In the fall season preview guide I didn’t finish in time, I noted that, of the crop of sequels coming out, Phi Brain season 3 was the sequel I was most looking forward to. I’ve been missing my weekly dose of “Puzzle Time” and I was glad to see that it was coming back. With a couple weeks of the fall season now under our belts, I began reflecting on this new season and I realized two related things. One, I still feel most excited about Phi Brain and, two, I should be most excited about Little Busters. These two thoughts gave rise to this post.
Read on to see five reasons, in no particular order, why I’m more excited about the Phi Brain sequel vs. the Little Busters sequel.
1 – The female characters are better.
Phi Brain is an odd place to see Junichi Satou’s name attached to because he’s best known for the slice-of-life/healing anime series Aria and, more recently, a similar styled Tamayura but his presence here has undoubtedly added a greater focus on it’s characters then what is standard in a shounen series. Take the main female character, Nonoha. Though lacking the puzzle solving ability of the main character, she has her own skill set – physical strength and an incredible memory, being two – that puts her on the same level as the other main supporting characters and gives her the ability to look after herself. She’s a character that knows what she wants and will work towards achieving her goals by herself.
2 – The animation style is more interesting and the animation doesn’t make the series look like a low budget series from 2006.
An animation production doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Past experiences of an animation studio will influence future works of that studio. Sunrise is animating Phi Brain and their large catalog of diverse works infuses Phi Brain from the character designs all the way to animating the action packed puzzle solving sequences.
3 – The story has been more satisfying so far.
I initially scoffed at the story to Phi Brain. After all here’s the summation of the first season – “Through solving puzzles, a high-school boy joins the fight against a mysterious intelligence group.” Who wouldn’t find this silly sounding? And in one sense I still find the story a bit silly after two seasons but, on the other hand, how few anime series can really say they don’t have their own silly aspects. The important thing is to take those aspects that the viewers are asked to accept on faith and do something interesting with them. With Phi Brain, the reason to develop superior puzzle solving skills is that’s the way to push one’s brain into a higher cognitive state known in the show being a Phi Brain. Over the first two seasons we’ve seen shady organizations try to harness the power behind being a Phi Brain for their own ends, other organizations become corrupt in their desire for power, how trying to find a shortcut to becoming a Phi Brain harms oneself and those around them. In short, stuff happens, the plot advances at a noticeable pace, and it never feels like the show is spinning it’s wheels without accomplishing something.
4 – It’s been more fun to watch.
Harnessed correctly, a silly premised story can actually work in an anime’s favor. Being “silly” actually takes work to maintain; I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the many series that start out silly only to become mundane after a few episodes. Because Phi Brain has been able to stay silly, it’s been able to continually surprise and entertain. Much thought has also gone into the puzzles that our main characters have to solve. There’s been so many types of puzzles used and so many variations of those types that I don’t think the same puzzle has been used twice in the over 50 episodes of the series. Which further helps keep this series fresh and fun to watch. Phi Brain is further filled with fun through the use of crazy character designs and naming characters things like “Count Pythagoras”.
5 – When watching, it’s not glaringly obvious that there are several other animation companies that could have done a better job.
I’ve tried not to directly attack Little Busters but for this last one I can’t skirt around the elephant in the room. With Phi Brain, it’s great character designs and above average animation and story and fun factor means I’ve never once thought some other animation studio could do better but that’s not true with Little Busters. Yes, I’ve thought repeatedly that KyoAni would have done a much better job but that’s not the only studio. Director Takahiro Oomori, who did Durarara and Natsume’s Book of Friends, along with Brains Base would have been another excellent choice. Writer Mari Okada and PA Works would have been a third great choice. Director Akiyuki Shinbou and Shaft makes a four choice that would have produced a better series. Heck, after Sankarea and Rozen Maiden (2013), Studio Deen and director Mamoru Hatakeyama would make a viable fifth option. A-1 Pictures and AIC have the animation prowess but a competent director/writer would need to paired with either option. All told, I’ve just quickly whipped up seven different scenarios that would have produced a superior version of Little Busters and it’s very difficult to not think of these lost possibilities when watching it.