Phi Brain – Kami no Puzzle – 01 Review
Episode 1 – The Contract Hidden in the Labyrinth
Reviews by M0rg0th and Saranaufogus
No one was expecting this series to be one of the “quality” series of the season and it is not. The show itself is not bad, but it simply screams mediocre to me.
Daimon Kaito is a high school boy, who loves puzzles. One day, the president of the student council gives him a mobile device and it leads him to an underground ruin buried in the school. He challenges an “insolvable puzzle” hidden in the ruin with his girlfriend Nonoha, but the puzzle turns out to be dangerous and more than what it seems. – My Anime List
So for this show’s first impression review, I have decided that the best way for me to approach my thought on the series would be to simply split it up into two sections – likes and dislikes.
- It turned out to be what I expected, which is a relatively laid back show that requires little thought when watching. It is nice that we are shown all the clues required to solve the puzzle and can choose to use our brains when we watch the show if we choose to but the show does not force us to do so.
- The show started off quickly by showing the main character in the midst of a dangerous puzzle and then quickly carried onto explaining the situation and establishing the characters as well as the setting for the series.
- I also like the fact that the writers decided on going down the path of introducing and educating the audience on different puzzles. I had expected the show to do the “explaining a puzzle” part and we did get to see it in this episode with the Sudoku puzzle. I just hope that this will becomes a ritualistic thing with this series.
- It looks like there is an ominous sub-plot that is related to the principal, the puzzle club president and the mysterious puzzle society and this should at some substance to the series plot.
- I like the fact that the relation between Kaito and the person he made a promise to is shown through the way Kaito mimic’s his stance and dress sense.
- Character Designs. Oh my, they really are not the prettiest characters are they? I mean, they are not terrible but I doubt anyone would be rushing to print the faces of the characters on a pillow cover anytime soon.
- The use of some not so pleasant/lame terms like “puzzle time” and Kaito being given the ability to utilise his brains to it’s limits was something I did not really like and felt they could do without. The whole activation thing is still not boding too well with me because I would rather my main characters who are meant to be smart to be naturally smart instead of “enhanced” in some way.
The look of Enlightenment
Overall, it was a decent first episode. I got what I had expected out of it and I am fine with that. We learn that puzzles is the cultural and “in” thing in that society and that a genius requires the help of his best friend in order to help him find clues to solve a puzzle. This episode did the right thing by cutting to the chase instead of beating around the bush when it came to introducing the world of Phi Brain (similar to what Hunter x Hunter did and unlike the whole first 3 episode of Blood-C) and I appreciate this fact. However, I could not help but feel that because of how rushed the episode was, there was not enough time to build up the atmosphere with the tense atmosphere of the situation or the “coolness” of the puzzle regarding the maze.
Episode Rating: 6.5/10
Well, it could have been worse… but hell, it should’ve been a lot better if it wanted to be entertaining. Someone should’ve mentioned to the creators that puzzles are meant to be exciting brainfood and not another way to show us how much gigahertz main-dude’s brain has. I don’t care how fast he can solve a ridiculously difficult sudoku! He’s supposed to be a character and not a plot-device!
Since she’s a tsundere-stereotype her love includes some meaningless acts of violence because that will help their relationship, right? One has just to look at the statistics for “violence in relationships”: all of ’em the living testimony of how great Tsundere-charactere work in relationships!
Okay, if you look at the basic setting then this episode wanted to be more mysterious than inviting by having us coping with a genius, his girlfriend and some dudes with weird hobbies. And they all like puzzles! What a coincidence! Ah, no, wait, his girlfriend doesn’t like puzzles – because she’s dumb! Right, we shouldn’t forget how intelligent the main-dude is so just make his sidekick a melon-head – but she does have her uses: as external hard-drive. Does our hero need her? Yeah, he does and I do think it was a nice touch to give her some use even if her head doesn’t contain much of a brain but hell, do they have to exaggerate like that? She doesn’t only have a good memory, no, she has an eidetic memory because seemingly normal persons aren’t better than pure comic relief (if you can’t remember the map of some major city within minutes you should be ashamed apparently). “Specialness” seems to be this series’ shortcut to epicness and big theatrical stories. Dudes will give him some stupid riddles to solve and he’s all like “Haha, I’m Orpheus Einstein Super-Puzzle-Genius and my brain is better than yours! It’s puzzle time!”. And the way the first riddle developed it’s already obvious that these puzzle probably will remind one more of Indiana Jones than Name of the Rose. A puzzle should be a riddle with all the parts that are needed to solve it lay out in front of you but just using a certain combination of the things at your dispose will lead to the solution. But if, like this episode showed, the puzzle gets solved by adding elements we didn’t know of (and didn’t suspect them to be there in this form) then it’s just plot-convenience if the characters find them without an explanation (being a genius isn’t an explanation, it’s an attribute). So, I understand what they tried to do by giving the girl eidetic memory but making her another kind of genius isn’t the solution- that just makes it worse!
Besides solving puzzles the main-character also knows how to creep out people…
Story-wise this episode holds its cards close to the chest and doesn’t tell us much about this giant conspiracy (you just know that there’s one, right?) about life-threatening puzzle-games but what it did say was rather obvious like for example its focus on puzzle’s. With the subtlety of a sledgehammer this episode tells you countless times how this series will be about puzzles and how nearly every character worth mentioning does something concerning puzzles or has some talent that’s helpful for puzzles. I think the whole thing will have an arc-based structure where various characters will have the chance to shine with their knowledge about puzzles. Naturally that doesn’t really inspire confidence to regard this show as anything besides average. And what makes things worse is that the cliffhanger of the first episode confronts the main-protagonist with a puzzle that the audience can’t follow meaning it’s just a sort of obstruction for the hero posed by the plot.
Like that one probably should forget the notion of puzzles for this one and shouldn’t regard this as a show that tries to challenge your mind any more than your average shounen-series. The main-character is the ‘fated individual’ with a special destiny, an enormous amount of talent and an invisible aura of uniqueness which makes him kinda invincible – and for me hard to like. This kind of character isn’t really the sort of thing I want to see in an intelligence-based game-series. He isn’t a person as rather a bundle of special ‘stuff’ and it makes him a rather shallow plot-device when his ‘genius’ seems to solve all the stuff at a pace determined by the plot instead of the character. The rest of the cast, meanwhile, clearly has a supporting role and it gives the story a rather straight-forward feeling and it does deliver some cheap excitement that way but it won’t last very long if the characters don’t get enough building-up to matter to the audience beyond its desire to see the good side win the day.
His left eye glows red due to him having read the script beforehand.
The first episode disappoints as it takes all illusions away as to how deep this series will get and one would be on the safe side to assume that this is nothing more than an average shounen-series. The episode doesn’t give the audience much hope to get more from this than seeing strange puzzles solved by the main-chara in a very static way. The characters aren’t complete idiots but what they make up for in usefulness (sadly one can’t take things like this for granted in a shounen-series) they lack in personality and charm. Without expectations an acceptable experience but to even have low expectations may be just too much for what is to come in this series because it doesn’t seem to get better next week.