When Kaito can no longer solve puzzles, Cubic examines him and finds that the inability is a defense mechanism set up by his brain to avoid a “reverse berzerk”, in which 100% of his brain power goes over to emotion. Despite the risk, Kaito tackles another Sage Puzzle, involving both the structure and meaning of various kanji.
You know it’s time to drop a series when you’re totally apathetic about watching it, and that it feels more like a chore than entertainment. We think we’ve arrived at that point with Phi Brain. Don’t get us wrong: there are things to like about it: the oft-clever puzzles, the soundtrack, Nonoha; but there’s plenty we don’t like, too.
This episode didn’t help matters, as the loss of Kaito’s puzzle-solving powers is basically overcome simply by…yelling a lot, something we have a short fuse for since Blue Exorcist wrapped up. The screaming is meant to imply he’s intensely concentrating on fighting his own brain’s desire to protect itself. It doesn’t really work. The villain-of-the-week was unfortunately another bland psychopath. And all th while Crossfield keeps smirking in the shadows, but we simply don’t care anymore. Puzzle Time is ovah.
Rating: 2.5 (dropped)
The POG brings Kaito to their HQ in Japan, but before he can meet the head, he has to clear a gauntlet of puzzles. Nonoha and Gammon tag along, and they do al the solving while Kaito realizes all of the puzzles are a part of his past, including one that killed his parents. This realization causes him to collapse, and only the shock of Nonoha’s cookies can bring him back. Crossfield declines to meet with him after all, and later Kaito finds he can no longer solve puzzles.
Geez, talk about an efficient drinking game: every time someone says “puzzle”, take a drink. Anyway, where do we begin? That the POG has massive tiltrotor planes? That an extremely elaborate gauntlet of puzzles was set up just to toy with Kaito? That Crossfield may not quite grasp the rules of Chess? The silliness soars to greater highs this week, and Kaito’s breakdown is as random as it is goofy and cliche’d (Gammon even refers to him as going “all Ikari Shinji”, which was pretty funny.)
All of Crossfield’s monologues as he fiddles with a chessboard are all a bit murky: does he actually want Kaito to reach the Phi Brain (whatever it is) and solve the Divine Puzzle (whatever that is)? Is his goal to purge all “ethics, common sense, and emotion” from Kaito? Yeah, good luck with that. Finally, he’s being portrayed as a Bad Guy, but what has he really done – aside from preside over an organization that builds potentially murderous puzzles – and more importantly, what’s his beef, if any?
Kaito grudgingly agrees to check out another sage puzzle. He’s assigned a partner, Anna Gram AKA Da Vinci, an art and puzzle genius. They arrive at the mansion of a recently deceased famous landscape painter. The widow is cold and bitter, and wants to sell the place, but the puzzle must be solved first. The butler turns out to be a Giver from the POG who constructed it. Kaito and Anna are trapped and must solve the puzzle before they’re gassed to death. By rearranging the paintings on the wall according to how their frames match, then using Anna’s extensive knowledge of art history, they get a five-letter roman numeral, which is the code to the safe. The treasure inside is a gallery or portraits of the painter’s wife. The code was the number of the paris apartment where she fell for him.
We’re going to come right out and say we liked this episode. Da Vinci had a pretty good introduction and she and Kaito worked well together. This was also the first episode with an A and a B story: Kaito and Anna solving the puzzle in A, while Nonoha deals with her jealousy, then tries to infiltrate the mansion with the help of a very smitten and willing Gammon, who has an awesome purple bike. I like how her uneasiness about Kaito teaming up with Anna made her a better softball player, but also her realization that she’d rather be by Kaito’s side helping him solve puzzles than let some artsy strumpet take her place.
About Da Vinci…the show kinda pulled a fast one on us and revealed at the very end that she’s actually a he. Which is kinda random and silly and pointless, in our opinion Now there’s no female representation among the named puzzle masters (yet), though her being a guy at least eliminates a potentially annoying triangle involving her and Nonoha. Finally, we have the first POG giver who turns out not to be an evil asshole; as the butler was merely fulfilling the wishes of his dead charge. We’ll also admit we realized MDCLV was roman numerals long before Kaito did, though we’ll give him a pass since we’re unsure how commonly they’re used in Japan.
Fellow solver Cubic, known as “Edison”, introduces himself to Kaito, attaching an armband to him that inhibits puzzle-solving. It causes pain when he concentrates. Kaito, Gammon and Nonoha arrive at the next Sage Puzzle, conceived by the giver known as the “City Developer”. They have to solve his puzzle involving finding the numbers 1-16 expressed in features of a nearby park within sixteen minutes or he’ll blow up the city he helped shape. They work together to solve it, with Kaito’s gold armband coming in handy when time is short.
Last week we met Gammon, who isn’t all that appealing a character. He’s just to loud and high strung, and he brings down Kaito too whenever they’re together; their rivalry is simply stupid. This week we’re introduced to Edison, and we can’t say he’s much of an improvement. Like Gammon, we just can’t bring myself to like the lil’ bastard. He does himself no favors with all his ridiculous contraptions, and that awful voice. More general character design gripes: Nonoha usually looks okay, but when she gets too happy, her eyes and mouth too closely resemble a muppet’s (female characters in Fairy Tail also have this problem)…and the lines beneath characters’ eyes is a needless distraction; they should only have those if they’re embarrassed or aroused.
Anyway, the episode wasn’t without its charms: Nonoha solving more of the final puzzle than Gammon was pretty funny, and the puzzle itself, which involved more number math than the last ones, was sufficiently clever. We would hope the stakes are a little lower in the future though; we didn’t believe for a second the city was in any danger. More localized peril is easier to swallow. And now that we know Gammon and Cubic, we’d prefer to see as little of them as possible, thank you very much.
With the Armband of Orpheus, Kaito is able to quickly solve the sage puzzle, saving himself and Nonoha. He then passes out, and she carries him home. Principal Kaidou tells him he is now a “chosen solver” with the title of Einstein. He meets Galileo, a loud, bombastic windbag; the two develop an instant dislike for one another. When Kaito heads to his next assigned puzzle with Nonoha, Galileo is already there. Kaito solves the puzzle with the help of the armband again, and decides to accept his new title.
This was a pretty good episode, though not as strong as the first. If nothing else, it’s because of this Galileo clown who really grinds our gears. For chrissake, nobody acts like this. Except Black Star. If they did, people would call the cops. At least their food-ordering contest was pretty amusing. It’s also the greatest boon of having a title thus far; free meals as large as you like? Sounds like a pretty good deal to us. Oh, and his “baka” morse code was pretty funny too, once we realized what it was. Still, cops.
A couple other things: Jikugawa is always hiding in the shadows with a juice box, which is…weird. Also, Nonoha is turning out to be a really badass, loyal character. Carrying Kaito home on her back, then holding him in a full nelson to avoid a brawl? Maybe that armband thingy will allow Kaito to open his eyes and see the future wife in front of him, amirite? Finally, Kaito had a flashback whose only purpose was to tell us the white-afroed guy who shows up in the end as a POG bigwig was a childhood friend of his. Hopefully the remaining three characters will be more appealling than Galileo.
Daimon Kaito is a puzzle-solving genius with boundless potential. His classmate Jikugawa lends him a PDA containing a series of puzzles, which he proceeds to quickly solve. When he does, he is invited by the “Minotaur” to a grand puzzle with many stages, but with this one, his life is on the line, as well as his friend Nonoha’s, who tags along. With her help, he clears the initial stage, and he is then furnished a golden armband and a red seeing eye, which will help him use all of his brain to solve the puzzles to come.
We here at RABUJOI love it when are expectations are exceeded. Basing our assumptions on little more than the title, we thought this was going to be a somewhat childish romp involving puzzles. Turns out…well, it kinda is, but who cares? It kicks way more ass than we predicted. Kaito is a somewhat Bossun-looking lead, and while his promise to his dad (solve those poor lonely puzzles 0_o ) it’s clear this is just a kid whose brain needs to be constantly challenged. The fiery Nonoha kinda reminds me of Miyoshi from Bakuman – but is voiced by Lain!
Let’s face it, none of the character designs are super original, but they are well-executed and attractive, and full of life and energy, too. The animation was excellent, the soundtrack was very eclectic and as for the puzzles, well, let’s just say it felt like we were watching Myst in anime form, what with the tricky practical puzzles where you may die if you screw up. The system underlying Minotaur – Einstein and Orpheus and whatnot – still somewhat escape us, but this was a great introduction, and we’ll be watching next week.