Posted by psgels on 26 September 2012 with categories: Anime Reviews, Phi Brain



So, Phi Brain. A show that baffled me for the past year more than any other series, and it did so in many ways. It was the source of many frustrations, but also many surprises. When the first season started it seemed like just an ordinary shounen series with very good characters. Then a second season got announced and things started. The thing is that the first season was very conclusive and didn’t really leave many plot threats behind. On top of that, it was all about Kaito and his history, and it really had this storyline that used its main cast at its best. So how on earth were they going to top that?

Well indeed, the second season didn’t turn out to be as good as the first, but it did so for complete different reasons than what I imagined. The creators actually came up with a new set of very good villains here. The charm of the first season, it surprisingly good characterization: it stayed here. There was cheese, Oh GOD, there was cheese, but it used this cheese really well to create memorable villains and actually ended up very heart-warming with a very good chemistry between all of the different members of the cast. The themes were great and it ended with a satisfying climax that really exceeded my expectations. So what went wrong?

Well, the balance is all over the place. The thing is that the stories of the first and second season are about equal in size, but the way in which they spend their time is very different. The first season had random stories: a first half of completely unrelated stories to flesh out the cast. In the second season however, every episode is important to the plot in a direct way. The problem however is that this show doesn’t have the material to fill 25 episodes. The result? Well, four episodes of solving the exact same puzzle over and over again. In a series that prides itself with its creative puzzles, that indeed is as fun as it sounds.

On top of that, the way in which this series manages its cast in this season is really bizarre and questionable. It all works out in the end, but oh boy, it has a lot of hurdles. Most importantly, the central focus of the plot is brainwashing. The entire cast of villains is brainwashed into acting weird and illogical. You do not want to know how long it takes for this to get properly fleshed out and some actual depth, because this series has spent nearly its entire airtime to get to that point. At the start the characters come off as shallow stupid and illogical bastards.

And then there is the great cast of characters of the first season, who honestly have trouble figuring out what to do in the sequel here. In one way it’s good, because the characters who did not have a focus in the first season can now really shine here (with the best example being Ana Gram), but it also is a bit of a shame to see once strong characters wander around slightly aimlessly and looking for things to do. Gammon especially suffered here, but also Nonoha is pretty bad. She keeps wanting to do something, and yet the creators hardly ever let her, despite hinting at how she still is important. Only near the end does that start to matter, and in the meantime she is just there for the token female to cook dinner.

Beyond that, the usual issues with Phi Brain still stand: when you think about it, it just makes no bloody sense. Especially the way in which this series seems to think that you can hack anything and do some mumbo jumbo in order to gather data are really bad if you start thinking about it even once. This show just has a story to tell and doesn’t care how illogical it gets, and yet it does this better than the likes of Horizon, because the story it does end up telling becomes pretty damn good when it wants to and is actually focused. I mean you can say a lot about Phi Brain, but it has a damn good cast of characters.

Storytelling: 7/10 – You call that balance?! Riddled with issues, way too long (we’re at 50 episodes now and a third season has been announced!), yet surprisingly focused and well built up.
Characters: 8.5/10 – The saving grace for this series. Very good and heart-warming all around. A bit too heavy on the cheese though.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Definitely not Sunrise’s dream team here, though it has its moments at the beginning and end where it looks really pretty.
Setting: 8.5/10 – I have to give points for this series: it took a setting that seemed impossible to make believable: people fight using puzzles and brainwash each other in order to evolve human kind. And it pulled it off. Sure it took a lot of trouble, but it did.

Suggestions:
The Law of Ueki
Spiral
Suteki Tantei Labyrinth

6 Responses

  1. sushiyassin55 says:

    With all due respect psgels, I find it sad that you give a series like Phi Brain an 80. I mean, it’s too cliche; wouldn’t a score like 70 be fairer?

  2. Mormegil says:

    At least Nonoha let her hair down.

  3. sam says:

    I can’t believe you finished Phi Brain but not Bakuman!

  4. psgels psgels says:

    I disagree. Phi Brain had things that set itself apart, and it realized it was completely stupid. Bakuman kept trying to do things to stand apart, but this turned it into this dull soap opera broken up by a really slow pacing. Phi Brain at least delivered when it mattered.

  5. Hououin Kyouma says:

    I completely agree this time with Psgels! Phi Brain did somethings unexpectable and it is fun to watch excluding the beach ep for example. But Bakuman just goes up and down each week!! It’s still nice, but nothing risky anymore.

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  • Bam
    (Saturday, Apr 30. 2016 10:44 AM)
    In a world where Urotsukidoji gets 3 series of OVAs there is nothing you want to make that is too risqué or edgy that nobody would want to pick up. I get a small startup trying to push their fist film out, but most big Kickstarters are ran by bigname talents that already have a string of hits on their resume. C’mon, just have some faith in your work, it’s just crazy to ask for money upfront.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Apr 30. 2016 10:37 AM)
    SuperMario: I assume you mean Charlie Kaufman’s new film, in which case he already did pretty much whatever he wanted. Have you seen Synecdoche, New York and Adaptation? Now I’m a big ran of the man, but this creative control card gets a bit overplayed. The Under the Dog producers claim the same thing, but looking at their trailer it doesn’t look like anything that Japanese studios don’t already greenlight.
  • SuperMario
    (Saturday, Apr 30. 2016 09:01 AM)
    for me though, I only pay for projects that I’m certain to watch (and have to pay for it eventually), so I don’t see the point not to “helping” them out. It’s all the same for me.
  • SuperMario
    (Saturday, Apr 30. 2016 08:58 AM)
    @Bam I think the core concept is 1) with Kickstarter, many projects that otherwise never could have made is get supported here and 2) creators have more artistic control over their project. Take Amonalisa for example, big studios was very hesitate to fund the film, because of the commercial failure of his first film, but he insisted to get crowdfund and we have one of the more creative animation output last year.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Apr 30. 2016 08:53 AM)
    A lot of the tech stuff is things you will never use twice; like a smartphone microscope attachment. they’re usually pretty shifty with it too. Yeah I’m sure it takes the price of a house to make a video series about sexism in videogames- right? And it takes almost a million dollars to make a 4 level indie game with three guys- seems legit. Must be pretty nice to basically do business with zero chance of failure.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Apr 30. 2016 08:47 AM)
    I just don’t get the core concept of why I should pay for someone else’s business endeavors? They’re going to reap the benefits, they usually have money, let them pay for it. I get it if it’s research, or some strange art project for the sake of the art, but movies, games and anime that are going to get a commercial release? I swear people are so easily bamboozled.
  • SuperMario
    (Saturday, Apr 30. 2016 08:21 AM)
    @Kaiser:I have been supporting Kickstarter for a while, but not for games or movies, but for animation projects. I think it’s worth it. But like Bam, Aiden and K-Off said, sometimes it gets a bit muddy. For movies for example there are a lot of projects that was just ideas… and ideas alone are not enough.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Saturday, Apr 30. 2016 08:08 AM)
    Ah but that would frustrate me in muv-luv, I’d be the one suffering as a result of having to wait for the characters suffering to start.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Saturday, Apr 30. 2016 08:06 AM)
    I’ve heard kickstarter being used for crowdfunding indie films, honestly as a film buff I really should get on that and start supporting.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Saturday, Apr 30. 2016 07:41 AM)
    I generally don’t pre-order unless its a gift for someone else, so I can guarantee for 100% sure I can get it for them and it won’t sell out.

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