Gammon needs to work on looking less like a maniac during these touching moments
|It’s over? It’s really over? I’m still in disbelief that Phi Brain is actually ending! It feels like my entire time at Metanorn has been spent blogging about puzzles. I barely even remember blogging other shows, and it’s hard to imagine that I have to blog something else next season. Although it’s sad, I’ll try to gather my strength to give Phi Brain the sending off it deserves.|
The final arc of Phi Brain has been somewhat of a trainwreck. Characters were killed off all of a sudden as the rest of the cast acted like unfeeling psychopaths who didn’t care anymore. The quality of the show suffered for this wild shift in tone. It wasn’t a very impressive turn of events for what is (for now) the end of Phi Brain. However, the finale was so good that I became very tempted to overlook how completely messed up the plot was. It was an exciting finale that did the best it could given the sloppy plot up until now. It was entertaining, well-paced and explained everything we needed to know. Unfortunately, it had to wrap up some pretty stupid issues (such as half the cast pretending to die which I WILL NEVER GET OVER).
“PAZURU TAIMU NO- wait, where are you all going??”
The finale was full of high points and some genuinely surprising twists. My favourite twist has to be Nonoha appearing in the altered past as a skilled Solver from the POG to solve the hardest puzzle in the world with Kaito. The kick in the ribs is that we never actually get to see her solve the puzzle. The one chance Nonoha has to shine in a puzzle using more than just her memory skills, and they cut her off. Ah well, she wasn’t the heroine of this season, I suppose. Still, I loved seeing how changing the past subtly made Nonoha a bonafide puzzle geek.
The way they hint that Nonoha will finally become a decent Solver is sweet, as it means she can finally solve puzzles together with her friends. It would also be a wonderful idea for a spin-off series where Nonoha is the star. Kaito is already at the god-tier in terms of puzzle skills, so he’s no fun to watch anymore. It’s better to start with another newbie and watch them go through grueling puzzle training to become the best! It would be a perfect chance for them to make up for all the rampant misogyny throughout the series. Girls cooking isn’t a problem. Girls who can do nothing but cook for the men because they aren’t allowed to do anything else is not. I doubt we’ll get another season, but I can always dream about a strange future where girls actually do something useful on the show.
The final puzzle isn’t all that daunting. It’s more focused on the dynamics between Raetsel and Kaito than the difficulty or flamboyance of the puzzle itself. Solving a puzzle is hard, but so is non-verbally communicating a complex plan to make sure you break the rules and end in a tie. This season has really emphasized the importance of working together and the joy of solving puzzles with your friends. I’m not quite sure why they thought making Kaito fail to save his friends in a co-op puzzle would be a good way to motivate him to fight Jin, but at least they came around full circle to say that “yayyyy puzzles are friends!” Why risk your life alone when you can put everyone you love in mortal peril, right?
Using some nifty loopholes, Kaito and Raetsel manage to win together. Through this, Raetsel discovers what it means to actually enjoy puzzles. Finally, she can see them as more than just scary things that try and kill Jin. The transition from that to the next scene is…well, a little shaky. Orpheus – unfazed as always – just sends them both up and proceeds to steal Kaito’s body. Almost as an after thought, Enigma nonsensically jumps into an elevator while screaming and falls to his death.
Everything was tied up so neatly in the end, but the writers couldn’t seem to be bothered to find a way to keep Enigma in the equation. He was useless and he died in a fit of conveniently timed lunacy. I don’t know about you, but I laughed at how suddenly he died and how everyone immediately just moved on to more pressing issues. R.I.P. Enigma. We were wondering if Orpheus would let you see Lovushka or trick you, but you accidentally killed yourself (for no reason!) before he could even acknowledge you.
*”Another One Bites the Dust” plays faintly in the distance*
But things must move on…and they move quite fast. In a rather anti-climactic finish, Orpheus simply fails to take over Kaito (Cubic helps) and ends up becoming one with Jin. This is a really dumb-good-dumb sandwich moment. From Enigma dying onwards, it’s all bullshit. Jin’s speech to Kaito and Raetsel is actually really sweet and explains a lot about how the characters have grown, so it’s a plus in my books. Then Jin dies for real and it’s bullshit again. Why? Let’s get this straight. You can fake-kill main characters like Gammon, Freecell and Rook and have them show up without Kaito even crying or running over to see them…but you can’t let Jin live. The logic doesn’t make any sense. “Maybe Jin will get saved like those 3 other characters that were magically revived!” nope. Jin dying was inevitable, but to have it happen right after you reunite Kaito with his supposedly dead friends is just cruel.
The finale was a mixed bag, but the good moments made it easy to dismiss all the strange plot points. At least everything was adequately explained without any loose ends. In a true Phi Brain style, we end with a dorky shot of Kaito pulling his signature face and shouting his catchphrase to the sky. Additionally, the extra puzzles segment of the Japanese version calls into question what the heck Kaito is doing with his future. I mean, think about it. It’s not sustainable to just travel to random countries and teach puzzles to children. Do that and you’ll become the same wandering, scruffy hobo Jin was. All Kaito needs to do is kidnap one of those kids and he’s already in the creeper/pedo territory.
Thankfully, the rest of the cast realizes how much of a bad decision this is. Rook suggests he joins the POG, Freecell tells him to go to England (where Raetsel is now residing as well) and Cubic wants him to do puzzle research with him. Everyone seems to have a job except Kaito. So the unintentional message of the show is that if you love puzzles and practice them every day, you too will be a jobless, wandering hobo. Sounds about right. Don’t do puzzles, kids. Stay in school.
Time for a nostalgia trip! Not just for this season, but all of the past seasons of Phi Brain. Season 1 had the most interesting puzzles, but suffered from a terrible budget and a slow start. It was a derpy show about puzzles that was there for mostly ironic enjoyment. Then season 2 came along. The animation improved and so did the plot – although the puzzles were probably some of my least favourites. I never want to see another sliding puzzle again. However, it was clearly making a shift into a more plot-driven show. The plot was still nonsense, but it was definitely there.
Now here we are at season 3…with a surprisingly great budget, a wonderfully fresh take on both puzzles and the plot format, and only a handful of new characters. It had an incredibly promising start, but those intentions at being more drama-based were muddled by terrible decisions to kill off the cast or dawdle too much on one-shot villains. I thought it would outshine season 2, but ultimately I think it may have fallen a bit flat. By no means is it a bad entry in the Phi Brain series, but it certainly was frustrating.
I’ve had a great time blogging this show week after week. I’ve dedicated 1 and a half years to blogging this show now and I don’t regret a second of it. Sure, maybe like 5 people watch it. Whatever. I may be instantly labelled as someone with shit taste for liking Phi Brain, but that’s something I am willing to live with if it means I get to enjoy Phi Brain. Any puzzlers that followed me this far…thanks for reading! I would do it all over again even if I was just etching my posts in a prison cell wall with a rusty knife.
Remember…it’s always puzzle time in our hearts!