An interesting premise that suffers from predictable characters and plot.
What They Say:
Riddle me this: How do you solve the world’s most challenging puzzle? You need the world’s best puzzle solver of course. Kaito Daimon, a completely average high school student except for one thing: he’s a demon at solving puzzles. Not only is he exceptionally good at solving them, he loves solving them. In fact, Kaito eats, sleeps and breaths puzzles. So when he suddenly finds himself caught in a lethal Philosopher’s Puzzle made by the sinister POG, he wouldn’t be worried, except that his childhood friend Nonoha is caught with him. And she…Well, let’s just say that Nonoha and puzzles don’t mix. But if Kaito can get them out alive, he’ll be designated a Solver, someone who travels the world attempting to solve the latest deadly riddles left by the POG. There’s a new conundrum around every corner and each deception could lead to death. But once a riddle has been posed, you can count on Kaito to unravel the solution in Phi-Brain ~ Puzzle of God!
Each episode contains an English and Japanese language track both in Dolby Digital 2.0. The audio quality was fine with no dropout or other issues.
The series is presented in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen. The colors are sharp and the overall quality of the animation is solid.
The front cover features Kaito sitting on what looks to be a puzzle grid or aerial view of a maze. His right eye is blazing red and the Armlet of Orpheus glowing yellow. The show’s title rests at the upper left-hand corner and “Season 1 Collection 1” is written in the lower left-hand corner. The spine contains the title and a picture of Kaito, eye still glowing, staring out at the viewer. The back cover prominently features Nonoha in the right-hand corner. To her left is the show’s description and various screen shots of the show. Beneath that are more screen shots and the discs’ technical specifications.
Each disc features one of the characters in three-quarter profile on the right-hand side of the screen. The episodes are listed on the left-hand side with the language and special features options listed under in large, clear to see sections. There is no play all function, but selecting the first episode will do that just the same. The main theme, “Brain Diver,” plays on a ten second loop while the menu plays and gets a bit repetitive after a while.
Phi-Brain Collection 1 features the standard set of extras that typically comes with these releases. None are really worth mentioning.
Kaito Daimon is the best puzzle solver in his high school, and he never lets you forget it. For him puzzles aren’t a way of passing the time, they are a way of life. His skills (and his pride in them) do not go unnoticed. He is challenged to a particularly dangerous game called a Philosopher’s Puzzle created by a mysterious organization called the POG. If he solves it, he will be officially recognized as a Solver and will be inducted into the POG and given more opportunities to solve puzzles for riches and prizes. If he fails, then he and his friend Nonoha will die. However, there exists a larger purpose behind the POG. The puzzles its members create lead to an even greater puzzle: The Puzzle of God. Only a Phi-Brain—a person of incredible, superhuman intellect—can beat the puzzle, and the POG has spent a great deal of time discovering and cultivating children with Phi-Brain potential. That quest may have found its end with Kaito.
The best aspect of this show is how it plays with puzzles and riddles. Historically riddles have been the way for bards, skalds, and wizards to keep their secrets and create a connection with their Gods. Those that held the secrets to the riddle held the power, and the ability to uncover said secrets inducted neophytes to the sacred order. It’s interesting to see this idea translated to a modern setting, and the Rube Goldbergian puzzles the POG crafts are fun and interesting, but beyond that this is pretty much stock anime with the standard character types and situations we’ve seen before.
Kaito is the standard gruff genius who manages to both cultivate and push away people. He presents a macho façade but not-so-secretly cares for his friends. Nonoha is his spunky, athletic quasi-girlfriend. Gammon is his friendly rival and the two hide their affection for one another behind a near-constant stream of bickering. Cubik is the boy genius, and Ana the cross-dressing boy painter. None of these characters are new (although Ana comes the closest), and while they are played very well and fit the story, none of them stand out from any of the several others I can recall from other series.
Much the same can be said for the general plot. Although not as drawn out as a Shonen title, it does feature the same basic setup: each episode Kaito is faced with a new challenge by his antagonists and with the help of his friends he must cultivate his skills to solve them. At times new information is given hinting at a larger conflict in which he is becoming embroiled, but at the end it is revealed that the main conflict stems from an individual with which Kaito shares a past and all the deadly, global trappings pare down to a fight between two people that love each other, but somewhere along the way lost the ability to express it in any sort of healthy manner.
Mind you, Phi-Brain does play with these character and story types well, but the first thirteen episodes do nothing new or interesting with them. Perhaps tellingly, my favorite character in the series thus far is Nonoha. I feel that she’s the most well-rounded and developed character in the show, and she’s definitely the one that’s most honest with herself and others. Kaito and Gammon hide behind their tough guy exteriors, Cubik behind his genius, and Ana—well, Ana just does her own thing, which makes him/her my second favorite. Again, there’s nothing necessarily bad in this series, but there’s nothing that truly catches my attention other than the overall premise.
The secret society POG has spent years cultivating children with genius potential (the so-called Phi-Brains) in order to solve the Puzzle of God. Their newest target, Kaito Daimon, may well indeed be a Phi-Brain, but in order to discover if this is true, and to help him reach his maximum potential, the POG challenges him to greater and more dangerous puzzles. The overall premise of this show is fun, but there’s nothing particularly new or exciting in these first thirteen episodes. Other than the setup, the basic plotlines and characters are stock anime, with the exception of Nonoha and Ana, who manage to inject the show with a sense of personality. However, they aren’t enough to make this show more than a solid, middle-of-the-road series. Mildly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitle, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sunrise
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection