

Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Bladeworks – 10

Very nice start to the beginning of the episode with the Unlimited Bladeworks chant. Sure, it has been parodied to kingdom come but I still love it and all it’s broken engrish glory. But now I can say it with certainty. This series is not suitable for being watched weekly. In watching this episode I […]

Nanatsu no Taizai – 10

Fights blew past fast this episode. We had four fights in one episode so my previous fears of this getting dragged look to be untrue.  Notables being the fight between a mystery girl and a holy knight whose head is so disproportionate from his body that you could swear someone took the head of a […]

Gugure! Kokkuri-San- 06-10

So I’ve been gone for a while partially because of work, school, and my political activities, but also because I wanted to try approaching how I review in a (hopefully) interesting way. I’d be interested in hearing your feedback on this, as I am trying to inject more of my own personality into the way […]

Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Bladeworks – 09

The pattern continues with another building up episode. Admittedly I find this somewhat disappointing. I feel that this show would be better marathoned than watched weekly as the wait for what is a essentially a build up to the next episode can hamper the experience a bit. As I said before, this show would work […]

Nanatsu no Taizai – 09

The fight between explosives girl and the sins was ended quicker than I thought. When King entered the fight it was settled almost immediately.  King made short work of her as Elaine provided some supposedly badass exposition saying how King is originally known as the king of the fairies, harlequin. I say supposedly because it […]

Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Bladeworks – 08

Another episode has come and gone. This episode marking the first casualty of the holy grail war. Looks like Rider is out of the running. It is a bit sad to see her go so unceremoniously and even defeated off screen. Well, we shall see you again in the upcoming heavens feel movie, where you […]

Nanatsu no Taizai – 08

There was a few questionable things here this episode. The episode starts with the new villain quite literally killing herself to enter the kingdom of the dead. Which is a big risk considering it was based on one sentence from a child she was threatening. True being a shounen show there’s likely some magical biology […]

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 […]