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Phi-Brain Season 1 Collection 2 Anime DVD Review

5 min read

Phi-Brain Season 1 Collection 2 DVD CoverSecond verse more or less same as the first.

What They Say:
Puzzles come in all shapes and sizes. Some are just harder to solve.

Kaito’s spent his whole life solving puzzles, and now his life depends on being able to solve some of the world’s most difficult—and deadly—puzzles. Designated as Puzzles of Fools, these puzzles are designed to push Kaito’s solving abilities to their limits and beyond, or destroy him in the attempt. Each one is more fiendish than the last, and they’re all intended to prepare Kaito for his attempt to solve the Puzzle of God; that’s all the POG’s idea. And when Kaito discovers the identity of the mastermind behind the POG, the sinister gropu that’s been endangering him and his friends with their cruel puzzles, It may just be the final solution. Solving puzzles has never been more challenging or potentially lethal than in Phi-Brain—Puzzle of God Collection 2!

The Review:
Audio:
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.

Video:
The series is presented in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen. The colors are sharp and the overall quality of the animation is solid.

Packaging:
The front cover features Kaito and Rook, both with blazing red eyes and gold, glowing Armlets of Orpheus over a puzzle grid. The show’s title is written centered at the top and “Season One Collection 2” is written at the bottom. The spine contains the title and a picture of Nonoha. The back cover prominently features Newton and the Principal in the right-hand corner. To their left is the show’s description and various screen shots of the show. Beneath that are more screen shots and the discs’ technical specifications.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
Phi-Brain Collection 2 features the standard set of extras that typically comes with these releases. None are really worth mentioning.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
So far Kaito Daimon has survived everything the POG has thrown his way, but the discovery that his former best friend, Rook, is now the head of that organization throws his life into even greater disarray. As Kaito struggles to find a way to save his friends and rescue Rook from himself, he pushes the Armlet of Orpheus even farther, giving him glimpses of a future where the Puzzle of God is solved, and destroys everything. To make matters worse, Gammon, a friendly rival and powerful ally, seems to turn traitor and becomes a Giver for the POG. Now it’s not just the fate of his friends, but the world itself that depends on Kaito’s ability to solve puzzles.

I took the first collection to task for it being pretty typical anime fare, and while that criticism still stands, it’s difficult not to spend twenty-five episodes with a cast of characters and not care for them or their plight. It also helps that I watched the episodes in marathon sessions, so the sheer volume of what I saw combined with the momentum of the plot helped keep me engaged. That all being said, collection two suffers from two rather large issues. I’m heading into spoiler-country here, so those that wish to come to this collection fresh should skip down to the summary.

Both issues tie to character action and motivation—specifically Gammon and Rook. Gammon spends the majority of this collection working for the POG and trying to kill Kaito. It is revealed near the end that this was just a ploy to bring the POG down from the inside, but it’s such a sudden character turn that it feels far too forced and unnatural. Gammon and Kaito have always experienced a rivalry, but up until this point it was always undercut by an obvious—if unstated—affection and respect for one another. However, Gammon’s jealousy of Kaito’s abilities turns up to eleven and it’s such a sudden turn that even the other characters comment upon it. In order for it to truly be effective both as a believable shift and a satisfying twist at the end, the series should have laid the groundwork more carefully and lead up to it more strongly.

The issue with Rook is that his motivations make no sense. Ultimately he cares nothing for the Puzzle of God or the POG. His only goal is to challenge Kaito in a puzzle of his making wherein the loser dies and “lives forever” in the other. What this means is anyone’s guess as Rook is obviously crazier than a soup sandwich. Certain elements do make sense in that the relationship between Giver and Solver has been well-established at this point, as is Rook’s near obsessive love for Kaito. What doesn’t make sense is why Rook feels that one of them must die for the two to be together. Rook displays certain separation-anxiety behaviors, but the leap in crazy logic he makes just isn’t clear. Near the end we’re given a vague reason that the Armlet of Orpheus was driving him mad or pushing his brain to the point where he couldn’t feel his emotions, but it’s a rather throwaway line. There are also hints peppered here and there as to Rook’s childhood under the POG that help explain, but as a character he ramps from zero to crazy in almost no time flat and in a rather unsatisfying way. It may seem fruitless to even guess at the logic of a crazy person, but it’s good to remember that insanity follows its own inner logic based on observations of information that is skewed by malfunctioning perceptions. How Rook comes to his conclusion is never shown, and it makes his turn unsatisfying.

In Summary:
Phi-Brain Collection 2 wraps up Kaito’s battle with the POG and while it was more emotionally involving and entertaining than the first collection, it still is pretty much standard fare with little to distinguish itself from other anime titles. Add to that the rather forced character changes of Rook and Gammon and it’s just not that impressive of a title. I enjoyed it while I watched it, but doubt I’ll ever feel the need to revisit. Mildly recommended.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: C

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: May 28th, 2013
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection

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