Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle / Phi Brain: The Puzzle of God. (Anime Review)

Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle – Phi Brain: The Puzzle of God. (Anime Review)

This was an anime listed on the October 2011 New Anime Guide on The Akiba. The promotional screen was the same used on the NHK – Phi Brain Offical Site. It featured an edgy, hard, art style filled with bold and dark colors. Filled with a sense of action, and excitement. The description was straight forward enough. An anime about solving life threatening “philosopher puzzles”, created by the POG. With those two things in mind I decided to watch. After all I love puzzles, codes, and cryptograms. Between the key-word “puzzles” and the crisp art style I immediately thought of Death Note; An absolutely brilliant anime that made you think, and think, and well think until your brain was ready to explode from the mind-bending case and the attempts to solve it.

What I got wasn’t quite what I was hoping for but it was good none-the-less. I suppose I should have considered the following line in the description more carefully:

Kaito is designated as a Solver and  joined by other Solvers as they battle POG all over the world by solving the “philosopher’s puzzles”.

The art style that promo’d as dark and bold, did have it’s dark and bold action filled moments specifically during ‘puzzles’. The rest comes across as a more typical “light” style. It still has the clean-lined art style but with a combination of softer colors, and exaggerated character movements and expressions. Not soft in the terms of Nodame Cantabile, or exaggerated in the terms of Ouran High School Host Club. Yet still the kind of art that gives a good sense that the setting is in fact a ritzy high-school, where much of the ‘non-puzzle’ time occurs.

The characters on average are typical personality arch-types with corresponding character design. The high-school where many of the characters attend has a typical school uniform. Exempted from this are all students who also have a title like Galieo, Edison, and Da Vinci. Each has their own outfit that matches their character for example Edison wears a lab coat. Nanoha who despite nearly always participating in puzzles is not a solver and does not have a title. Instead she’s a ‘normal student’ and ‘best friend’ and wears her corresponding school uniform to perhaps highlight this fact.

The main character Kaito is the exception to that rule. He appears on day one, in street-clothes surrounded by a sea of otherwise uniformed students. After I realized that only ‘titled’ solvers didn’t wear uniforms I was quite miffed that Kaito was jumping the gun before he got a title. Eventually I realized that his character design, and the clothing choice was most likely intentional. I have to assume given his personality that Kaito’s appearance in street clothes is a ‘stick it to the system’ gesture.

This series is defiantly no mind-bending epic like Death Note with super complex leaps of logic. The puzzles are only briefly explained, so it’s not an anime that’s meant to teach you about a subject a la Hikaru no Go. One should not watch this expecting the focus of the anime to be the puzzles. Even though they feature prominently in each episode.   There is at least one puzzle in each episode so far, with some cryptogram’s, codes, and the idle fidgeting with  brain teasers thrown in for good measure. It is obvious whomever was in charge of the puzzle development (both drawn, and written for the script) knew what they were doing however it feels… well ordinary, despite the beefing up with some good action-art.

The anime starts off strong prominently featuring the puzzles. Then it dissolves into a mediocre solve-the-case type of anime. It wasn’t until 8-12 ep’s in that I realized it was all just set up. Or at least that is what I am hoping. It’s common for a anime to  have a rapid-launch, then slow down in the effort to give you a better idea of the world. It provides time for character growth, and more importantly set up. So now that the stage appears to be set I’m looking forward to finishing it off and seeing how it evolves. Given what I already know I will still say this isn’t about Puzzles, nor does it seems to be a ‘must watch’ it will rank among the good, but not the best. Now that I am done with my pre-convieved notions or hopes about the series I will say what it seems to be about.

Kaito + Titled Solvers vs. Rook + POG Givers, with Puzzles as their weapon of choice.

Yup, that was in fact in the description listed on the New Anime Guide. I just didn’t really want to believe it would boil down to being just that simple. However it is. Every “battling” style anime has its choice of weapon. In Air Gear it was the A-T’s, in Beyblade it’s well beyblades, not all battling anime follows an actual fighting-method. You could even say that Hikaru no Go, or Hunter X Hunter are a sort of battling anime. In each they have a goal, Air Gear to be at the top of the tower, Hunter X Hunter to pass the hunter exam, Hikaru to become professional. For Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle I’m not seeing the end-goal yet, though the term “Puzzle of God” has been thrown around. It’s a simple format, given life and complexity only because of the story and the characters, and how it is told.

I can honestly say it has been an enjoyable show to watch despite not being as complex as I had hoped. I will put this along side Metal Fight Beyblade, and Hunter X Hunter, both of which are good show’s in their own respects, and make for easy watching on a rainy day.

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