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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  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Apr 21. 2015 03:17 AM)
    @Wyatt: What I have learned about people it is that the more ashamed and disgusted they are by something, the higher than chance it is they are actually disgusted at themselves.
    And yeah theres no point in changing what you are, can’t be done really.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Apr 21. 2015 03:10 AM)
    @Wyatt: I was dealt the bonkers hand and theres no real helping it, just laugh and enjoy it more if people are offended by it.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Apr 21. 2015 03:08 AM)
    @Wyatt: I spoke with my brother about rape in hentai and how he considered that it isn’t rape in fictional porn, however much he doesn’t go for it, in a fictional doujin/drawing it is no more than extreme bondage/domination play.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Apr 21. 2015 03:06 AM)
    @Wyatt: I mean look at the stuff Jimmy Saville got up to with something like that going on in real life, its just not possible for me to be scared by fiction. Another thing is, it all depends on how its portrayed, chances are a sad drama that uses something messed up is going to be sad, just the same thing used in drawn porn is going to be different and probably titilating.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Apr 21. 2015 03:01 AM)
    @Wyatt: I certainly have no qualms, I mean the point is certain things stay in the head or in porn, so long as you don’t go out in a kilt and bagpipes and murder/rape people with them irl we’re all fine lol
  • WyattX
    (Tuesday, Apr 21. 2015 02:43 AM)
    nor will i fix it. forcing myself t change is as ill as putting myself on a pedestal for the sake of “individualism” no matter how bad my indivudal self might be, you know?
  • WyattX
    (Tuesday, Apr 21. 2015 02:37 AM)
    @Emma same, they’re just drawings to me. I don’t hate far twisted smutty shite but actually enjoy it, but I have a gripe with people (not you though) who glorify this kind of interest. I’ve grown to learn my interests are abnormal/unhealthy these past couple a years, but I’ve said since “this is who I am, but I’m not off to glorify it.”
  • Emma
    (Monday, Apr 20. 2015 06:24 PM)
    @Wyatt: When I say not fond of, its more of a case of, just not my thing, rather than “ewww its gross” or “immoral”.
  • Emma
    (Monday, Apr 20. 2015 06:12 PM)
    @Wyatt: Works now. I am familiar with that artist actually from danbooru.
  • Emma
    (Monday, Apr 20. 2015 06:00 PM)
    @Wyatt: I think I had an idea before where someone with multiple personalities who could change their appearance seduced lovers away from one personality to another. Another involved a girl who had an experience with a twin, then she became attracted to his brother. Catch was she didn’t know he had a twin, then ran into that twin. She thought it was him.

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