OP: 「Brain Diver」 by May’n
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「迷宮にひそむ契約」 (Meikyuu ni Hisomu Keiyaku)
“The Contract Hidden in the Labyrinth”
There weren’t any real surprises in the premiere of Sunrise’s original puzzle series, but the studio delivered the premise they described and made it pretty interesting to boot. That’s largely in part to how they didn’t waste any time introducing the characters and dove right into the thick of things with self-proclaimed puzzle master, Daimon Kaito (Asanuma Shintarou), getting caught up in a twisted labyrinth in the mountains behind his school, Root Academy. He’s nearly killed while saving an actual third-rate puzzle solver, after which he seeks out the student council president and Puzzle Club president, Jikukawa Souji (Ishida Akira), demanding to know what he was invited to by the portable puzzle game he was given. Without any real explanation, Souji just tells Kaito it’s a puzzle that he’ll have to risk his life to solve, and uses his pride to convince him to give it another go. With the help of his childhood friend Itou Nonoha (Shimizu Kaori) and her remarkable memory, Kaito’s able to get through the labyrinth and obtain the Orpheus Bracelet, just like his school principal Kaidou Baron (Fujiwara Keiji) anticipated he would.
In short, it was basically everything I outlined in the season preview, except the additional implication that Baron and Souji — the latter of whom is likely Minotaur judging from the voice — are the ones responsible for getting Kaito involved in the twisted games of the mysterious organization POG. What I can’t quite describe is how entertaining it was to see things play out, from the simple stuff like a Sudoku puzzle (with that many starting numbers!) to more complicated brain teasers. In addition, Kaito’s arrogance wasn’t as annoying as I thought it would be, seeing as he showed concern for Nonoha first when he was put on the spot with the life-or-death puzzle at the end. It’s also reassuring to know that Nonoha isn’t there just to tag along and be saved by Kaito, as I can already see her being crucial to solving puzzles in the future with her photographic memory. Together, they form an interesting tandem in a story that is pretty engaging if you suspend your disbelief a bit. The suspense is definitely reminiscent of Kaiji, albeit not as nail-biting just yet. I can only imagine it’ll get better from hereon, now that Kaito has some mysterious power that allows him to fully utilize his puzzle-solving skills.
The rest of the puzzle solvers look like they’ll be slowly introduced in the upcoming episodes, starting with Sakanoue Gammon (Fukuyama Jun) next time, but we’re already given something to look forward to with Kaito’s memories of “Shounen X” (Koyasu Takehito), who presumably got him into puzzles, and Luke Banjou Crossfield (Sakurai Takahiro, childhood: Satou Rina), whom the official site reveals is a member of POG. So right from the get-go, Phi Brain has already established its premise, provided a good taste of it, given us something to look forward, and left off on a cliffhanger. No matter how you slice it, that’s a pretty good start in my books. I’m actually pretty excited to see where it’s headed now. Productions values are pretty good too, as are the opening and ending themes by May’n and Kiyoura Natsumi respectfully — the latter of whom I haven’t heard any anime songs from since Sasameki Koto. Phi Brain may not be quite like the psychological thriller Cube, but it looks to be suspenseful enough.
ED: 「ホログラム」 (Hologram) by 清浦夏実 (Kiyoura Natsumi)
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