It’s time to look at a puzzle anime which is pretty unique. There are a few puzzle franchises out there, but if we’re strictly looking at shows the only one that I can think of is Layton and I haven’t seen that one yet. A puzzle is different from a mystery after all as you’re trying to find the way to complete it, not so much finding out who made it. The season’s definitely a lot of fun and basically handled everything flawlessly. It’s a show that you can certainly recommend to anyone and it has no weak points.
The show starts with Kaito Daimon (Get used to his full name as all of the characters like using it) beating the puzzle club’s best puzzles once again. Try as they might they can never defeat him and that’s because Kaito is a genius. His catch phrase is “There ain’t no puzzle I can’t solve” which is a triple negative so it basically turns into “I can solve all puzzles!” It’s definitely one of the best catchphrases I’ve heard in a while although “I’m not done yet!” still wins at the moment. His best friend Nonoha isn’t any good at puzzles but they still get along pretty well with how different they are. Kaito’s life gets a little more complicated though when an evil organization known as the POG shows up. They have begun setting up puzzles which are designed to take the life of those who challenge them.
This goes against what Kaito believes puzzles should be like. He plays them for fun after all. Now he is obligated to try out all of these puzzles so he can solve them before anyone gets hurt. He registers with the school as a genius with an official title so he can go after the POG and is also chosen by the Armlet of Orpheus which grants him super human intelligence for a time, but also completely exhausts him. He won’t be alone though as 3 other geniuses from the school, Gammon, Ana, and Cubik are also chosen. Together they have to stop the POG, but are these other guys just holding Kaito back? If so…how can he get them to back off?
A great deal of the season is shrouded in mystery as we only learn more about the POG in small steps. At first all you really know is that Kaito has to stop them. Gradually we see inside of the POG. Their motives, how the organization works, etc. Especially towards the end as we get a full flashback episode and you get all of the context. I’d say that the show does a good job of answering all of its questions. I still have to question how practical the POG is. Apparently they used to be more of a heroic organization but gradually they became more ruthless and were just hiring a bunch of murderers. However, from the start they were going around murdering people so it’s safe to say that this was all a front. If anything the disturbing element of the POG is how like most other cults they get a lot of people who seem like ordinary citizens to quickly be eager to destroy their fellow man. It’s definitely not what you would expect from a teacher at the local school for example. The POG also gets away with quite a lot to be honest, but I suppose one day the cops will learn of them and they’ll all do some time.
Back on target, as I mentioned the puzzles are one of the big selling points of the show. They certainly deliver. All of the puzzles in the show are properly explained. They are nice and complex without being hard to understand. For example, when you see the puzzle you will quickly know what to do even if you aren’t sure how to find the actual answer. The puzzles are just written really well. My favorite one is probably the Lightsaber duel. There’s a lot of strategy there while also being more of a physical test of skill since you also need to be able to move fast enough to pull off most of the moves. The same can be said for some of the other puzzles like the battle atop the construction building. If you can’t run from pillar to pillar fast enough then it’s really all over.
The animation is quite sharp. I like the effects that are used for the armlet and the glowing eyes that Kaito and Rook have. The energy effects are just very vibrant and same with all of the backgrounds. The show always looks sharp and you can tell that a good amount of effort was put into it. I also greatly enjoyed the soundtrack. It’s an interesting Brazilian/Portuguese type soundtrack with a lot of fast paced tunes that work well for the puzzles. The theme song is also really good which is definitely fortunate since the whole season just has one. iI still think that a theme song should change every 13 episodes, but I suppose that can get expensive. It’s definitely a memorable bundle of songs so that is reason enough to give this one a look.
Now lets look at the main cast. Kaito is our main character and he’s a good lead. He is very confident throughout the series and never even considers the fact that he might not win. He knows that he is a top notch solver and I do tend to enjoy characters like that quite a bit. He does have a few times where his confidence is shaken thanks to stuff that happened in his childhood which the villains love to use against him. Still, it never keeps him down for long and Kaito always bounces back. He has to work extra hard most of the time so he wins the puzzle while still saving his opponent. It’s definitely not an easy road, but it’s one that he can handle. The best character in the show is certainly him or Gammon.
Gammon is the rival here. He’s another very confident character who is convinced that he is the best. Initially he is a solver like Kaito but eventually he remembers that he used to be a Giver. (Givers create puzzles while solvers…..solve them) This leads to a rather iffy decision where Gammon joins the POG for a while. Now this is where it’s pretty complicated. See, the show doesn’t play it off as too serious a thing. He betrays the heroes and works for a bunch of murderers, but he never personally destroys anyone. The heroes also seem to think that he knew they would survive each time which is why he had no qualms about murdering Kaito. Still, it’s taken quite far so even if the heroes can forgive him I’m not sure if I can. At the very least he did drop from being my favorite character to going under Kaito. I suppose I’ll put him in 2nd for now, but it will be interesting to see where his character arc goes from here. His tale is tragic at times admittedly as he is quite good, but always gets overshadowed by Kaito. That’s why it was interesting to see him as an antagonist since he busts into the villain base and starts taking everyone down. The fact that he was able to beat everyone aside from the boss Rook (Who he never got to fight) is quite telling.
Nonoha is the main heroine and she’s a fun character to have around. She can actually fight unlike most of the cast which is certainly handy in case any of the villains decide to take matters into their own hands. I also like how she was helpful right from the start like in the very first episode where she helps Kaito during the maze. Yeah, she almost fell to her doom, but it was a good effort. She’s always around to cheer Kaito and the gang up. Even after all of Kaito’s friends start running scared she manages to stick with him the whole time. Definitely a quality character and even if she can’t solve puzzles hopefully she continues to get a big role in the next adventures.
Cubik is one of Kaito’s less impressive friends. He tries to stop Kaito from solving puzzles several times. The worst instance of this was when he put something on Kaito that wouldn’t let him focus on puzzles and would give him shots of pain if he tried. It’s always tragic to see since those puzzles would have been easy for Kaito otherwise. Cubik also deserts Kaito when the lead needed him most. He has his reasons and at least he had one unlike the next character, but he could have handled the situation much better than he did. It was still rather tough for him to recover from what happened in the end. Cubik also isn’t one of the better solvers to be honest.
Then there is Ana who is the worse of the friends. For starters, when he deserts Kaito there is no good reason. He just couldn’t take the stress and thought that Kaito was going to die so he wanted no part of it. Even by the end of the series all he got to do was show Kaito a painting. Sure, that was Ana’s big moment, but it wasn’t nearly as emotional or impactful at the others. Ana just could have done a lot better and never taking anything seriously doesn’t help his case either. Sometimes you gotta take things seriously or overconfidence will be your downfall.
Jikukawa is the mysterious student counsel president who works directly for Principal Baron. He acts like a troll most of the time and is just around to give the heroes their orders. He keeps a lot of secrets from them, but at the end of the day he does try to help them out at times. He just has the dangerous attitude of letting them go to the death puzzles and deciding that if they can’t solve them then it was simply their time. He starts taking more initiative as the series goes on and gradually becomes a better character as a result. You should only listen to corrupt orders for so long after all. Then we have the Principal who never really became a good character.
Baron is one of the big members of the POG and he tries to get the heroes to solve the puzzles. The problem is that his end goal is to defy the POG but he does a really bad job of it. He’s in over his head and doesn’t even know what is happening half the time. He may as well be a villain since he does whatever they say without question. Don’t let his peaceful words fool you, the Baron is not someone that I would trust and the heroes should probably be less happy to see him each time. Then we have Jin who used to hang out with Kaito and Rook before vanishing. The way his plot goes may be a bit unsatisfying, but it was an original twist. Lets just say that the big showdown really didn’t go his way despite the guy’s confidence. Maybe he would have done a little better if he had kept the armlet.
Time to look at the villains. The leader/main villain of the series is Rook. He was Kaito’s friend back in the day before vanishing. Now he is focused on destroying Kaito because he wishes they could have been friends without anyone else. Of course, I don’t trust Rook much though and I think he would have made them go through the Puzzle of God anyway. I haven’t really talked about that part much, but basically the ultimate goal of the POG is to develop a talent strong enough to challenge the Puzzle of God. Here’s where it gets a bit confusing, you need 2 solvers to challenge the puzzle at the same time since it’s a battle puzzle. The loser dies while the winner receives the Book of God which can be used to destroy the world..somehow. I don’t think the show even knows how it would work, but it’s basically just an incentive to get everyone fighting. The actual book is never all that important. Fortunately since the two solvers in the past already solved it, the book is already out in the open. Back to Rook, he’s not the greatest villain. He seems pretty intense by the end with how he wants to be with Kaito, but still chooses to act as his enemy the whole time. He let his jealousy turn him mad which wrecks all of his composure. He has a cool design, but he’s probably one of the weaker villains personality-wise.
Then we have Bishop who is Rook’s right hand man. This guy was pretty cool and it’s too bad we couldn’t have seen him more. The guy’s a genius in his own right even if he is a considerable step below Rook. He always keeps his cool and helps the villains from behind the scenes. He believes in winning fair and square so he doesn’t use any cheap tactics. That definitely makes him an honorable fighter in my book. It’s certainly possible that he may return, but I just get the feeling that he probably won’t do much. Meanwhile, one of the other big villains is Elena. She’s a villain by night and an entertainer by day, but both roles involve puzzles. Her heart is never really in it compared to the others, but she still stays on the side of the POG. She may as well since she’s a celebrity and doesn’t have to fear them as much as the others. Elena is a fun character and pretty resourceful. The heroes definitely owe her for the insider information she gave them. I could definitely see her showing up again at some point. She got a lot of development so it’s time for her to challenge a puzzle as a hero.
That’s basically it for the relevant cast. I’ve also covered pretty much everything about the series so it’s almost time for the wrap up. It goes without saying but the writing is also pretty solid. I think you’ll be kept engaged from start to finish. The show has a lot of replay value given how you can also choose to pause the puzzle from the start and solve it yourself. Some of them can be a bit of a stretch to solve without clues, but others are laid out from the start with a solution. You’ll just need a paper and pen handy to see if you can crack it. It’ll definitely take you longer than the characters from the show though.
Overall, Phi Brain is definitely a blast. It’s a series that I highly recommend. The puzzles are really well thought out and the cast of characters are all pretty interesting as well. I think the random episodes of the heroes beating puzzles of fools and POG traps may have beaten some of the more plot based episodes of the second half, but both have their strengths. You can be satisfied with knowing that season 1 is a complete package. It’s a story that has a beginning and an ending. There isn’t even a real cliffhanger for season 2 as long as you don’t watch the preview. I’m certainly glad that there are more adventures to be had with the main cast though. They can easily hold their own plots. Even without a main villain group the puzzles would be good enough, but we do actually have a fresh villain group coming up which will be cool. They have a lot of potential.