Hello there. This is review number fifty. I would’ve done a movie review but I took an unscheduled break because monsoon season started last week. It was hell as the high wind threatened to tear our roof again and we had to hide all the electronics in fear of floods or leaking roofs. Last year, the flood was waist high so we were on high alert. Not to mention the electricity going out for two days. I love the monsoon season.
Good news though cause I finally hit number fifty. I’ll be reviewing another one from the Fall 2011 lineup called Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle. It’s twenty five episodes about puzzles. That sounds fun. So yeah, let’s read on.
Phi Brain follows Kaito Daimon and his adventures solving puzzles. He is fighting against a group called the Puzzle of God (POG) and their members, the givers. With the title of Einstein, he, as a solver, takes all challenges head on and attempts to solve all puzzles he encounter. However, a dark figure is working in the shadows with big plans for Kaito.
Taking the Pants Off
Ok, so the anime is of the shounen genre. Shounen has always been proud of doing stupid premises and making it work. Throughout my years of watching shounen anime, there have been premises like bread baking (Yakitate Japan), roller blading (Air Gear) and card dueling (Yu Gi Oh) incorporated to make the anime more interesting and fun. Phi Brain takes the notion of puzzles and turned it into a shounen anime. It’s a completely ridiculous premise at first but the true strength of the genre is making you forget about the ridiculousness of the premise and make you focus on the action. I’m not saying that Phi Brain is a ridiculous anime though. I personally enjoyed the anime from episode one up until the end.
The first thing that comes to mind when I watched Phi Brain is Yu Gi Oh. We have a guy who loves puzzles much like how Yugi loves cards or dueling. Our hero, Kaito Daimon, has a special armlet that makes him solve puzzles in a cool way much like how Yugi goes Yami Yugi on his enemies to win a duel. It was hard to enjoy the anime at first with cheesy lines like “this puzzle wants to be solved….I can feel the gentleness coming from it.” It eventually gets more tolerable because of how nice each episode is.
The entire premise of Phi Brain is to have Kaito solve puzzles. The anime did a wonderful job at the puzzles. You can pause the anime and try to solve it yourself because they are legit puzzles and they are really well made. Puzzles range from sudokus and simple brain teasers to creative ones like word puzzles and mathematical problems. Each episode has a really nice puzzle and that was enough for me to watch the anime. As the anime progress, we are treated to more complicated puzzles and more difficult ones.
The shounen anime isn’t complete without our stereotypes though. This anime sticks true to a shounen genre by having all too familiar stereotypes like the clingy girl who always follows the main character, the loud mouth, the handsome guy who always say cool stuff, the small guy with glasses often a genius and the more sexually appealing girl. They are all here and like any shounen, they do their job of making the main character look good. A lot of people hate clichéd characters but each one has their own strengths that make the anime more appealing. Every interaction in the anime is cute and fun. The characters are clichéd but luckily the anime had enough time to develop them.
The main villain in the anime is an organization called Puzzle of God (POG) and throughout the series there are members who challenge Kaito to take their puzzle and take the treasure inside the puzzle. In the first half of the anime, we are treated to all kinds of POG members. Some of them play dirty reflecting how evil and underhanded POG actually is but some are gentle making us believe that the group isn’t all that bad. We are even treated to a stereotypical villain who is loud and always say “I’ll defeat you someday!” I wasn’t expecting much the villains in the anime but they provided some interesting twists to the puzzles that Kaito solve. It’s either by cheating or presenting superbly impossible puzzles.
Now here lies the first problem of the anime. The puzzles are legit and there is a way to solve them. There is an actual solution to the puzzles Kaito tackles but the anime never elaborates on it. Most of the time Kaito just goes superhuman and he’ll just quietly say “Solved” without any more explanation on it. We never see how he solves it. The anime doesn’t share the answers at times and we just left to suspend our beliefs and just go along with the story. I do understand that the plot is more important than giving time to explain a puzzle so it’s not that big of a problem. The anime does explain some of the puzzles when the story calls for it. So even though the anime cheats on some of the puzzles, there are still proof that Kaito is a puzzle genius.
Of course a shounen anime isn’t complete without flashbacks. These things are crazily important for a shounen anime because there is a bigger picture to the story of Phi Brain and we are just fed small bits that don’t make sense until later. The anime shows people who you know are important but they don’t dive on that matter until later. It was nice to see how much a puzzle freak Kaito was when he was young. The flashbacks where just pretty smartly making some scenes intriguing and helping to slowly thicken the plot.
The first half of the anime was all about character introduction and presenting all the elements that makes it shounen. All of the characters in the opening sequence are introduced in the first half with little focus on them. At first they even felt like characters the anime just squeezed in to make the anime interesting. There were small intricate build ups for the second half of the anime. The first half is basically all normal stuff that mostly focuses Kaito’s battle with the POG.
In the second half, the anime got more serious. We are finally introduced to the main bad guy of the anime who wants Kaito to possess the Phi Brain. A phi brain is the ultimate puzzle solving brain that utilizes all parts of the brain including those that aren’t needed for thinking for 100% thinking capacity. It is ultimately needed for Kaito to solve the Puzzle of God and achieve the treasure inside it. In order for Kaito to achieve Phi Brain status, he needs to abandon everything dragging him down. They are mainly his friends. The anime finally utilized the other characters giving them a much bigger role that what is expected of their stereotype.
In order to make the other characters shine though, the anime needed to take Kaito of the spotlight. That is where the anime took a huge right turn. The anime decided to get more serious and they transformed Kaito from a cool guy who loves to solve puzzles to…well…an emo. After knowing who the bad guy is, Kaito went into this annoying transformation of having him just sit in a corner and basically cry. While he was crying like a b*tch, the enemy is making his move trying to off his friends/the other characters.
The puzzles take a huge transformation too. While the first half of the anime did have some puzzles that want to kill the solvers, the second half introduces Fool Puzzles that are designed to have a small chance of solving the puzzle and a bigger chance of killing the solver. It’s a puzzle designed to kill. Kaito and his friends are suddenly presented those puzzles. They were all pretty nicely presented puzzles too. The anime also showed us some of the solutions to the puzzles that come with the brilliant moments of the characters.
The minor characters did have a much bigger role in the second half but they had very little transformation. They still remain slightly the same very minor changes. They were so minor that it didn’t change our opinion of them. It was all good though since the anime is still greatly about Kaito even though he was in a huge emo mode. Plus, not all of the side characters stayed the same. There was one that ultimately did a 180 and made the anime more interesting.
The last parts of the anime had a completely different puzzle to it. It had a duel puzzle where two characters outsmart each other like in a nice game of chess but their lives are endangered when they lose. That is the beauty of the anime. The puzzles themselves take a huge transformation and it makes the anime more interesting each time. Who would’ve thought that you can make that many puzzles? Who would’ve thought they’d think of so many?
The characters that made brief appearances in the first half of the anime are also revealed in the second half. We are also treated a very interesting villain. I love the main baddie in this anime because he wasn’t really that evil, he was just lonely. He’s possessive and he wants Kaito to love him. Yeah, pretty weird. I thought I missed the first villain who just wants Kaito dead but a guy who wants Kaito all by himself sounds much more menacing. There were a lot of episodes dedicated to revealing the villains connection to Kaito and unraveling Kaito‘s mysterious past.
The anime had a good build up for the final showdown and the ultimate time for Kaito to shine was nicely done as well. Will he get out of his f*cking emo mode? Will he play into the villains hands and become a phi brain that will solve the ultimate puzzle? It was great and the anime wraps up pretty nicely.
Sight and Sound
Like a true shounen, the character design is pretty wild. We have outrageous hair and teenagers with flashy outfits. The animation was pretty nice and there was some nice range of facial expressions in the anime. It is still pretty run of the mill though and no character really stands out in terms of character design. I do like Rook’s hair. What is that? It looks like simple messy hair but it’s like an afro at the same time.
There was some pretty outstanding scenery in the anime. The background was nice too and some of the puzzles stand out in terms of visual presentation. Some of the designs of the stages are nice too like Elena Himekawa’s puzzle. The best sceneries though are the ones our resident trap, Ana Gram, paints. Some of them are pretty awesome and completely different from the often dark background of the anime.
The OP, “Brain Diver” by May’n, is a nice Jpop song that reflects the shounen elements of the anime. It has a fast beat and electric guitars blasting away as May’n sing pretty impressively. It fits the anime really nicely. The opening sequence was pretty nice too as it presents all the important characters without spoiling them.
The ED, “Hologram” by Natsumi Kiyoura, has a slower mood. It was more solemn and Natsumi’s voice was very relaxing. The ending sequence was pretty nice with bright colors and it shifts to a picture puzzle slowly aligning itself.
7/10 “An interesting anime about puzzles.”
I love this anime and all the elements work together. The plot was nicely paced and the twists all came out of nowhere. The buildup was great as well. There was a bit of backtracking but the anime is great all throughout. I recommend it.
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