The game is afoot and it’s only getting more deadly.
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 keep the members of the Orpheus Order on task?
Contains episodes 14-25.
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 twelve 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 the main bad 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 Orpheus Order cast with a very slick 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)
With the second season of the series, the show played fairly much by the rules with the first half of it. We got the introduction to the bad guys of the moment with the Orpheus Order, a lot of them that didn’t even feel like it was worth remembering their names, and the larger threat that’s operating behind them. It was all wrapped up in the more personal aspect of the battle with what Freecell had in his past in regards to Kaito. That works well enough but like a lot of the first season, it just felt like an echo and repeat of what we had before and that kept it from feeling like it had a real connection. Thankfully, a lot of the puzzle fighting that went on in the first half of this season was wrapped up pretty quickly and by the end of that set, things had mostly settled so it could go into its second arc more cleanly.
This half of the season again has some echoes of the first season as it deals with several members of the opposition starting to realize that once they were freed from the replica rings that they were being forced into a bad situation that was manipulating them. Some of it is self manipulation though and they start to look for help in different degrees from Kaito and the others. With some down time having happened previously, they’re able to handle things fresh here as Pinochle comes in first and wants to get the help he needs but has to cope with the lie that’s truth and vice versa when it comes to his past with Kaito that ties into what Freecell has been struggling with as well. What we see here is pretty much expected as what Pinochle attributed to Kaito was actually done by him, but he had tricked himself into believing otherwise and the ring reinforced it and turned it into a real passion to see justice done upon Kaito.
Some of the others don’t get as deeply involved as Pinochle does, who ends up being similar to Erena from the first season in that he’s more tied to Kaito and his group after all of this happens, but the others have a bit of a softened attitude towards Kaito after they see more of how that group is bonded. Melancholy is the real exception here, but that makes a lot of sense as the arc goes forward and Klondike appears to make his game more formally against Kaito. While Klondike is pulling a lot of the strings, Melancholy is sort of behind it all, but she abdicated her position to him since she just wanted to have fun. And I love that it worked that way since it does show her skill level but reinforces that what she wants out of puzzles and encounters is the thrill of it all rather than any larger goals.
Klondike on the other hand…
As the main true bad guy in this half, we see through his coming forward and into the game proper what he’s after, which builds on all he did in the first half of the season with the data gathering that Freecell and the others did. With his past explored, he has the interesting idea of creating the replica rings in order to advance mankind overall, though he has his own darker and sinister plans for it as well. But the use of the data and testing with so many people to see how they react to the rings makes a lot of sense, even if he’s driven due to issues in his past about his own level of what he can achieve. Kaito is what he really needs in order to see what the replica rings can be made into and tricking Kaito into it is fairly easy since all Kaito loves is a good puzzle, no matter the stakes and challenge. That creates some pretty engaging puzzles as it goes on and we see what they’re getting involved with.
Klondike’s story is decent overall and I did like the kind of things he brings to the table, but in the end you know he’s not going to be the final opponent. While he’s using Freecell as a goal for Kaito in order to truly tempt him in the same way Kaito would do anything to free Rook, it’s the battle between Kaito and Freecell that dominates the end of the season. Again, a familiar echo of the first season. Freecell and Rook are certainly different characters, but the similarities are pretty strong as well which hurts the enjoyment to some degree. The scale of the battle does feel larger here as the two go at it, but it also manages to work a decent personal side as well as so much of it comes back to Freecell’s mother, which is an event that draws Nonoha in nicely and makes her a valuable member of the team for a bit. While the large puzzle battle is the big event here, the smaller one that Kaito and Freecell do together is what really cements things at the end and makes it work so well, showing us again why people are drawn to Kaito – even with his near obsessive nature with puzzles.
The end of the second season of Phi-Brain works well with what it does in slowly expanding the nature of the story, bringing in the Orpheus Order and what it can mean for a third season of the series. The main focus is always on Kaito and he is the strong player here overall, but with so many new characters coming in on the opposing side it ends up drawing down the supporting cast that rallies around Kaito. They have their moments and they’re useful, but unlike the first season where we felt like they were important players, here they’re not all that much. The opponents this time around are all right at best, but it just suffers from too many echoes of what the first season did and not enough originality in terms of characters. The puzzles are intense though and they really are the big focus as they’re well done and engaging, even if I could never solve a one of them.
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: October 8th, 2013
Running Time: 300 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.