The first half goes back to 1999 when Maon crosses paths with Fu, Norie and Kaoru for the first time. Maon is inspired by hearing someone whistle at the top of a hill overlooking the sea, and figures out how to do it herself. Ten years later, Maon’s company cheers up a recently-rejected Norie, and when Maon whistles at the sea, Norie can understand her, as if she could read her mind.
We were surprised to be treated to a character-centric episode where the character was someone other than Fu, namely, Maon. We learn that whistling isn’t just something she does to distinguish herself from the others; she’s so bad with words, that she seems to express her feelings best by whistling. Which is, of course, nice and whimsical!
There’s a great little moment when she first encounters a sober-for-once Norie (always good to see other sides of her) and while she’s thinking, she almost involuntarily starts rhythmically whistling. At this point she’s been whistling for a decade, ever since she first met Fu, who was visiting the town with her father, as well as Norie and Kaoru. Small world!
Chihaya and Taichi need more members for the Karuta Club, and when a curious Kanade Oe shows up, Chihaya aims to recruit her. Kana has an encyclopedic knowledge of the 100 poems, their authors, their history, and their different levels of meaning. She agrees to join if Chihaya models yukata for Kana’s family’s business catalog, and the club members must wear traditional garb from now on.
Just when we were wondering how an entire series could revolve around such a seemingly clear-cut game as karuta, enter club member #3, Kanade Oe. She is for lack of a better work, a 100 poems otaku, as well as someone obsessed with history. She’s teased by peers as being born in the wrong era; they may be right. It can happen. In any case, she is an invaluable tool for Chihaya, who’s over-relying on her ears while neglecting card position; a definite hitch in her game she must correct if she’s to be Queen.
Kana shows Chihaya – and us – that each card is much more than just a poem to be taken at face value, and to listen for the first syllables. They are worlds, full of colors, sounds, emotions, and inspired by the lives of the 79 male and 21 female poets, whose 100 best poems make up the game. Chihaya even learns that her namesake card is a poem about “deep red love”. So Chihaya shores up her game and gains a member; Kanade gets to geek out on yukatas and poetry; Taichi has a nice little harem going…everybody wins!
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)