While the gang has dealt with Rook’s organization, there are more evil puzzle masters out there.
What They Say:
After finally overcoming the POG, Kaito Daimon believes that he’ll be spending his free time solving puzzles of the non-lethal variety. Unfortunately, there’s a new group in town: the Orpheus Order, and they’ve got other plans. Plans that involve the imminent demise of Kaito and maybe a friend or two of his along the way as well!
If Kaito could remember just what it was he did to earn the undying enmity of Freecell, the Order’s premier card-carrying member, he’d be happy to apologize. But until he does, Kaito and his friends are going to find themselves confronted with puzzle after puzzle, each more convoluted and deadly than the last.
Contains episodes 1-13.
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 2012, 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/four 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 the main good guys here as they sit and stand across a piece of the silver themed amulet that makes up part of the season here. The white background works well to draw out the characters, but the angle they’re at and the way they look outward just feels kind of off and weird. The back cover uses a lot of black and red, though with more solid blocks of red that are a bit lighter. Add in some white and more varied character artwork 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 back cover pretty well with its colors and that works to its advantage. The left side has the navigation strip with the episode numbers and titles with blacks, reds and purples mixed in as well as white for the numbers themselves. The right side uses character artwork of the main cast with a very friendly feel among all of them that’s pretty nice to see since it’s full of smiles. 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)
After the first season of Ph-Brain: Puzzles of God, I found that I liked the show well enough but was frustrated by some elements while really enjoying others. The positives definitely come down to that while there is an obvious action component to everything here, it’s all driven by intelligence and deduction, which is still fairly rare for a lot of series. Puzzles simply aren’t my thing and I do find them frustrating to do, but I enjoyed them fairly well as the series unfolded since it went big and unusual with some of them and with the deadly aspect of it. But there was also the way the show just felt a bit over the top with what it was doing and it was hard to connect with the characters since they’re pretty thin in general with little of a life outside of the puzzle solving. But that’s their obsession so it makes sense that the focus would be there. But it slows down the way you can connect with them.
The first season did manage to largely wrap things up when it came to the POG and what Rook was doing, but it also left enough open so that you could do more if needed. I can actually appreciate the way they handled it in that you could treat that season as a piece with closure to it, but if you wanted more adventures, you could get that as well. With the second season, that goes by the subtitle of The Orpheus Order, we get the same gang back together and at least with this half, it doesn’t introduce much in the way of new characters for the core group of good guys. The bad guys? Sure, we get a bunch of them. But that’s par for the course and the focus really is on the interactions between the two and you can legitimately get away without really knowing who the enemy is because, like the good guys, there’s not a lot of depth here.
But there are puzzles.
For much of the first half here, the show moves fairly quickly into a new round of competitions through puzzles as a group that goes by the name of Orpheus Order has arrived, under the supervision of a mysterious benefactor named Klondike, intent on taking down Kaito. While Kaito has managed to excel through the first season and turned down the amulet of Orpheus that took him to the next level but warped his mindset completely, he’s not keen on anything else related to it coming into the world. What this group wants to do is something that’s part of something bigger in creating replica Orpheus Ring items, but to do so they need a lot of data to truly make it excel so it can achieve their goals. That means challenging Kaito since he dealt with the POG organization and turned away the amulet. What they do to get the data though, at least for a few matches, is to draw in friends of his by slipping them the replicas which alter their minds and turns them adversarial towards Kaito and the others. That adds an emotional element to it since Kaito and the others have to face against friends.
This gives them the impetus to really deal with the Orpheus Order since they make it really obvious what they want, so it’s not the mystery style we had at the first season. That works for a few episodes but they don’t overdo it as instead is moves towards more formal challenges between the two sides as the supposed leader of it has a long stemming issue with Kaito that goes back to both their childhoods. But with so much of that material already mined with what happened between Rook and Kaito, it feels like too much of a retread. It’s kept a bit shorter overall, but thematically it just left me less than interested in the opponents. Still, there’s some fun to the archetypes that go against each other here as the puzzles are a good challenge and some of the minor subplots that come out through them are more interesting than the main story at the moment.
Surprisingly, this set of episodes isn’t all about this particular arc entirely. Things get dealt with by around episode ten and then we shift gears for a bit to blow off some steam, which was far more fun than I expected. Before it gets into the last episode and starts to play with the bigger storyline to come in the second half, Erena brings the gang to a POG resort where everyone can hang out together and have some no-puzzle time per Nonoha. Of course, Nonoha doesn’t get to make it there till halfway through and the guys are all about the puzzles, which frustrates Erena. It’s a nice way to ease her into things as she wants to be a part of the group and is a natural growth for it, one that could play a bit more of a role in the second half. What we get here though is mostly just lightness and fun, which the series often misses because of life and death puzzles and dramatic tension through character connections. So having this definitely made the set a lot more fun overall and over the two episodes it plays out finally starts to humanize the cast a bit. Not enough, but it’s a start.
Phi-Brain is a series that I will easily admit is an acquired taste rather than a full on mainstream show. It’s got a particular hook to it and it really plays to it as it knows that’s its strength. At the same time, that can make it harder for those that aren’t into puzzles to really engage in it. But honestly, I don’t play sports but I watch a lot of it and I can enjoy it, so there is some ability to do that. With the second season, it dives right into the puzzles with an established cast and hits the ground running with a similar yet different threat to deal with. The similarities frustrate me a bit because it’s too much of a retread in some respects, but it’s also trying to shift to something else with a bit more scope to it. The first half of the season works well overall and it does realize it needs to have some fun as well, but it’s doing a good bit of setup here for what’s to come while drawing the core group together more.
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: July 23rd, 2013
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.