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Monday, October 17, 2011

Initial Thoughts: Phi Brain - Kami No Puzzle

Daimon Kaito is a high school boy, who loves puzzles. One day, the president of the student council gives him a mobile device and it leads him to an underground ruin buried in the school. He challenges an "insolvable puzzle" hidden in the ruin with his girlfriend Nonoha, but the puzzle turns out to be the dangerous "The Puzzle of Sage" created by the black society "POG". He manages to solve the puzzle but it's the beginning of a puzzle battle against POG. (Source: MAL)

Spoiler warning: Following post contains spoilers for the first two episodes of Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle. Read with caution!

It doesn't have wizards or moe squid girls or King Arthur reincarnated or anything like what the other shows this series has, but Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle does have one thing the others don't have: puzzles, of course. Brain ticklers, cryptic cryptograms, mind bogglers, puzzling parables - you name it, Phi Brain is solving it. From crosswords to Sudoku, riddles to logic grids, not to mention mazes upon mazes, this show manages to be about the pursuits of the nerdy intellectual without becoming so burdened by the intimate details of them that the less-nerdy can't follow what is going on. The fact that it does all of this without becoming boring or just plain stupid and still be watchable should be sign enough that Phi Brain is a show to watch - at least for a couple weeks more.

If you have ever obsessed over a difficult crossword then finished it in a short amount of time, solved the Rubik’s Cube to the astonishment of all your friends, or have even created your own series of puzzles just for the heck of it, you will probably find a kindred spirit in our genius hero Daimon, who fancies himself the master of puzzles. He doesn’t do it for money or fame or any sort of material possessions; naww, he just happens to be the best around when it comes to putting his mind to difficult scenarios. This, of course, makes him the perfect target for puzzle-based shenanigans, especially those involving secret organizations bent on revealing God’s Puzzle and getting deity-like powers from solving said puzzle. So if you have ever wanted to see a punk genius kid save the world from dark forces by solving a really hard series of Sudoku, Phi Brain may be your cup of tea.

For those who watched the early episodes of Yugioh – and I do mean early – then Phi Brain will ring familiar. After all, both series center around solving difficult puzzles that are grand in size and usually involve life or death scenarios, although in Phi Brain it is Kaito who has to do the solving instead of Yami Yugi’s unsuspecting victims. It would be nice to see Kaito be the one who actually creates puzzles, especially since you see him as a young kid making puzzles for fun, and uses them to foil those in POG trying to keep him from reaching God’s Puzzle. After all, it’s one thing to be really good at solving puzzles; it is quite another to create one so hard no one but yourself can solve it (and yes, there has to be a solution, this is Phi Brain we’re talking about not Level E).
It’s also a bit like last year’s sleepy supernatural series, Shinrei Tantei Yakumo, in which an atypical and rather rude hero and his female companion go on mini-adventures solving mysteries that eventually led up to an overarching scheme by a shadow organization, this time being POG and their (oddly-familiar if you’ve been paying attention to the flashbacks) leader. So it really has quite a bit of appeal to fans of the oddly supernatural brain teaser series that have been sadly lacking in recent seasons.

The main appeal of Phi Brain, next to the weird puzzles that can be as small as a piece of paper or as large as an entire underground dungeon maze, is the main protagonist himself: Daimon Kaito. As I said before, he’s a genius-type semi-jerk kid who does puzzles simply because he can and doesn’t take to backing down from an intellectual challenge easily.

Naturally, it’s Daimon who gets noticed by people like POG as well as the Dean of the school and the ever-persistent Puzzle Club on campus. He’s a loud mouth of the Ichigo Kurosaki variety, with twice the arrogance, and just as scrawnily built – but you can’t deny the boy has brains. Some might call his newfound bracelet a deux ex machine for getting out of puzzles, but as Kaito vehemently argues in the second episode, the bracelet ain’t doing shit; it’s all Kaito’s brain doing everything and the ‘special item’ just feeds off of it.
No, Phi Brain isn’t terribly deep for a show about brain teasers but it is incredibly entertaining. Watching Daimon and his kick-happy girlfriend go on daily puzzle trips while figuring out this entire POG/God’s Puzzle scheme is good enough for me, and I can only imagine the puzzles will only get more whacked-out and structurally complex from here on out. Not to mention, it looks like we’re going to be getting our token stuck-up genius pipsqueak in episode three, which is always a plus for watchability. Of all the oddball brainy outcast series of this season, Phi Brain certainly wins the gold. Plus, nothing is more amusing than some stuck-up kid trying to outwit Daimon with – of all things – a simply Sudoku puzzle like he’s not even trying.

Note: no one seems to be interested in simulcasting/licensing Phi Brain: Kami No Puzzle for North American viewing. You know what to do, boys and girls. And don’t forget to support any legal license of the series when it does happen.