I’m going to push these two out quickly so I can place together my next three spring shows into one post of awesome sauce. That’s how spectacular the schedule for Thursday really is. The following two anime, Natsuiro Kiseki and Phi Brain 2 aren’t bad per se, but when compared to many of the shows airing this season as well, the odds aren’t so much in their favor of staying on my already busy viewing schedule. Regardless, I’ll stick it through for a few more episodes each to really decide whether or not I want to keep them.
I somehow missed this when it pre-aired, despite having chosen it as a posible spring anime in my season preview. My first of this very popular genre this spring so far, I’m surprised at the amount of enjoyment I had while watching it. The setting and characters are by no means unique, but they work together to present a comfortable familiarity.
On the surface, what we have is the typical 4-girl cast, complete with genki-girl, the silent one, our airhead moe-blob, and a grouch who I can only assume will reveal herself to be the token tsundere. In their last year of middle school, Saki’s sudden announcement of a transfer shocks her friends, as well as explains her previous decision to drop out of the tennis club she once loved. This revelation spurs some visits down memory lane, where we see the four young girls together as well.
The pain of growing up seems to be prevalent among other anime that share the same character design, such as Toradora!, AnoHana, and Ano Natsu.
First, there’s the more current dream of Saki and Natsumi to take their tennis club to Nationals. There’s also Yuka and Rin’s argument about idol group, Four Season, and their flagging popularity. An idol group once televised when the girls were still elementary students, Yuka and Rin notice that they haven’t made any live appearances in quite a while. As our characters once looked up to Four Season as their role models, the band’s decline in performances is a sad realization that all good things eventually come to an end, be that a once popular artist, a childhood dream, or a friendship.
As these types of anime are wont to do, a bit of fantasy is tossed in at the end to create a bit of confusion for our girls who are just beginning to understand the pangs of growing up. There is a wishing rock on the local shrine’s property that is rumored to grant any wish, as long as those who make it do so simultaneously while also touching the sacred monument. Having done it four years ago, to moderate success, the girls do so once again. Their pre-meditated wish doesn’t show any immediate results, but Rin’s whimsical mention of the sky suddenly has them rising into the air in flight. What this bodes for Saki’s move to Tokyo and their overall friendship, I’m not sure, but I’m interested enough to give this anime a few more episodes before I make my final decision.
Phi Brain 2
Having followed along with the story all through the first season, I felt obligated to pick up this sequel. With how neatly its predecessor was wrapped up, the sudden jump into yet another battle with a new super secret society in part two feels forced. I expected a bit more warming up, perhaps some slice-of-life segments. There was certainly enough room for Kaito to re-establish his friendships, particularly with Gammon.
The episode opens up in much the way that I had desired–Kaito’s group of puzzle lovers + Nonoha take the time to have a bizarre barbecue in the middle of a Fools’ Puzzle. The random location of their meal reminds us of their quirky personalities and is a quick way for us to be aware of how much they have all become accustomed to their dangerous way of life. However, it seems like the anime wants its viewers to just forget about Gammon’s betrayal–no matter what justifications he may give, it doesn’t change the fact that he could very well have killed Kaito and so triggered the visions shown to those who wear the armbands of Orpheus. Although I understand that our characters are extremely forgiving and seem to place their friendships above their own lives, I still find this lack of confrontation disturbing.
Phi Brain is most enjoyable when it’s lighthearted and focuses more on the joy of puzzle solving. Where it tends to feel stiff is when it amps up the drama and suspense–pretty much anything that has to do with Orpheus, be it the armbands, the Fools’ Puzzles, or the Divine Revelations. However, looking past the suddenness of our re-entrance into the rapids, I’m hoping this time around the drama won’t feel so awkward. With the Orpheus Order as the new enemy, we now have a younger and more physically attractive row of contenders. And once again, Friendship seems to be the theme of unrest here, as our new baddie, “Freecell”, warns Kaito that his friends will all betray him. After all the self-doubt Ana, Cubic, Gammon, Jikukawa, and Nonoha went through before, I have faith that their loyalties will deliver them through this time around.