This is review number two hundred and seventy eight. This anime is part of the Fall 2013 lineup. I’m still in this toxic lineup. I’m actually waiting for Spring 2014 to end and I’ll just attack it cutting my loses with this season. It’s hard to catch up now and I’m half giving up. I have like six more to watch and I’ll try to see them all but I’m not keeping any promises when it comes to completing lineups. I’m not choosy though, the long shows really just trumps me. Anyways, the anime I’ll be reviewing is the third season of Phi Brain. The first season is my 50th review and the second season is my 117th one. The third season is now my 278th one. It’s pretty insane. This is a twenty five episode anime about people battling each other using puzzles. It’s a pretty fun one but also a bit stupid. You’ve been warned. Let’s read on.
This anime is about a guy named Daimon Kaito who is really good at solving puzzles. He also loves them and pretty much devotes his life to it. In the third season, he is reunited with the guy that made him love puzzles. Jin Makata lost his memories after he challenged the puzzle of god and Kaito is now helping him gain back his memories. While visiting a puzzle familiar to Jin, Kaito met a girl named Raetsel who also knew Jin very well. It turns out that the guy who introduced Kaito to the beauty of puzzles also introduced Raetsel to the ugliness and the pain that puzzles bring. It also turns out that Jin Makata is missing a year in his memories and it seems that he not only taught Raetsel to hate puzzles but also formed a group of evil people who are now devoted to destroying puzzles. Kaito doesn’t believe it but Raetsel is convinced Jin is evil. Kaito knows him as a gentle guy though. Kaito and Raetsel would even fight to the death to prove the Jin they knew is the actual Jin before he lost his memories.
Taking the Pants Off
Phi Brain has a good place in my heart because it’s one of those shows I’ve seen grow and I loved the experience it gave me. A third season of a show I’ve followed from the start is something I am really excited to watch. The Phi Brain series isn’t really that good though. It’s shounen clichéd and the plot skewers into stupidity. The puzzles are legit and I guess that’s what really drew me in. As I keep watching the series, I soon learned to love the characters and the shounen appeal about battling puzzles. It’s as hard to take seriously as Yu gi-oh but it’s also as entertaining once you just indulge in what the anime is trying to present. I’ve always loved and hated this series because it has potential but it’s tied down to its cliché, which is like its soul so they can’t abandon it. Seeing a third season of Phi Brain though feels a bit satisfying. It’s always nice seeing anime go this far. Three seasons is a rare feat for small time shows like Phi Brain so I want to see it through to the end. The first season was pretty good. I love the puzzles but I hated how the main character went stupid emo on the second half. I love the group dynamic of the second season but I hated its main villain. For the third season, I loved the nostalgia it brought me. All the good things of the first and second season were combined in the third season. I also hated some parts of it though. I’ll explain later on. As I said, Phi Brain has a place in TPAB’s heart but I also have a love/hate relationship with it. The main villain for the third season looks pretty cool though. I was legitimately excited seeing her awesome face.
In order to understand the third season, obviously, you have to first see the first two seasons. This wasn’t the case for the second season but the third season actually pooled in a lot of characters and events from both seasons to create the story. It’s a more in depth and personal story that feels just right since you’re really only picking up the third season because you liked the first two. Another reason why the third season is so connected to the other two seasons is because this is probably the last Phi Brain we’ll ever see and it was reaching closure to everything that happened in its long run. I honestly don’t remember much from the two seasons but it’s important that you are familiar with it because the third season re-introduces a lot of characters and conflicts that are in the two seasons. If not, then you’ll be like me, you’ll be lost in all of the pre-established conflicts and mentions of important events that you have no clue about. I checked wiki though so let me give you a bit of a rundown. The first season is about the children of Phi Brain. These are really strong “solvers” that can solve any puzzle. Kaito was a candidate to solve the Puzzle of God, the hardest puzzle in the world. He’s still a bit incomplete though like he’s only 80% percent good. He needs to be 100% to solve the Puzzle of God and obtain the treasure inside it. Kaito was given an artifact called the “Orpheus Armlet” so he can achieve an ability that goes beyond a hundred percent. With this, a group called the POG decided to challenge Kaito with difficult puzzles so he can be 100% all the time. This came with the risk of losing his friends and his sanity but something he chose to do. It’s because the leader of the POG is his best friend named Rook Banjo Crossfield and he is also wearing an Orpheus Armlet. In order to save his best friend, Kaito achieved 100% and confronted him. In the end, he was so good that he no longer needed the armlet and he was able to save his friend. The Puzzle of God is left unsolved and the POG turned back into a friendly organization of “Givers” that aims to create warm and fuzzy puzzles for everyone to solve. The second season is about another evil group called the Orpheus Order. Its leader and four other Phi Brain children have armlets on and they decided to battle Kaito’s group. The rest of the cast was fleshed out while we discover that their leader, a guy named Freecell, has a personal grudge against Kaito. The second season is mostly about Freecell trying to get his revenge on Kaito for missing a playdate which somehow cause his mother, suffering from her mind being eaten away by an Orpheus armlet, to die. The second season was pretty stupid. Well, stupider than usual. The first season was more about the puzzles and our main character becoming the dependable hero we know. The second season is more about fleshing out the characters some more while focusing on a more contained story about Freecell. The third season actually focuses on a lot of relationships but also had the fun the first season had. It’s a combination of the two seasons which is pretty damn good.
Now, this has to be said before this review could continue. Do not expect anything serious from this show. Even though it does have some serious moments, it’s still a damn kid’s show so the plot can be a bit ridiculous at times. Again, it’s like Yu Gi-Oh. That show is about card battling. It has characters deadly serious about cards while the power of friendship can conquer any adversity the characters can encounter. Overthinking it often leads to your own demise. Nobody cares that Yugi transforms into a taller version of himself when he duels and that people don’t use the same deck or monsters that the main characters own. You just accept that it’s a bit retarded but that’s alright because the card battles are fun and it gives you your own strategy in constructing decks. The later installments of the card battle anime actually got more retarded as it goes on but seeing the Ultimate Blue Eyes go up against a fusion hero monster is still pretty riveting. The same goes for Phi Brain. Just don’t overthink certain parts of it. It has large puzzles at hidden places all over the world that seems very expensive to build and the main characters apparently have the money for it. The bad guys are trying to kill the main characters using puzzles instead of just walking up to them and shooting them in the face. The main characters seem to just walk into traps because they want to puzzle at the risk of losing their life and they’re also massive Mary Sues. Ignore all that and just focus on something else. There are a lot of really cool puzzles in the show. Some of them are legit puzzles that you can pause and solve yourself. In both seasons, the show showcased a lot of puzzles ranging from easy to difficult that the audience can solve as well. The show even does a step by step solving of them when it has the time. My personal favorite is those duel puzzles where two people must reach a goal before the other. They’re complex but you can literally draw them out on a piece of paper and solve them yourself. Of course, I tried it. I gave up after thirty minutes. I’m not good at puzzles. The ultimate appeal of the show though is watching the different characters solve the puzzles because they bring their own charm in each puzzle the face. So again, let some things fly over your head because shounen anime aimed for kids are usually bad that it’s good.
Anyways, the third season revolves around this guy named Jin. I think he appeared at the end of the second season. He is the mentor of Kaito and Rook back when they were in England. Kaito met Rook in this facility where Phi children are kept and Rook sneaks out to play with puzzles. He hangs out with Kaito and Jin. The show opened with Kaito showing Jin around familiar places to him hoping it would jog his memory. One thing led to another and they suddenly met a girl in one of the dangerous puzzles they were exploring. This girl named Raetsel said she knows Jin. According to her, Jin is a guy that wants to destroy puzzles from the face of the earth because they only bring fear and pain to people. This is completely different from the Jin that Kaito knows because his mentor taught him to love puzzles despite knowing that his parents died from solving one. To make matters worse, Jin is apparently the ultimate savior of this group called the Master Brain whose main goal is to kill all puzzlers in the world. Jin can’t really confirm or deny this. He lost his memory and there is a year gap where people had no idea what he was doing. Kaito claims he is a very good guy devoted to spreading the love of puzzles. Raetsel claims that he is one evil piece of bread though spreading the hate of puzzles. Only one of them is right and they are both keen on convincing Jin that he is indeed who they say he is.
This show has three plot points. The first one is about Kaito and Raetsel fighting over Jin. This is a more personal story between the characters. Kaito was forever changed by Jin because of how he helped the boy fall in love with puzzles. The same goes for Raetsel as well though. She was actually with him as he travels and Jin taught her the fear of puzzles stating that they bring no good and that they should be erased from the world. Majority of the first half is about how people knew Jin and how he is important to them. Raetsel kidnapped Jin in the first episode but gave him back to Kaito afterwards. The rest of the episodes are then about Raetsel coming to Root academy to convince Jin he is the puzzle hating person she grew to love while Kaito does the same. It’s just a tug of war with nothing really big happening. It’s all about fleshing out first. We get to see how important Jin is for Kaito and Rook whose lives now revolve around puzzles. We also get to see how Raetsel learn to love Jin. It’s a pretty sad story. She lost her parents and Jin gave her the motivation to live a happy life by convincing her puzzles are bad. While the two are talking over each other, we also see Jin conflicted. Recovering his memories is the only way to solve this conundrum but this will only lead to one of them being hurt tremendously so it’s going to suck both ways. This plot point doesn’t pick up right away. Once all the complicated relationships and all the back stories are introduced, it then gets good right around the second half of the anime.
It’s a very slow build up but the show has a smart way of juggling its element. It can make you a bit impatient but the first plot point eventually reaches its peak past episode twelve so just sit tight. At this point, Raetsel and Kaito have begun to accept that maybe the Jin they knew isn’t the real Jin. In a desperate attempt to reclaim their Jin, the two of them began fighting each other in a puzzle. This is no ordinary puzzle though. It’s the biggest puzzle they’ll ever participate in and it will take them around the world spanning continents and countries just to prove that the Jin they know is the true Jin. With the help of the Master Brain and it’s mischievous leader, the two of them set out on solving different puzzles in order to get one step closer to the man they love. It had a slow start but everything that was laid out in the first half does have a huge impact in the puzzles they solve. Kaito’s determination and Raetsel’s love for Jin is put on the line as they battle all over the world. I particularly love the turn out of the first plot point because it felt really personal and it dug up a lot of things that happened in the previous seasons. Kaito’s personal conflict in the first season was brought back up again as they look at Raetsel seemingly undergoing the same thing. His relationship with Nonoha, Rook and the rest of the children of Phi Brain is utilized as they try to solve the big mystery surrounding Jin. The first plot point is so good that the familiar element from way back the first season eventually enters the picture once again. Kaito once overcame the perils of these damn things but it’s on play once again and it really shook the first plot point up. The fact that the main reason such a complex battle is happening is because of a guy is also a bit funny. The execution is pretty flawless and the third season had a nice way of weaving both seasons into its story. It’s pretty amazing. The conclusion of this plot point is probably the only thing I didn’t like but you should see it for yourself.
The second plot point is about the Master Brain. It’s a group dedicated to killing puzzlers so that no one can ever get to solve puzzles ever again. They are bound by the teachings of Jin that Raetsel knows. He taught them to hate puzzles and they now act as Givers targeting Solvers with their deadly puzzles. They are now targeting the Phi Brain children. This one has a simple formula. Each episode features an eccentric bad guy challenging one of main characters in a puzzle. The puzzles are all pretty interesting but it’s about the dirty playing bad guy trying to pin our good guy down. They’ll often cheat at the puzzle, they’ll make it difficult without warning and some of them even put impossible odds on the characters. The bad guy will be defeated and they’ll retreat then we’ll never see them again. A new eccentric bad guy appears and the process is repeated. This is as simple as it gets. The Master Brain actually has put up a bounty of all the Phi Brain children and every one-shot bad guy tries to kill them with their own puzzle. Every character gets to puzzle and that’s what makes the second plot point fun. Their personality combined with the hard puzzles make up for an entertaining experience. You’ll see Gammon’s superiority complex make each puzzle all the more harder and fun. There is Cubic’s number mastery put to the test, Ana’s happy go lucky attitude at puzzles that can literally kill him and Kaito’s unbelievable speed at solving puzzles. This season is special though because a lot of characters are re-introduced. Rook gets a chance to battle puzzles in this season. In the second season, he got one which is primarily stupid because he fought against a dog. In the second season, the leader of POG is given a chance to prove his stuff. The one person I’m excited to see back though is second season’s main baddie, Freecell. I hated him back in the second season because he’s a stupid bad guy. Seeing him again though makes me feel a bit excited. He gets to challenge puzzles as well but he has developed a fear of them after trying to encase Kaito and himself in a never ending puzzle last season. He’ll try to overcome them though as he is challenged by the Master Brain.
Aside from Raetsel, the other notable bad guy in season three is the leader of the Master Brains. This guy who runs this country called Amgine is also trying to defeat the Phi Brain children. His name is Enigma (I know, right?!) and he doesn’t really do anything big except manipulate Raetsel into doing his bidding. I love him though because he is cunning and scheming. He always has a plan and they always work out successfully. The way he uses the Master Brains, Raetsel and even his own influence as a president of a successful nation while also hiding his intentions and being in the dark for the long run of the anime is something I really admire. The second plot point doesn’t really have a story in it. It mostly serves as filler to bulk up the episodes during the first half. Since its all dialogue from the first plot point, each episode has a master brain challenging a good guy which helps balance out the show. Most dialogue are really boring and impatiently long so knowing a puzzle battle will happen later on helped me plow through a lot of episodes. If there is one downside to this plot point, it’s that the good guy never loses. Having a puzzle designed to kill a main character doesn’t matter because they’ll still win. There is never a sign that they’ll lose and it does border on the Mary Sue a bit. Kaito is the biggest offender in this. He never loses and the bad guy could pile a lot of dirty tactics and he’ll still win. I think the point of the second plot point is just to make the characters look good. It’s a shame though because the idea of people dying from overly complex ways isn’t part of the show even though it’s a design of the puzzles. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we see Rook fail at a puzzle and then die? This is aimed at kids aired at an educational channel so I guess that’s just too much fun to handle.
Towards the later parts of the show, the last plot point shows up. Jin’s missing memory actually connects to the Puzzle of God. Yes, the story was able to sneak this first season’s plot point inside. Last time anyone met Jin, he was trying to challenge the Puzzle of God. It turns out that unlocking the mystery of the Puzzle of God can lead to Jin recovering his memories. The Master Brain, Raetsel, POG and Kaito now scatter to help Jin get his memory back. His missing memory actually involves a fight to obtain the Puzzle of God and recovering it might not be a good idea. I don’t want to spoil much. Let’s just say that the truth behind the Puzzle of God and the answer to Jin’s missing memory is connected and they’re not good things. This third plot point came out unexpectedly though and I never could’ve believed the first and second plot point leads up to this. All of Raetsel’s cat and mouse chase, Master Brain’s scheming and the treasure inside the Puzzle of God lead to one upsetting situation that has some pretty bitter consequences. As much as the third plot point was a shock upon revelation, it was actually the thing that brought the show down. I’ll be frank. It was really bad. The plot was slowed down and it just got boring. It also had a stupid implication. I couldn’t get into the story because it just got a bit stupid. Basically, the bad guy needed to obtain the bodies of one of the Phi Brain children so the bad guy got them to achieve their 100% percent by doing puzzles. He would show them illusions of altered pasts. These have no physical effect on the characters and they also know it is all BS but they are magically affected by it. The story is now about the bad guy having the main characters dancing at his palms as they voluntarily walk into every trap, every puzzle to reach 100% and every bad thing that happens to them without retaliating. They mostly don’t fight back because their plan involves actually doing the enemy’s will and then doing something later on. I don’t know. I lost interest. It became a bit retarded. It’s like the villain’s plan was to strangle the characters and their plan is to let the villain wrap his hands around their neck and then squeeze hard. Worry not though. As they gag for air and slowly die, the characters plan on retaliating. The moment they’ll die, they’ll do something to the villain that was actually their plan all along. How does that make sense? It was just hard to take serious and it became a bit forced as if the show was forcing an ending. To be fair, the final moments were pretty decent but the third plot point really ruined it all. Even for a kid’s show, it was straight on retarded.
The characters are pretty much the same. Kaito and the rest of the gang didn’t change much. There was a lot of dialogue about how Kaito used to hate puzzles but there’s no conflict here. You can’t really alter a character this far out. I personally wanted to see the same characters again but in a different story. Kaito and his stupidly fast solving abilities, Gammon’s arrogant attitude, Ana Gram being a total trap, Cubic being a helpless but strong willed fighter, Rook and his weirdly awesome afro-like hair and even Freecell just because I really missed him. I bet a lot of people that saw Phi Brain 3 actually missed the characters as well. The new characters are basically the one on focus in this show. I don’t remember Jin much from both seasons. I was a bit confused why he was the center of the story with no warning. I don’t remember the second season much but I think Kaito got reunited with him back then. It’s all murky now. Now I understand that it’s a kid’s show but I still very much hate Jin. He lost his memories but he acts like a helpless child lost at the mall seemingly following anyone that offered a hand to him. He literally volunteered to be kidnapped on a lot of occasions that it just got stupid. You have no memories. It doesn’t mean you’re a blank robot with no will. The fact that Kaito and Raetsel cling to him like he took their virginity is also a bit upsetting. Speaking of Raetsel, I actually loved the idea of a female antagonist in Phi Brain. Anyone is better than Freecell and the first few episodes were actually really fun. Raetsel is like a fierce cat that you just find adorable. The way she clings to Jin though ruins her character. Freecell’s motivation to hurt Kaito is because of grief. Raetsel’s motivation is because of one sided love. Phi Brain villains are pathetic. I didn’t like it when they turned Raetsel into a helpless person wanting Jin’s love. They could’ve done that but they didn’t have to ruin her awesome persona of this fierce cat waiting to pounce on its enemy. Majority of the time, Raetsel just b*tches and moan about how nobody in the whole wide world knows Jin as much as her for never ever fingers cross infinity!!! It was childish and a bit of a sour note knowing how awesome this character could’ve become. I’d say she could’ve been better than Rook if they played the one sided desperate chick angle smartly. I don’t buy the whole “this is a kid’s show” on the shallow-ness of the characters because the story is layered heavily and it had a lot of dialogue no kid could ever sit through. It’d all pass over their heads unless Japanese kids are really into sappy love triangles about people who are into puzzles. Then again, I’ve seen weirder.
The final season of Phi Brain started out marvelously. I seriously enjoyed it through and through until the third plot point. It’s a shame. There’s so much that could’ve happened with the story and it lead to a pretty pathetic route. Oh well. I’m a bit sad though that the adventures of Daimon Kaito are now over. I was a wide eyed super enthusiastic reviewer when I saw the first season. I love seeing anime that reminds me of the very green newbie reviewer I once was. I’m not saying I’ve become an awesome one but I know it myself that my enthusiasm for anime has changed. I could barely crush the Fall 2013 lineup. Geez. Anyways, one thing I never expected though is to discover that this anime was directed by Junichi Sato. Oh my gawd, he handled all seasons. His healing style was a bit prevalent in the first season but I think the shounen script had no place for his unique approach. Still though, of all people, Junichi Sato directed this anime. While we’re on the topic of things behind Phi Brain I can’t comprehend, this anime was also handled by Sunrise. It feels weird not seeing any mecha so I didn’t make the connection but damn. Sunrise?! I’m a bit shocked. This kind of shounen style isn’t their thing. They’re more about pre-teen angst and wars. I can’t wrap my head around Sunrise + puzzles + Junichi Sato = the Phi Brain series. I don’t really like Sunrise. I respect the Gundam franchise but they bastardized the second season of Valvrave and I hold grudges. If it was caused by abysmal sales then they should’ve just dumped it out of respect of all the people that invested time on the first season. If they waited more than a year before working on Valvrave II then it could’ve been a different story. Ah, I’m going out of topic. Anyways, the Phi Brain series is special to me. The first half of this show captured everything I love about the entire series but the second half reminded me that a kid’s show can let you down. It can also turn full retard because, yknow, kids.
Sight and Sound
The design is still pretty much shounen. We have bulky characters with a lot of the typical Shounen elements. They have the gravity defying hair, the stand out outfit despite everybody wearing normal human clothes and they mostly show off their cool youthful bodies in any opportunity they can. I love the character design of Phi Brain. Youhei Sasaki had a great eye for Shounen characters. It’s a shame Phi Brain is the only show with characters he designed. While the outfits often defy common sense, they still nicely suit the characters. I love Gammon’s leather shirt on and that stupid leather pants he have on. Combined with the electric red hair and you have a really cool looking character. Throw in some fierce eyes you’ll find in Shounen and you have a really well designed character. Not all of them stands out though, Cubic and Ana has some pretty plain designs. A lab coat and a sleeveless shirt indicate that they are just side characters with minor roles but they still want some attention from time to time and it suits their characters nicely. I am crushing really hard on Raetsel though. Her design is really inspired. I think the show loves her as well. She is just flashy all over. The wonderful purple hair combined with the fierce cat like eyes and the way the show just dresses her up in different outfit just makes me want to look at her all day. She looks good on anything. From sleeveless shirts, to open shouldered ones to long skirts and even some stylish urban outfit, the girl looks good on anything. The animators took special care of Raetsel making sure she has accessories on, beautiful earrings dangle off the side of her face and she shows off a little bit of her skin. It’s hard not to be attracted to her really inspired designs. You don’t see a lot of characters like these that just gets your head turning by simply standing there. It’s a great plus considering how pathetic her character actually is. Daimon Kaito is pretty cool as well. It’s flashy overdone though. The vest with the baggy pants and the shades tells me this guy has a backstory probably related to how his parents used to be explorers but it’s too many flashy things without much balance. It’s a good thing he has this lanky figure to accentuate his urban appeal. I am really going to miss these characters.
The animation is pretty decent. There are some flashy explosions here and there and a lot of running from our characters. Some puzzles also require a lot of movements so the boring scenes are balanced out by the high adrenaline puzzles of the show. You can expect Sunrise to go all out from time to time. There aren’t a lot of standout animations though. Some of the scenes just demand complex movements but the animation doesn’t really look all that flashy. The puzzles themselves are flashy but the movements, use of camera angles and such lacks a bit of refinement. The use of effects during scenes that demand a lot of animation does come through nicely. I remember this explosion during the later parts of the anime and it was pretty awesome. The dialogue heavy scenes also feel a bit lacking. The facial expressions aren’t utilized that much and the conversation can really be so damn boring that it’s hard to sit through it.
The anime’s OP is “Destiny” by neko. This one is reminiscent of all the flashy opening song throughout the series. It’s a high energy song with some awesome rhythm to it. It opens with some English words and a few ambiguous lines related to the actual story of the anime. It’s a really nice song. The OP sequence features all the characters and a small montage of the events that happens in the third season. There are also some wonderful spoilers mixed in the OP. If you look hard enough, you can actually see the entire story laid out in the OP sequence. I’m not sure if it was intentional but it’s pretty cool.
The anime’s ED is “Say Yeah!” by Kaito Daimon (Shintaro Asanuma), Nonoha Itou (Kaori Shimizu), Gammon Sakanoue (Jun Fukuyama), Cubic G (Kouki Miyata), Anna Gram (Satsuki Yukino). This is sung by the cast. It’s a funny song because it sounds a bit like something from a variety song. I think it’s pretty cute as well because we get to hear the actual voices of the characters busting out their talent. Lol, Jun Fukuyama has deep voice. It’s also unexpectedly catchy. At first I was a bit bummed because the second season had some amazing soundtrack while the third one had a variety show-like song. But it’s really cool song once you get used to it. The ending sequence features some still shots of the characters you all know and love. It’s just one big nostalgia bomb as you see the characters interact with each other knowing how much they’ve undergone the past two seasons.
7/10 “A wonderful story reminiscent of the past two seasons ruined by one completely absurd plot point.”
It’s still a pretty cool show. The puzzles are all still wonderful and legit. The shounen elements still come through nicely. There aren’t a lot of great original screenplays like Phi Brain so you’d be glad to see its last hurrah. It’s the story that’s the biggest offender, mainly the final plot point. I was seriously bored as I watch it unfold and that makes for a bad anime experience sure to wipe whatever sweetness the anime gave you beforehand. If you love puzzles then you’ll love the entire Phi Brain series. If you’re a fan of Yugi oh then you’ll enjoy this one as well. If you like over the top shounen anime then this one might suit you. Of course, if you saw the two seasons then you should definitely watch the last one. It has its flaws but it also has some great content so it balances out.