Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle II Review

This is review number one hundred and seventeen. This anime is part of the Spring 2012 lineup. Yup, I’m back reviewing an anime from a lineup I already closed. I missed this one and I don’t know why. It was not in my list but I had to make sure I finish of all the remaining anime from this lineup while the Fall 2012 lineup needs one more week to close its doors. I am also waiting for that damn polar bear anime to stop airing. What the hell? It’ll continue until the next year? That’s insane.

Anyways, this is Phi Brain 2. It’s a twenty five episode anime about a guy named Kaito solving puzzles and shaming bad guys. I love the first season. Can the second season live up to the first season’s awesomeness? I’m also serious about that polar bear anime. The Spring 2012 lineup has the most anime I ever reviewed so they need to pack this sh*t up. Let’s read on.

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Story

Kaito and his friends are back solving any puzzle put forth before them. This time around, a group called the Orpheus Order is out to fight Kaito. They seem to be hell bent on making sure Kaito submit to their puzzles. Kaito’s past has also once again played a big role as a sin committed years ago has finally come back to confront Kaito. It’s all his fault and the Orpheus Order is there to make sure he repents for it.

Taking the Pants Off

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I still remember the first season of Phi Brain. The premise is a pretty solid one. You get a bunch of people solving puzzles and then gradually increase the difficulty and the variety. You then throw in the super powers theme that gives the hero the ability to overcome the puzzles. I fell in love with the first season because of how the story was nicely paced and the puzzles being legit. The anime also didn’t cut realism of the puzzles. You can pause the anime and try to solve the puzzle. Granted that some of the answers for the puzzles are skipped, I didn’t mind because the story was compelling. The first season was about Kaito taking on the evil group called POG who wants to obtain “God’s Scroll” which contains the ability to basically own the world (or something. I forgot) but they must first solve the Puzzle of God. Only truly smart people with a knack for solving puzzles can reach the Puzzle of God though so Rook prepped Kaito to challenge the Puzzle of God by having him compete against POG members. The anime ended with Kaito facing off against Rook and saving him from certain death. He also took off the Orpheus Ring that amplifies his brain so he can solve puzzles. Orpheus Ring is basically the Millennium Puzzle if this was Yu Gi Oh. Kaito was able to level up so high he no longer needed an Orpheus Ring to solve hard puzzles.

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I was excited for season two. I wanted to see the characters again and I wanted to see more legit puzzles. I was also curious about the new bad guy in the second season. The final episode of the first season flashed his face and he was pretty menacing. It’s exciting and I personally don’t get excited over an anime. The second season started out promisingly. We get to see the old characters and we get to see some pretty creative puzzles. In fact, season two started out pretty strongly and introduces the bad guy at the first episode. The first episode introduced the Orpheus Order, a bunch of people who wears Orpheus Rings and has decided to challenge Kaito and defeat him. This was led by the white haired guy named Freecell who has a bad grudge against Kaito. The interesting thing about the second season is that the Orpheus Order has openly challenged Kaito and his friends to solve their deadly puzzles.

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The first half of the anime is actually very interesting because the Orpheus Order, a five member group, is pretty much in the face of Kaito in almost every episode. They seem to control other people into doing their bidding and try to take out Kaito in the process. They don’t just get in the face of Kaito, even Gammon and the others were challenged by this smug group. This eventually led to a climactic end on the first half. The thing I really enjoyed about the first half was that it was able to give the spotlight to the rest of the cast. Gammon and Cubic were given some pretty important roles in the first half as they began having some personal rivalries with the rest of the Orpheus Order. Even Ana Gram, who didn’t have much of a role in the first season, was given a solid role in the second season because of the group. It’s great and everything was going well.

The old characters were pretty much as developed as they can get so the new characters were given some of the spotlight. When they aren’t luring innocent people to do their bidding, the anime would often focus on their relationship. The “who, why and how” of the group was explained pretty nicely and this helped greatly going into the climactic end of the first half. I like how things aren’t what they appear to be when it comes to the Orpheus Order. They are actually answering to another guy named Klondike and their actions are orders by the big shot. He doesn’t reveal himself though and the five antagonists don’t mind it because they are pretty consumed into beating Kaito and the gang.

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The puzzles are given some improvement in the second season as well. In the first season, the one thing I really enjoyed was the way the puzzles evolved from simple brain teasers to very sadistic ones to puzzles that can kill you. The duel puzzles return in the second season, a puzzle where you fight the other person by outsmarting them (kinda like a board game but it has creative flexibility). They also introduced a tag team puzzle duel where two characters team up to solve a puzzle. Of course, the regular brain teasers and the puzzles that can kill you also return. The puzzles are once again pretty legit but they are mostly used to improve the story and there is very little explanation now. This was used to enhance the story so as you watch, you basically get the gist of the puzzle so it’s all good.

The first half ended with Kaito’s group went one on one with the Orpheus Order. They wagered that if they lose, they would become the group’s playthings but if the bad guys lose, they will stop annoying Kaito’s group. This was a pretty intense match and I love the puzzle duel they were in. It was very exciting and there were some moments that I didn’t see coming. After the climactic end of the first half, I expected the anime to up the ante and build up the anime some more. I was mistaken. The anime slowly declined in the second half.

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I should’ve known. The anime needed to fill up twenty five episodes so some of them would obviously be not as impressive. The problem with the second half was that Kaito’s group already dueled with the main bad guys so it’s a problem to how they go on from there. Do they get the Orpheus Order to play dirty and stoop low to have a better second duel? Do they introduce new members of the Orpheus Order to battle Kaito’s group? No. They don’t. The best I can tell was that they were stuck in limbo. So with the bad guys doing nothing, we get fluff episodes like a beach episode or side episodes involving other side characters. The momentum of the first half was suddenly cut and the anime rebuilds it again. This process brings forth some pretty noticeable problems.

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First of all, the motivation behind Freecell’s desire to fight Kaito is a bit stupid. The anime has set up a pretty interesting mystery behind Kaito and Freecell’s relationship from back when they were a kid. As the mystery is slowly unfolded though, the whole thing started to look weak. Rook had a strong desire to fight Kaito after their incident when they were young. Freecell’s reason seems to be a bit odd. I’m trying not to spoil some of the details but instead of a guy being more menacing that Rook, Freecell is more like a whiny baby that wants his bottle of milk.

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Secondly, Kaito and the gang seem to love being pacifists when it comes to fighting the Orpheus Order. “Oh, you want to fight us? You’ll never win because we’re the good guys. What’s that? We’ll walk into your trap and you try to kill us off using underhanded means? Sure, you’ll lose anyways. Retaliate? We won’t do that because our main character is a f*cking Mary Sue (someone who always win/perfect).” They seem to enjoy being in the palm of their enemies where they don’t mind losing their life just so they can solve some puzzles. At some point, the audience will notice that our good guy never loses and if he did… what am I saying?  I also noticed that they never fight back with their own puzzles. Why do they seem to enjoy solving deadly puzzles by the enemies and never once try to give the enemies a piece of their might? Rook forces the characters to play in the first season but the characters seem to willingly take up a bad guys offer this time around. “Want to play a puzzle game where you have the possibility of dying?”

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Rook’s role in the anime is also heavily botched. Ana and the guy who drinks apple juice have some significant role in the anime but for some reason, Rook is just a side character this time. Kaito and Rook were buddies. So why didn’t they inject him into the story? I waited for him to appear but he showed up only at the second half then disappeared casually. He wasn’t missed at all. The chance to also pit the POG against the Orpheus Order is also a missed opportunity. Can you imagine these two organizations with a fair amount of influence going up against each other? It would’ve been epic. Instead, the spotlight was strictly on Kaito. I think he got too much screentime, to be honest. They have this pool of old characters at their disposal but they didn’t do anything with them. They just stood at the sidelines while Kaito and his group go up against another evil organization. Truly freaking original.

I do applaud the anime towards the end though. Klondike makes his appearance and all the answers are revealed one by one. The twist right at the end of the anime also had me excited because I never saw it coming. There is enough story in the second half to give the anime at least a decent end. The final moments of the anime didn’t match up to the climactic end of the first half though. It was a bit phoned in and predictable. I’m just glad the anime is over. Oh what’s that? There’s a third season already in the works?

Sight and Sound

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The animation is pretty much the same this time around. This is probably the only thing that didn’t change in the anime. All the old characters still look the same. I enjoyed the new characters as well. The character design for the new characters is pretty nice. There is some variety among them and their outfits are pretty nice. The puzzles also had the same creative freedom to them just like the puzzles in the first season. I was a bit bummed that some of the old puzzles were recycled though.

The anime’s OP is “Now or Never” by Nano. This is a pretty nice song and I love the lead’s voice. The song has a pretty impressive chorus too and it nicely reflects the anime’s Shounen spirit. The OP sequence is also pretty impressive. I think it’s the best part of the whole anime as well. It featured all the characters and givers a brief summary of the anime. It also had Nonoha untie her hair and I just freaking love her with her hair down. She should keep that look instead of her current one. The OP is definitely the most inviting part of the anime and it’s also very flashy. I love it.

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The anime’s ED is “Super step” by ammoflight. This is as awesome as the OP because of the catchy beat and the impressive chorus. I also love the rhythm with its nice guitar riffs that just sounds bad ass. The ED sequence features all the main characters. They’re just in still poses so there’s nothing much here.

Overall Score

6/10 “A great first half, weak second half.”

This was a pretty decent anime but it clearly had a few flaws that come from an anime that basically covered all of its bases on the first season. The characters already conquered their personal conflicts, they needed to introduce new bad guys while acknowledging the old ones and it carried the success of the first season. The expectations are pretty high so the overall experience is easily soured by a noticeable flaw. If you saw the first season then you’ll enjoy the anime. I loved the first half but the second half was a bit weak. I hope they fix some of the problems for the third season.

Thoughts~

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