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Phi-Brain Season 2 Collection 2 Anime DVD Review

6 min read

Phi-Brain Season 2 Collection 2Puzzle time end–for now.

What They Say:
As the Orpheus Order continues to press their feud with Kaito, embroiling an ever increasing number of innocent bystanders in their deadly puzzles, Kaito struggles to recall just what it was he did to earn Freecell’s undying enmity. But even if he can remember, will he be able to set things right? And if he does manage to reconcile things with Freecell, will that be enough to stop the Orpheus Order? Or will the power of the mysterious Klondike be strong enough to kee p the members of the Orpheus Order on task? It’s puzzles within puzzles as alliances are formed and others dissolved in Phi-Brain—Puzzle of God: The Orpheus Order Collection 2!

The Review:
Audio:
Each episode contains two audio tracks: English 2.0 and Japanese 2.0. English subtitles are also available. For this viewing I listened to the English audio track and had no problems whatsoever hearing the dialogue, music, or sound effects.

Video:
Each episode is present in 16:9 aspect ratio and the overall quality is very good. There were no instances of fadeout or other issues.

Packaging:
The front cover completes the picture begun on the front cover of collection 1. The second half of the Orpheus Order symbol hovers in the background and standing over that and to the right are the members of the Orpheus Order, with Freecell taking up the most prominent position. The spine is primarily black with the show’s title taking up the majority of the top half. A picture of Ana in shadows is under that and the collection number and Sentai Filmworks logo occupy the very bottom. The back cover prominently features the show’s description and various screen shots. Beneath that are more screen shots and the discs’ technical specifications.

Menu:
Each menu features the episode listing on the left-hand side in black and hot pink puzzle pieces. A white arrow hovers beside the option being chosen. On the right side is one of the characters. The main title plays on a ten second loop, which makes it okay to leave the menu playing for a few minutes because the background music doesn’t become too repetitive.

Extras:
The extras included are the standard fare of clean opening and closing animation and trailers. They’re nice enough, but nothing to get excited about or make it worth buying or not buying this series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Although supposedly Kaito and his friends defeated the members of the Orpheus Order, the order’s mysterious leader, Klondike, has other plans. The former POG member, Herbert Muller, is enlisted as the new head of the organization, and his hatred of Kaito spurs the Order to create ever more dangerous puzzles. While this is going on, Cubik and the POG are researching the purpose of the duplicate Orpheus Rings and Kaito struggles to remember the promise he failed to keep to Freecell, which may have led to the death of his mother. The series comes to a head with the revelation of Klondike’s identity and true intentions and ends with a dangerous Puzzle of God created by Freecell.

The Phi-Brain series is basically a Shonen fighter with puzzle solving instead of fighting. If you’re into that genre then you will probably enjoy this, but I find that the constant filler and melodramatic posturing wears thin quickly. The characters are enjoyable enough—if a bit more trope-y than I prefer—and the puzzles are interesting, but most of the time I switch from mild disinterest to irritation with the plot and characters.

This half of the season is a little better than the first because it addresses one of my largest issues with Collection 2: namely, the ridiculous motivations and actions of the Orpheus Order. In Collection 1 we learn that the members all attended the same academy as Kaito and that he slighted all of them in one way or another. The worst is Freecell, who claims that Kaito’s failure to keep a promise led directly to the death of his mother. While the Order states that their goal is to elevate humankind to the level of Gods with the use of the Orpheus Rings, and that their duels with Kaito aid in their development, they really just come off as immature, bratty kids whining about something they should have left behind a long time ago. All through the first half I kept waiting for Kaito to tell them to grow up, but he never did. He took their accusations so seriously that it nearly paralyzed him—perhaps illustrating his own immaturity. It was hinted at in the first half that the Order’s behavior may be due to the influence of the Orpheus Rings, and that is fully realized in this half. However, while that does mitigate the ridiculousness of their claims and attitudes, it still took a long time to get there.

However, even with that aspect explained, there’s a strong, strange undercurrent of co-dependent behavior exhibited by pretty much everybody around Kaito. Phi-Brain is almost like a harem comedy in that everyone is in love with Kaito. Whether intentional or not, there are sexual undertones to some of Kaito’s relationships—especially with Rook and Freecell—and their reactions to Kaito’s absence are pathological, almost as if they are experiencing separation anxiety disorder and the object of their fear of separation is him. Even Kaito’s friends display a similar manic devotion—albeit not quite at the same level as their enemies—and it makes for an odd viewing experience.

Somewhat related to that is the attitude they display towards puzzles. Over-the-top emotions and attitudes are a hallmark of anime, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. AKB0048 wears its heart red and dripping on its sleeve for its love of music and it works there (helped by the fact that it has strong characters and a solid plot), but that same level of adoration displayed here for puzzles just comes off as ridiculous, especially when they talk about the soul of a puzzle or the way they speak about puzzle time in a way that is half sacred, half sexual. If the series had stronger characters that were more than just types and a stronger plot that delved into the nature of puzzles a bit more then it might get away with this, but as it stands, it just doesn’t work for me.

One might come away from this review with the thought that I hate this series. I don’t. While I won’t pretend that it’s my favorite, it’s not bad. It’s a solidly middle-of-the-road title with some odd subtexts that I couldn’t help but notice. It’s certainly popular enough to warrant a release overseas and a third season is in production right now, so clearly I’m in the minority. Ultimately I feel like this is a show that has potential, but never capitalizes on that potential.

In Summary:
Phi-Brain Collection 2 Part 2 wraps up Kaito’s battle against the Orpheus Order. It manages to alleviate some of the issues I had with the first half (namely, the ridiculous motivations of the villains), but the show still feels like it’s squandering its potential. The characters are more types than individuals, the plot somewhat repetitive and Shonen in the way it drags things out, and the manner in which it approaches puzzles is over the top to the level of being offputting. I don’t dislike the show, but I can’t pretend that it’s a favorite either. It’s a middle-of-the-road title that features some interesting ideas, but never capitalizes on them. That and the odd co-dependent manner in which all of the characters regard Kaito make for a mixed viewing experience.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, 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: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: October 8th, 2013
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 16:9

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

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