Phi Brain Pilot - First Impressions

Orpheus delivers epiphanies in form of orgasms...
Sudoku Masters - that's what I called this anime when I first watched the PV. I'm glad it disappointed my bleak expectations. (Sudoku was given a measly 30 seconds of screen time in the pilot.) I'll probably be following this one just because it seems to be a Prince of Tennis (herein known as PoT) kin, and before Konomi-sensei started emulated a desperate crack addict PoT was extremely enjoyable

The hook - an escape from a rogue puzzle, turned as such by a third-rate puzzler's arrogant ignorance, which tries to kill both him and our protagonist. The episode does well in terms of action given its premise is based in brains not brawn. In fact, it continually delivers on feats of immense physicality, which when coupled with comedic relief (be it intentional or sarcastically injected by yours truly) gives this show a good pace.

Puzzleman to the rescue!

The protagonist is Daimon Kaito. He has a good personality which balances the sentiments of a genius bored with life with the fool-hardiness of facing every challenge head-on. He has been selected by a conspicuous party to take part in The Sage Challenge because he's good at puzzles. To be honest, I'm slightly disappointed that Kaito hasn't solved a Rubik's Cube in under 3.14159 seconds. But he has his redeeming qualities, one being his eyes sparkle from enthusiasm at the thought of solving challenging puzzles.

......... cute! ><;

His main sidekick is a girl whom I found so annoying that I've already purged her name from my mind. She's bubbly, idiotic and has adopted the role of chaperoning our champion. She has stupid dialogue like, "It's a puzzle?" as they navigate a maze known as the introduction to the sage puzzle. In contrast, her excellent memory is emphasized as the key Kaito needs to solve The Sage Challenge; foreshadowing for a greater contribution in episodes to come, I'm sure. She's athletic and is meant to be a physical complement to the intellectual Kaito. However, this doesn't work out well because Kaito is apparently more athletic than she is. This reduces her role to a secondary character who requires saving, which is defined as a nuisance in my dictionary, albeit a plot-progressing one.

How could you not know that the maze is rigged? Foolish girl.

Imagery is put to good use in this anime. The animation style is typical shounen with lots of sharp lines and points. There is a good use of expression which plays nicely with the soundtrack to create both emotion and suspense. Pauses are used strategically and are generally not abused in this episode. Regardless, I'll wait for the series to progress past its pilot to infer the competency of the director(s).

No wonder anime characters are so skinny...

Well past the two-thirds mark, the plot thickens. The ambiguities introduced earlier in the episode begin to take on a concrete shape. Not a lot of time is wasted in the superfluous solving of puzzles, especially when the anime does not relinquish enough clues to the viewer to come to reasonably deduce solutions in competition with Kaito. Puzzles are adequately paced from introduction to solution. This surprised me because I expected more screen time wasted on hero shots and corny speeches.

Yes, give the genius full access to the remaining 90% of his brain power. That can't possibly be dangerous.

At the end of the "unsolvable" puzzle (a contradiction at it's finest) Kaito receives his prize despite refusing claim to it before entering The Sage Challenge. His left arm is banded by bright gold light which takes the shape of a pretty amulet. This is the Orpheus contract, on which no further details are provided barring the subtitles on the image above. The how-to manual for employing Orpheus is presented as a complex puzzle which even Kaito can not solve with only 10% of his brain. To push his limits, the puzzle endangers the life of his cute female sidekick who vents her panic by furiously kicking at the massive, reinforced door which has them locked in the room.

Pure genius: the true face of evil!

The episode ends with a mild cliffhanger that left me with enough interest to pick up the next episode. The teaser for the next episode shapes this show into just another shounen sports/game series. However, despite the formulaic plot and characters, the tactful direction and writing coupled with the subtle tweaks to the mould give this series the potential to have above-average entertainment value. …Unless fan-pleasing and franchising make breakfast of it somewhere down the road.