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Phi-Brain Season 1 Collection 2 Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read

Phi-Brain Season 1 Collection 2 Blu-ray
Phi-Brain Season 1 Collection 2 Blu-ray
If the puzzle is solved, the world will fall to ruin.

What They Say:
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. There’s just one catch: Kaito doesn’t want 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 group that’s been endangering him and his friends with their cruel puzzles, it may just be the final solution.

Contains episodes 14-25.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this series is pretty straightforward as we get the original Japanese language in stereo as well as a new English language dub in the same format, both of which are encoded with the lossless Dolby TrueHD codec. The show isn’t one that really goes big when it comes to the action or dialogue, but it has some good sequences with the background and ambient sounds with all the elaborate puzzles that hit. The mix is one that covers all the bases well and provides for a fairly engaging forward soundstage to things, but it’s also not a mix that really jumps out at you. It’s solid and serviceable without a lot of bells and whistles to it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2011, the transfer for this thirteen episode collection of the TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs in a nine/three format. Animated by Sunrise, the series has a surprisingly simple approach to its designs, keeping them rather minimal in a lot of ways, but full of vibrant colors that are definitely appealing through the high definition presentation. There are details there, but most of it tends to come from the backgrounds that we get and some of the elaborate traps that are presented. The transfer captures the look of the series well with all that it has and while it may not be the hugely detailed piece you’d expect, it’s a strong looking transfer that brings the quality of the show through well.

The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case where the two discs are held against the interior walls. The front cover gives is a good shot of Kaito and Rook together where they provide the opposites approach that manages to work well with the black and blue maze that’s used as the background, both of which blends well with the blue of the case itself. The back cover uses a lot of black and blue as well, though with more solid blocks of blue that are a bit lighter. Add in some white and more varied character artwork of Jikukawa and Baron as well as a few shots from the show and it’s pretty appealing. The summary covers the basics rather well considering the overall scope here and the production credits list everything clearly. The technical grid lays out all those details cleanly and accurately, making it easy to know what the disc is setup like. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for this release mirrors the front cover pretty well and that works to its advantage. The left side has the navigation strip with the episode numbers and titles with blacks, blues and purples mixed in as well as white for the numbers themselves. The right side uses character artwork of Rook, though not from the cover which is a nice change. It’s a simple menu but the color design is striking and engaging and the whole thing is quick and easy to use. Submenus load quickly when there are any, mostly just the languages on both and the extras on the second disc. The layout is solid and quick to load and we didn’t have any problems getting around or with selections sticking.

The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the first half of the first season of Phi-Brain, I found myself enjoying it for the most part, but aware of the fact that puzzles just aren’t my thing. The bigger picture aspect of the series was certainly interesting with the idea of these massive puzzles being used to try and draw out the potential of certain people that could unlock the Puzzles of God and thereby gain access to the truth within the Book of God. The characters are a bit simple and some of the aspects of how the show works defies logic and reality, but in the end there’s something just plain fun about the title, even if you’re not into the whole puzzle aspect of it. They’re fun to admire at the least, but there’s no way I’d solve any of them myself.

Phi-Brain has itself in an interesting place here for the start of this half as we’ve had the foundations laid down in the first half with the cast and their connections. With the push towards revealing the connection between Kaito and Rook, that upped the ante nicely as he became the director for the POG and swept away some of the silliness that went on with the challenges that Kaito and the others faced. It worked well enough to establish skill and bring together that core group that worked together and befriended Kaito in their own way, but it’s the kind of series of challenges that had it gone on, it would have dragged the show as a whole down. For Kaito, he’s struggling with the visions he’s had through the Armlet of Orpheus that show how the world could end depending on who opens the Book of God. And that has him worried about the man in charge of POG in general, Count Pythagoras, and what it could bring.

Interestingly, while Kaito struggles over his relationship with Kaito and how their pasts and paths took suck different directions, the show spends some decent time with Gammon. While he has a lot of skill, he is rather easily swayed as an offhand comment by his sister stating that he’s better at creating puzzles than solving them causes him to essentially switch sides, joining up with POG in order to challenge and defeat Kaito as it goes on. He has to face a number of things within the POG itself since there’s a level of distrust towards him that’s pretty natural, but Gammon is the type that goes all out and I rather appreciated his dedication here because he opted to become a master Giver and knowing his end challenge would be Kaito has him doing all that he can. His arc plays out well here and he doesn’t really have a change of heart, but events put him in the right direction as it goes on.

With Rook’s more hands on involvement in this half of the season, that does alter the dynamic a bit since it’s less about these goofy and kind of mean Givers that we had before who just wanted to take down Kaito without playing fair. Rook and Kaito’s past is explored a bit and Rook does play dirty in some ways as it goes into what happened to his parents and he manipulates the emotions that come from it within Kaito. But at the same time, deep down at his core, you know Rook has a lot of good memories from the past with him and his goal is one that has him trying to make that eternal. It just involves ending the world in a way. Rook’s story in the series is a bit uneven and is at times kind of hard to believe, but knowing the manipulation that POG put him through over the years, it isn’t all that far fetched in some ways.

Not surprisingly, everything builds up towards a competition between the two with their lives at stakes. The final puzzle that they deal with is less than interesting in a lot of ways because it’s turned terribly simple and not at all about the solving it for the most part but rather reinforcing the bonds of friendship between Kaito and the rest – and with Rook as well. It does bring the arc with Rook to a close though, but I found myself far more enjoying the match between Kaito and Gammon where their lives are on the line and Kaito’s struggle to solve it – without the Armlet of Orpheus – was far more engaging because of its scale and intensity.

In Summary:
In a lot of ways, Pih-Brain is the kind of series that’s definitely a challenge to watch because of what it’s all about. The puzzles factor into things in a big way as one might expect, but it doesn’t try to make the puzzles accessible to everyone. I certainly felt a bit dull in the head with some of it simply because it was beyond me how to solve them – and some of them felt like they were really cheating in order to make it work. But at the core of every series is the character interactions and Phi-Brain plays well here. There’s not a lot of depth for anyone, but I like the arc that Gammon had and I enjoyed the back and forth in regards to Kaito and Rook. It’s not masterfully done, but it’s fun and showed the kind of manipulation that Rook went through that brought him to this point. The show teases well for the second season and they do hit enough material here to show where it can go, and that has me a lot more interested than the Book of God subplot that ran through here.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: May 28thh, 2013
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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