In the year 2027, the video game Phantasy Star Online 2 is all the rage at Seiga Academy. Every student is on board the fad—except for Itsuki Tachibana, a well-rounded student who doesn't play video games. Due to its popularity, the game is currently under review at Seiga Academy to see if it has a negative impact on the students. Consequently, this causes Itsuki to catch the attention of Rina Izumi, the perfectionist student council president who aims to prove that the game is not to blame.
To accomplish her objective, Rina recruits Itsuki as the student council vice president and tasks him with learning to play the game while keeping his grades up. Now obliged to report his daily findings of the game to Rina and analyze its merits, Itsuki carries the fate of Phantasy Star Online 2 in his hands.
Phantasy Star Online 2 The Animation is the eighth project in the franchise, commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of the Phantasy Star Online video game franchise. The anime series features a completely original storyline and all-new characters.
*SPOILERS FOR PHANTASY STAR ONLINE 2 THE ANIMATION. DON'T WATCH THIS ANIME. IT IS NOT WORTH YOUR TIME*
Advertising a game isn't the easiest thing in the world. Making an anime that is based on a game (whether it be an adaptation, a tie-in, or just something to promote the product in question) is even harder. Hell, the movie industry has had an exceptionally hard time trying to make a movie on these same grounds that actually worked well. That being said, you need to try to keep the spirit of the game you're promoting, as well as make something that can be a good gateway
into the game series for people who probably wouldn't have bothered otherwise. With the exception of Visual Novels (they are only visual novels, not multi-genre games with a visual novel storyline), games have been notably hard to adapt right, if the likes of Blazblue Alter Memory are any indication. That brings us to today's target: Phantasy Star Online 2 The Animation. As you can see from both the MAL aggregate score and my score at the top right, this anime really didn't do a good job at anything. Now, why is that exactly? Not only that, but should it be declared as one of the worst anime of 2016? Well, let's find out, shall we?
The first few episodes don't really exhibit much of a major narrative. However, they have plenty of their own problems. The logic behind some of these characters' decisions is weak at best. Why is an average student like Itsuki immediately promoted to Vice-President of the student council right or the bat after joining? Apparently, it's because he has good attendance and his grades are decent (so, what's stopping the rest of these guys from taking up that role?). Why is the company behind PSO2 putting the student council in charge of testing out an already widely released and profitably sold video game that has already been released for seemingly a long time? Because...plot (but why not just enlist hardcore gamers and not a bunch of students that have to manage clubs). Why is Itsuki the handyman of clubs when he wasn't even in a club before the student council? I dunno; probably just so we can have a discount Shirou Emiya that doesn't even do Shirou Emiya things (but what's the point?). Why is the main relationship between our two MC's based around a game of fucking hide and seek? Because we need something to give our hero motivation (so why does this go nowhere?). The premise is kind of dumb as well: You can be conscious while playing the game IRL and you can actively communicate in the game in real time as if you're speaking normally. It gets genuinely confusing how this plays out. I'm not even gonna mention they condescending attempts at teaching us about things that their audience already knows (like conventions, trolls, etc) because we need to move on. One last though before the next paragraph; the first half of the series is riddled with horrendous forced drama moments that also tie in with condescending aesops and retarded character reasonings, so the story quality was horrible even before the main plot drags this all to hell.
The major plot (that really kicks off in the second half of the series) is that Darkers (weird aliens in PSO2) have somehow sprung from the game, through the screens of electronic gaming devices, to the real world. They don't even bother explaining how this works. We get a glimpse of this in episode 6, but t only becomes important in episode 7. We see this mysterious character named Aika who takes the game way too seriously, as if to foreshadow that there's more to the game than meets the eye. Still, what comes next is what truly makes this premise one of the stupidest in anime history:
Apparently, PSO2 isn't a game, but a world. This is all kinds of wrong. First off, how the hell did developers of PSO2 allow it to be a real world? If it existed beforehand, then that only complicates things so much further that it would be pointless to try (though, I would like to see one of you come up with every single way this theory makes no sense in a blog). Then again, part of the reason nothing about PSO2 makes any sense is that we know next to nothing about the game at all, with crucial information being relegated to eye-catcher commercial cards that play before and after a commercial for 3 seconds each! The handling of PSO2 causes a bigger pool of plotholes and questions than the Sword of Akasha from Code Geass R2, the combat systems in Mahouka, AND the combat systems in The Asterisk War! HOW DO YOU EVEN DO THAT?!?!
The other plot is the preparation and execution of the school festival. It's also full of forced drama, bad comedy, and the fact that it has to tie in with the main plot, which leads to even more moments of character idiocy and a generic "hero must save the damsel in distress" final climax (that has its own problems not worth delving into here). The ending is also pathetic as well. Apparently, Dark Falz (which wasn't mentioned previously) corrupts Itsuki's love interest, Rina Izumi, and some fights later, Itsuki, his friends, and his now saved love interest unleash a friendship speech so cheesy that Fairy Tail haters would almost want to apologize for any jokes made about that series' friendship speeches, and they literally rip off Fate/Zero Second Season's Excalibur scene to finish the bad guy "for good". In reality, it'll come back someday, but for now, we finish on a relationship going nowhere and the school festival finishing smoothly. The story is ridiculously bad, and it somehow manages to be one of the few that get literally everything wrong at every turn.
The characters do not fare much better in terms of writing. Itsuki is almost as bland as they come, with the two notable traits being how exceptionally awkward he is and how much easier he can be compared to his contemporaries (like Ritsuka from Fate/Grand Order: First Order). Still, he's hardly worth investing in. Izumi is worse. She is either a pathetically bland tsundere (luckily without the "Baka" or hurting the MC shtick) with a really lame connection to Itsuki, or an awkward mentor, depending on if she is IRL or playing as SORO. As SORO, she is extremely awkward in episode 1 with really confusing quirks that get abandoned immediately. Plus, when she switches into her original game persona, it's the same as IRL. Worse, she becomes a damsel in distress and really contributes nothing to the main plot. The school plot is where she has the most involvement, but she gets hijacked from that in episode 10 for...you know.
IRL, Kouta is the bland and awkward "classmate guy" character. In the game, he is rather eccentric and flamboyant, making me wish he was like that IRL, since this cast needs more life. Aika...is weird. While her initial social oddities become explained in the fact that she is an NPC from PSO2 (which is part of the cesspool or plotholes and stuff surrounding their interpretation of PSO2), it can be embarrassing to sit through. Still, she had the most emotional stakes out of everyone. Too bad her personality is also weak, since she's the best-written character in the show. I'm not even gonna discuss the other logical problems involving her, because these side-characters (aka, the other Student Council members) have waited far too long for their beating.
Yukata flat out sucks. IRL, he is a wimp that nobody really understands until Itsuki does. In the game, he is an arrogant troll who dicks people over, somehow knows who Itsuki's avatar is IRL, and threatens to expose him for no reason. He is a pathetic troll who only exists for a condescending Aesop in episode 3, never to be relevant again until episode 11 for a lame ass "your friends join you for the penultimate fight" cliche battle, with a pathetically weak personality. Two of the student council members (whose names aren't even stated in the anime) have literally the exact same personality. They're beyond superfluous to any of the plots, and there is no reason for their existence other than badly done comedy. Then, there's Kudou, who starts off, like most of the other student council side-characters: generic asshole for the sake of being an asshole. He eventually shows off his eccentric and flamboyant side, but it was too late for him. Mika is aggravatingly douchey towards Itsuki because Izumi hangs out with him more than her. Her forced melodrama doesn't help her character at all.
Barring Last Samurai and his wife, the PSO2 friends have little going for them as well, but they are, luckily, harmless. The only problem is that two of them are also never seen again after their debut until the penultimate battle (and they're not the last characters I'll say that about). In fact, barring the leader (Kasura, who is also generic), this applies to the NPC ARKs guardians as well, minus the pop idol whose singing I dislike. Thus, there isn't any time to make them remotely memorable, which is a shame as they have some potential to bounce off each other to work well in both combat and humor. Some of the students (namely the trio that constantly surrounds Aika) are aggravating to deal with at all times and add nothing but annoyance. Hell, three of the other students that were advertised in the OP are there for a quick moment, and are never seen again.
Not only are most of these characters pathetically lame and poorly written, but the potentially interesting ones never get their chance to do anything, and some of the advertised ones have literally a few seconds of meaningless screen-time. The student council here is so bad that it makes the one in Mahouka look like it was comprised of actually great characters (albeit one of them is actually decent). Not a lot of these guys are actively heinous, but the ones that are, ruin the already mediocre and underutilized cast.
In the real life scenes, the art is passable and the character designs are mediocre. I still hate the occasionally badly blurred backgrounds, and their usage of lighting at times is horrendous (don't get me started on the one scene where there is bright and dark lighting for some reason, and the bright lighting is unbearably bright while the dark lighting is nigh-impossible to see anything in), but nothing deal-breaking here.
However, the PSO2 game stuff is horrendous. The omnipresent CGI here ranges from eye-watering to eye-bleeding! The random monsters are revoltingly bad and the Darkers aren't that much better. The CGI avatars are hideous as well, with special mentions going to Silver (one of the PSO2 friends) and SORO. Hell, during an action scene, the CGI is so bad that it legitimately obliterates the frame rate, which is something that an anime should never be able to pull off on its own (especially on a properly supported platform like Crunchyroll). It makes the already horrible action scenes incomprehensible and impossible to follow properly. The actual action scenes are filled with putrid choreography and ass-pulls left and right (usually due to how we are told nothing about how anything in the game works). Yes, the character actions when CG break the frame rate as well, probably more than the Darkers and other random monsters at times. Plus, the actual avatars look awful by design. The excessive use of excessively bad CGI ruin he already mediocre art and turn it into a disaster-piece that would make art-critics vomit.
The art in episode 9 is definitely a step-up, with better CGI and character models, and no frame rate issues. The action is weak but better than before. Too bad that degrades after episode 10, because I was starting to believe that the animators actually were improving everything at that point. It's as if they said that the final battle needs to look as fugly as possible, and I won't mention how wrong the CGI dragon looks there or how badly they screwed up laser beams, because you need to actually see it for yourself.
The music is, you guessed it: lousy as well. The OP, Zessi Star Gate, by Shouta Aoi, is...odd. The first half is as awkward and lame as it gets. The second half, feels like it's desperately trying to be good, but misses the mark heavily at points. It makes it really weird to sit through. The ED, Rare Drop Koi Koi! One more!, by the two female members of the sad excuse for a love triangle (that Itsuki is a part of) is really bad, and when coupled with the horrid CGI footage and whatever SORO is doing, it becomes both infuriating and embarrassing to sit through. The OST in episode 1, is decent. However, it is horribly misplaced with everything, as if it was made for a more expressive and interesting show instead. That's why for episodes 2-10, the OST is pathetically generic and lame. Then they try some newer songs that also feel relatively out of place, even if there is one OK one that actually fits in episode 9 (as if to say that most of the effort and talent went to episode 9 while all the mediocre and bad sh*t went to the rest of the series). Honestly, nothing works, whether it be decent music that doesn't work with the anime or lame music that just fails to do anything.
The comedy is embarrassing and awkward. Almost none of the jokes work at any capacity. In fact, some of the earlier episodes feel extremely condescending, which really pisses me off. Your audience should never be talked down to, and the show doesn't get that. There's shoving morals in our face, and then there's doing it in a way that really insults our intelligence. The latter half of the show, while aggravating for how hideously had the plot becomes and how pathetic the finale is (the less we mention the Excalibur ripoff scene, the better), is borderline tolerable, if still tedious. At that point, the damage had already been done, and this barely even tried to redeem anything rib my experience with this abomination.
If you noticed --and you probably did--, I used the word "awkward" quite a lot. That's because the show is exactly that. Everything about this show, barring some condescending absurd moments, is awkward and uncomfortable to sit through. It was an endurance test through and through. There is hardly a single redeeming quality about this anime. The music is either decent but misplaced or mediocre, the art is mediocre, the CGI is on a whole other plane of bad, the fights are horrendous, the characters suck, the story is incomprehensible, and any good character with potential is incredibly underutilized. It's as if they wanted there to be as few redeeming qualities as possible. Either that or this was incompetently made. This doesn't cater to potential fans because we are told next to nothing about the game. This doesn't cater to existing players due to how bad the game looks in the ahem and how bad the story and characters are. Who does this even appeal to?! Well, that's enough rambling from me. I don't think this abomination can take it any longer and I've pretty much run out of things to say about it. Well, with that said, I bid you adieu.
Not the best but not the worst, Phantasy Star Online 2 seems to be around the middle where it’s “just okay” (as the main character would put it).
Despite this being based on a video game (a sequel of a spin-off), the story is not set in the game itself. Rather, the game is featured as a game. Also, I believe you don’t really need prior knowledge of the actual game to be able to watch this series as it does a bit of explanation with the game jargon. It has a very simplistic plot, which makes it an easy watch.
The characters, while nothing special, are
still likable and have their own charm to them. Some we see more than others, but that’s only because we mainly focus on a select few. We also see these characters as their game avatars, which at times show a huge contrast from their real-life counterparts.
There’s nothing spectacular about the animation, but I give it praise for keeping it pretty consistent all throughout. There’s also that good blend of CG and 2D during the action sequences that’s not distracting from the rest of the visuals.
Even if I didn’t know about the game it was based on (or any of the other for that matter), I still went ahead and gave it a try, and it was an all right series. I say I would recommend to anyone that probably have either played or know of the game, but also to those who don’t know.
One might think because I played Phantasy Star, PSII, & PSIII, Phantasy Star Online on the Dreamcast and Gamecube, PSO episode 1&2 on the Gamecube and Xbox, PSO portable 1 & 2 on the PSP, and PSO Zero on the NDS that I might have a bias for this anime. How could I? Because I never played PSO 2! Just not core enough to make that happen. In reality I only allowed my love of this series to add a point to my final score. PSO2 the Animation is at best a 6, but 7 to me as an enormous
fan of the video game series. Just for reference I also play a ton of Monster Hunter, Freedom Wars, Ragnarok Odyssey, Soul Sacrifice, God Eater, Toukiden, and all the Dark/Demon Souls games - so clearly I’m a well rounded gamer… It is worth mentioning that every hunting game/action RPG has it’s roots in PSO, and the influence this game has had on the world of video games is no small matter.
What I like. If someone had never played a video game, let alone an action massively multiplayer online game, the first few episodes of this anime are like an instruction manual teaching the viewer what these games are, including a smattering of etiquette within the online multiplayer realm. I loved this, and thought PSO2tA mixed these qualities in admirably into the introduction of characters and story. To any gamer of merit, this may of come off as obvious and redundant, but I’m sure i’m not alone in my appreciation, and suspect more than a handful of people gained something while watching the lighthearted presentation. I considered the animation quality to be slightly above average, except in isolated “in-game” sequences that I found astonishing. There is an appealing hand drawn/CG video game quality. The visual mix of black backgrounds with neon outlines from the video game is captured perfectly. Sadly these sequences are infrequent, and not always consistent in quality. The sound and music are (in my mind) the best qualities in the show, with strong opening and closing credits. The background soundtrack music does a good job setting the tone, and VG sound effects are used just enough to keep the PSO connection. This anime may have attempted to present online gaming as mainstream and desirable, but this community is still niche. While not a fan of advertisement, I still liked the homage payed to interactive online experiences. Anyone who has spent 1000’s of hours online may question the value of time spent, but there are true moments of fleeting greatness that can be shared in this unique environment.
What was adequate. Character and Story. An academy setting, female dominated cast with a dorky/naive/overachieving/ultimately cool male student protagonist… wow, I loved this character mix in Martian Successor Nadesco, however this anime is 20 years old - and *it* used this mix in an intentionally stereotypical manner to make fun of itself and the entire anime medium.
What I didn’t like. It took too long for the story to kick into gear, and the important events to unfold. Even when it does, there is a lot of filler for a short run anime. This does not have the spare density of say, a FLCL. Like so many video games of this type, all PSO incarnations rely heavily on style, atmosphere, and music for overall addictive success. The soundtracks from PSO and PSO episode 1&2 are hauntingly epic, with an electro clarity that made these game experiences unforgettable. While the music in this series is very good, it isn’t good enough to live up to the standard from many of the games. The same might be said of the visuals, which gamers hold in such high regard.
Ultimately I rate this anime as a 7 because of my bias, being after all Phantasy Star trash, and I enjoyed watching every episode.
Phantasy Star started as a series of solid RPGs made for the Mega Drive. In more recent years, it's transitioned into an online game. Phantasy Star Online II is a Japanese only game since initial plans for a more global release kind of fell through. It was released in 2012. In 2016 an anime by our old friends at TMS began airing. That's right, the same studio that gave us Glass no Kamen, Magic Knight Rayearth & Mermaid Forest to name a few.
We open with our protagonist... Blandon attending his classes at Seiga Academy. Which seems like a nice school until you look in
the textbooks and find out they're full of glitches. Blandon is approached by the student council to join them as the new Vice President since the former one went off to star in her own spin-off game that tries way too hard to be dark and edgy and throws in guns and random shadowy aliens. One of his duties is playing the greatest online game ever made, they promise, PSO2. Why? Because the school is thinking about banning online games for distracting students from their studies. So, he randomises a character who just so happens to look exactly like him and starts playing the game. Finding it to be totally better than all those other online games that more people play. Things get a bit surreal when a transfer student shows up who seems very immersed in the game and she seems to be investigating a string of disappearances. But how are they related to the messiah of online gaming?
All right, let's start with the negatives. First off all, the coincidences get to be absurd at times. It's not limited to randomising a character who looks like the player either. There are times when Blandon encounters people who just happen to be talking loudly about the game in front of him after he's met their in-game characters. There are also times when, against all odds, he or another character will run into exactly what they need. And I thought Steerforth randomly showing up all the time got ridiculous. The love triangle is also quite insipid. The series also suffers from the fact that every plot point is really trite. Whenever any plot point comes up you can guess exactly where it's going to go, if you have some level of genre familiarity.
On as positive note, I kind of like the basic premise behind this series. The idea of the game's world being real and there being a way to travel betwixt the two could have been quite a compelling twist. If the writing in this wasn't so bland.
You've probably inferred this already from my calling the protagonist “Blandon” but the characters in this are really one-note and boring. They try to add depth by having people play characters that “demonstrate hidden facets of themselves” but they're quite literally all clichéd character types and the “hidden facets” fit neatly into that. The antagonists are very much the “don't need motivations because they're just evil” variety. At least they aren't actively obnoxious, I guess. That makes them better than a fair number of Sonic's woodland friends.
The biggest issue with the art is simply that some of the cg really stands out awkwardly. That being said, some of the action sequences are pretty neat. There are some good backgrounds. I also do kind of like the way they throw Sonic merchandise around the school.
The voice acting is decent enough. They don't exactly use their actors to their full potential but they sound fine. The music is okay as well. It's not something I'm going to listen to on its own but it as fine in context of the series.
Both our main girls, Blanda & more Mary Sue-ish Blanda, have fangirls who seem romantically interested. Blanda even has them ask her how she feels about lesbian relationships. So, it's pretty blatant that there's romantic attraction there. In a more interesting series, they might have done something with that.
I'd hesitate to call Phantasy Star Online II: The Animation a bad series. It's not. I also wouldn't call it good because it's not. It's an average series where the over-reliance on clichés makes it a bit dull and highly predictable. If you're really into the whole “online games are life” types of anime you might have a good time with it. It's certainly better than some other anime of that type. Otherwise, there's really nothing appealing about it. And, as an advert for the game, it fails pretty badly. You mean I can play a game with a bunch of really dull people and possibly have a monster jump out of it and try to eat my face? Sounds like a terrible time.
Whether they were pulled into an MMORPG that they were playing or simply found themselves stuck in it, there’s something weird happening to anime characters. One way or another, they just keep landing inside RPGs. Here are 15 RPG-themed anime that helped define this budding genre.