Posted 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
  • Houlgrave
    (Friday, Apr 18. 2014 08:14 PM)
    No Game No Life will be fun while it lasts.
  • ninjarealist
    (Friday, Apr 18. 2014 08:11 PM)
    @Emma Totally agree, I like Chihiro, hell I like most of the girls more than Tenri, but it should have been a Tenri ending.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Apr 18. 2014 07:58 PM)
    Actually probably best to say it as “Keima actually did go for someone” instead of saying he.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Apr 18. 2014 07:56 PM)
    Final twgok: I just feel bad for Tenri here and disappointed then again…at least he actually did go for someone..so kind of mixed here…still , last few chapters have felt awkwardly done/series needed more chapters to wrap itself up. Still the highs of this series more than make up for it and I feel glad to have followed twgok to the end.
  • Nyangoro
    (Friday, Apr 18. 2014 07:42 PM)
    JoJo’s new ending theme is so appropriate, lol
  • Raggers
    (Friday, Apr 18. 2014 06:45 PM)
    Now that this season is going I think it is really good. I count 5 (!) shows which I’d consider truly great, a handful more easily in the “solid entertainment” category and I still have quite a few promising series to start watching xD
    Gods damn it Japan, I have exams.
  • ninjarealist
    (Friday, Apr 18. 2014 06:11 PM)
  • TheUltimateReaper
    (Friday, Apr 18. 2014 06:00 PM)
    @kj No Game No Life is fucking awesome what the hell are you talking about. It delivered in every way, I was worried there for a second but I think it’s all good. I hear it’s only getting a 10 episode run though. That’s a shame.
  • ninjarealist
    (Friday, Apr 18. 2014 05:50 PM)
    @kj This GIF pretty much sums up my feelings on NGNL episode 2
  • K-Off
    (Friday, Apr 18. 2014 03:11 PM)
    @Raggers I like people for short periods of time. No extension included though.

1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · »

Featured Posts

Clipboard07

Ping Pong – 02

Yes, I know that more people here were involved in making this series beyond Masaaki Yuasa. It’s written by the creator of Tekkon Kinkreet, Taiyo Mashimoto. That guy is awesome. And the combination between those two makes this series even better. Because here’s the thing: anime is significantly different from manga or light novels. Beyond […]

Clipboard02

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure – Stardust Crusaders – 02

We can never quite get rid of magic fights at a school, now can we, Jojo. Ah well, I forgive it this time, just due to how hilarious it looks seeing these ridiculously bulky men walk around pretending to be high school students. It’s just so over the top, and yet Jojo sets itself apart […]

Clipboard01

Mushishi Season 2 – 02

Oh yes. This is it. This is what storytelling should be about: telling real stories about real people, all with their own problems that need to be overcome. And this show does that time and time again in just one episode. I still can’t believe how authentic this series is. The thing is, when I […]

Clipboard02

Mushishi – Tokubetsu-hen

Mushishi holds a really special place in my heart. Back in November 2005, when I started up this blog, Mushishi was one of the first shows I picked up to cover weekly. At first I didn’t think much behind it: it just looked interesting and I wanted to cover it, but as it went on […]

Seasonal Anime Podcast – First Impressions – 2013 Fall Anime Season

Hey everyone, I participated in a podcast again, together with Deadlights (Deadlight’s Anime Blog) Flawfinder (Standing on my Neck) and Slashe (Behind the Nihon Review) with two new members, Landon (Mecha Guignol) and Tom (Nigorimasen) Today we talked about the past Fall season. You can find the link here, enjoy: http://deadlightanime.blogspot.nl/2013/10/seasonal-anime-podcast-first_12.html

Clipboard07

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Review – 89/100

There are a lot of ways to adapt something. Shounen battle series tend to very quickly fall into a very dull variation of that: really slow pacing that goes on forever with long boring drawn out battles that all look like each other. David Production looked at them, and just said “we can do better!” […]

Clipboard06

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure – 26

Oh Jojo. What an ending. I did not expect what would happen here at all. Perhaps the ending was not as impressive as with Psycho Pass or From the New World, but still this is every way in which a shounen series should end. You hear that, other shounen series? Watch this for how endings […]

Clipboard05

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure – 25

Okay, so I thought that this was the final episode so I was ready to go all out. And then at the end of this episode there was this “To be continued”-message. Yeah, I was confused. But boy, am I glad, because it means that there will be one more episode of Jojo. They managed […]

Clipboard06

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure – 23 & 24

And here are the penultimate episodes of Jojo. And seriously, I loved the fights here. The creators really went to the extreme, while keeping true to their philosophy of putting huge over the top powers on one hand, and really delicate things on the other. One one hand you have Stroheim yelling like crazy, while […]

Latest Reviews

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 […]

Clipboard01

Yahari Ore no Seishun no Love Come wa Machigatteiru Review – 82,5/100

I like surprises, like when a series comes that just turns out to be good against my expectations. Yahari Blahblah from the outside had all the signs to turn into yet another one of those high school comedies: snarky male lead, pointlessly long title that fails at being witty, various other cliched side-characters. And they […]