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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  • AidanAK47
    (Tuesday, Sep 23. 2014 04:16 PM)
    @afgm, nope. Just nope. You have failed dear sir. Failed.
  • afgm
    (Tuesday, Sep 23. 2014 04:11 PM)
    Calling people weeboos is pretty weaboo-ish, to be honest.
  • AidanAK47
    (Tuesday, Sep 23. 2014 12:15 PM)
    @KuRoZuka, A bit of advice fake economist. Mixing Japanese words with the english language is a weeaboo practice and is seen with the greatest contempt. Just saying.
    As for fairytail, well I read a bit of the manga and got bored pretty fast.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Sep 23. 2014 09:46 AM)
    The sheer amount of talent behind Dandy is staggering. There are veterans from all the corners of Anime industry present here, so in a way this might be the biggest anthology yet. I mostly watched week-by-week just to see the new guys’ take on the Dandy sandbox, and I have to say some of them were pretty interesting. Definitely quirky, but interesting.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Sep 23. 2014 09:41 AM)
    Yeah but it’s interesting how much more sophisticated the humor was in Bebop, even despite not really being a comedy-heavy series.
    I’m sure if you’ll continue to the end you’ll find some memorable episodes in Dandy, and once people accept that it’s not Bebop, and that it’s really silly but kinda proud of it, they’ll start enjoying it more for what it is and say it was worth their time.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Sep 23. 2014 09:36 AM)
    Even though I wasn’t really into the episodes I’ve seen I will definitely say, yes it was a mixed bag. Then again so was Bebop.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Sep 23. 2014 09:34 AM)
    Season 2 has more mature material in general, and a few pseudo-philosophical episodes really stand out. The different experimental animations that are peppered throughout are a very nice treat also. And again each episode has different talent behind it so it’s a VERY mixed bag.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Sep 23. 2014 09:33 AM)
    Ah Johnny Bravo, a cartoon I laughed at now and then while I was much much younger.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Sep 23. 2014 09:30 AM)
    @Emma: Season 2 is far better, I think they kind of got the hints that the booby gags weren’t working. The humor is by far the weakest link in this show. I would also add that I think the dub is superior. The theme and style is very American, kinda like Johnny Bravo, so English fits more naturally.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Sep 23. 2014 09:25 AM)
    The zombie episode kind of grabbed my attention though a bit.

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