Kaito Daimon would be a completely average high school student except for one thing: he's a 'demon' at solving puzzles. Kaito is so brilliant, in fact, that when he's asked to take some 'special' tests of his unique ability, he immediately suspects that the test itself is a test. Kaito suddenly finds himself caught up in a lethal Philosopher's Puzzle made by the sinister group POG, a murderous maze of trap upon trap, where failing to solve the secret correctly will result in death! Fortunately, Kaito's skills prove up to the first test, both for himself and his childhood friend Nanoha, who is also caught up in the deadly scheme. But now that he has been designated as a Solver, he is pulled into a new life where he must travel the world with other Solvers, attempting to solve the latest deadly riddles left by POG. There's a new conundrum around every corner and each deception could lead to death, but once a riddle has been posed, you can count on Kaito to unfold, unravel and unlock it!
Phi Brain is all about solving puzzles, however if you think that you'll be able to solve puzzles along with the protagonists, then I'll put that hope to rest now; you're not. Whilst you'll get the occasional glimpse at the whole puzzle, they are for the most part exclusively for the characters.
The character designs are very brash and crude, very much like the show itself, and whilst I am hesitant to call them outright bad they are certainly below average. This is a low budget anime, and so the animation and art is poor, expect to see many off model shots every episode, which are
often so bad that they are distracting. Whilst this is the case, the animation level doesn't detract too much from the anime as a whole.
The music is worlds apart from the art, the opening "Brain Diver" is a catchy and energetic song that fits the series well, and the ending, "Hologram" is a pleasant track that grows on you as the series progresses. The soundtrack is also pretty good, which at points makes up for the appalling animation quality. It isn't amazing, but is remarkable considering the budget, and works well to make the action scenes tense.
During the first few episodes you will find yourself hard pressed to like the main characters, as the first few episodes focus on making Kaito look as cool as possible by having him casually solve difficult puzzles and the like, to the point where it feels like they're trying to force it down our throats. Gammon comes across as loud and obnoxious, and Cubic seems like an arrogant child prodigy. However as the series progresses past the first few episodes and onto the main plot, the characters become much more likable. This is because they stop trying to outdo each other in both arrogance and in puzzle solving and start working together against the antagonists of the series, the POG.
The story starts off very simply, the POG will set Kaito a puzzle and he'll proceed to solve it using his Orpheus armband, often with the help of one of the geniuses that Kaito meets during the first few episodes. Fortunately the plot becomes more engrossing before too long which makes the series more interesting and reduces the repetitiveness. Don't expect anything deep or complicated from the main plot of Phi Brain as it's still straightforward and standard shounen, but it's an improvement. The puzzles act as a way for the characters to fight each other, and in later episodes "battle puzzles" are introduced, where the two contestants directly match their wits. This is quite entertaining at times, however, the fact you can't see the puzzle in its entirety is frustrating, as it alienates you from the tactics employed.
Phi Brain improves as it progresses, but it never reaches the level of quality I would have liked, however that does not mean it's bereft of entertainment, and although it doesn't have the gripping battles of wit it was aiming for, it's a simple shounen that you can find fairly enjoyable if you aren't feeling too critical.
I like this show (and its second season) a lot. Pretty much one of the very few 2011-2012 anime shows that I really am looking forward to watching almost every single week.
Out of the many shows that Sunrise have made, I think Phi Brain is somewhere at the top, because it's not about Gundams and physical fighting. There's also a certain air of unpredictability when it comes to this series.
You have to keep in mind, Phi Brain was made for NHK Educational channel, which is an offshoot of NHK. It's intended to encourage/motivate Japan's youth to challenge themselves. On the
official Phi Brain website, for every new episode that airs, they post the accompanying puzzle that showed up in the episode. What's pretty amusing is that the anime stars characters, who are not exactly good candidates for being on an educational channel.
The show's setting, itself, cannot exactly be taken seriously as it takes place in a reality where puzzles are essentially EVERYTHING. In that world, being super good at a puzzle essentially makes you a celebrity or a target of a some kind of organization. However, if you've played a lot of Professor Layton games, you will get use to this kind of setting in no time. That's what makes that kind of reality unique, in a sense. Not every day will you come across a show that focuses on puzzles, and not about who's being number 1 master/champion of the world.
I was expecting a lot of filler throughout most of the show along with the POG people challenging each of the main characters, which would be atypical of a shounen show set up. HOWEVER, it never ended up the way I was expecting as there are plenty of random things that do go on in the show. In the end, the story is no longer just about puzzles and how wrong it is to make them dangerous. It's about friendship, childhood trauma, emotions, and the true meaning of trust. That's what I admire about it.
Puzzle-wise, I enjoyed several of them. The show started off with ones you would sort of expect, but then, some of them do become ridiculous hard to your brain. They don't always explain how the puzzles work, but I don't mind that at all. You can always try it yourself online. (And this clearly improves with the second season.)
The first OP was awesome. May'n's Brain Driver was a pretty solid and fitting song towards the animation direction that the OP presented itself with. However, the 2nd OP for the second season, if you ever get there, it just blows May'n's away. (Overall though, they're both good.) ED wise, I like both first and second season's EDs.
Kind of what I expect of Sunrise animation. Nothing too spectacular, but it's good enough as it is. They did a lot of good research behind puzzle designs and did pretty well on conveying the character expressions.
I think it speaks for itself. Sunrise does their sound and music like any other anime companies. I already put my input as to what I said about the OPs and EDs so no further comment is necessary for those.
Out of the zillion anime character archetypes to use, Phi Brain puts together a: semi-grouchy puzzle prodigy, a photographic memory tomboy (-yandere-ish as some call her?), a baby face computer genius, a super convincing cross-dressing artist, a high strung tough crazy/sadistic(?) biker guy, and eventually, an apple juice loving student president. (And then, Kaito's childhood friend who is....*spoiler* so I won't be saying anything about him.) These guys are just lovable in their own ways. All their personalities are different as well as their antics. Even if some of them display, er.... "fan-service"-ish qualities, I pretty much disregard it because it's not bad compared to the shounen manga/anime that displays fanservice purely for guys. =__=;;
I initially wasn't sure what to expect from these characters , but the people behind the show, were able to play with these personalities in order to make the show engaging. Sometimes, they used the characters to poke fun at their own selves so I like that. ^_^ So much for some cliches....
We're also able to get into a backstory with some of them, even though, Kaito's past is the main focus. I think season 2 will continue with flexing out some of the other characters' pasts, from the looks of it, even if it's still Kaito past-focused. The side characters, for this show, are never forgotten in any way. They each get a role to shine in, whether it's a backstory or not.
Side note: A lot of people wonder what's wrong with the main character, Kaito, and why he treats all these other characters, supposedly his friends, the way he does. There is a reason for this and it's all part of his character development. People need to be patient about him, because his original personality was really.......*spoiler spoiler*
If you've reached this far in my review, you can clearly tell that I have enjoyed this show immensely right into the second season. Things got pretty good by the end of the first season, and the second season just leaves the main characters without too much break/mercy.
If you can understand that this show....
+ Shouldn't be taken too seriously, while it still has its serious parts (that reminds me of Poke'mon Black/White, the game, just a little bit).
+ Don't expect the puzzles to be fully explained out or solved slowly, at least in season 1.
+ Don't mind a cross-dresser, who is soooo convincing that even after you know the truth, it's still hard to believe.
+ Don't mind the antagonist to be a bit "creepy" with Kaito and probably some other people.
+ Isn't all black vs. white. There are a lot of gray areas with the characters.
+ Kaito's own actions are influenced by "something".
Then, this is a show that's worth a shot. It's not exactly the level of "Fantastic Children", but, it's one of the better shows for me, at least, as oppose to a show full of harlems, stupid fanservice, pointless comedies,pointless fighting, undeveloped characters, and magic girls.
This show would basically be your generic shounen, if not for a couple of....interesting....things
story: pretty much revolves around kaito, everybody is either out to murder him or out to get puzzle time with him. no seriously, puzzle time with kaito will be MINE! there is a background story about evil plots, a divine puzzle and other stuff, but the main focal point is definitely puzzle time with kaito.
art: average, probably not 2011 worthy, but honestly i'm not to obssesed with this as long as they don't give it.....american tier "art"
sound: opening was really good, the sounds during the show weren't spectacular, but they didn't
annoy me either.
characters: only a couple of main characters had much depth to them, i've already seen season 2 which helped build to alot of characters depth, i will say that the first season probably did not nearly as much though. Ana is best character, just saying
enjoyment: to be honest i reallly did enjoy it for the most part. in fact, i laughed alot because of how....ridiculously overdone it was, with you know....that and that. you'll probably either laugh alot or get pissed off alot. if your the type who gets pissed off i'd probably abandon, because its super over the top all the time every time.
overall, i'd give it like an 8. because its puzzle time
I was deeply in love with this series ever since the first episode...
The way it was thought out was in a magnificent glory of fragrance. Episode after episode had me hooked until the very end, when they solved all those complicated puzzles it kind of made me feel dumb because I knew that I couldn't solve it. Even if it didn't give us a chance to solve them I really don't mind because I watch anime for the overall enjoyment.
I really loved how they made Ana Gram look
so much like a girl! Gammon was pretty funny looking but I didn't mind one bit! I always thought Nonoha was a very beautiful girl even if her hair wasn't down. Cubic looked like a little kid, I always just wanted to jump into the screen and pinch his cheeks x3. Finally, Kaito Daimon, he looks like one of those guys that would be in a gang (well sort of) the thing that I really loved about him is how when the armlet activates one of his eye's turns red! x3
I very much enjoyed the opening song, it was a good choice and it almost matched the story line. The ending wasn't half bad either... anyway all of the voice actors did an outstanding job trying to match the character's personality, everything was just impressive.
Kaito was a pretty cool guy in the beginning and to the end, he was smart, he looked cool, and he was a kind guy too! Nonoha reminded me of Sakura from Naruto because of the strength they both had, I also enjoyed Nonoha from how caring she was. Gammon was my second favorite character (My first is Rook) because of how he hides the fact that he actually cares about people, but yet people can't see that. Ana Gram was a good person I especially liked him because he's a Hideyoshi x3, (I was so fooled by the girl voice and looks ). I very much liked Cubic because of him being so short and him being such a genius, also he seemed to be bad but was actually a nice person deep down.
I absolutely loved every last detail about it and how it was designed, it all flowed in a harmonic web of destiny.
Best Anime i've seen about puzzles that is...
If I recommend it:
Watch it I'm sure you'll enjoy it like I did.
Written by Yuu Kamiya, No Game No Life is an adventure and comedy series set in a fantasy world. It is a story of two genius "hikikomori" siblings who find themselves in the mystical world of Disboard to unite all sixteen races of the Exceed and challenge Tet, the one true god.