Phantasy Star Online 2: The Animation

August 6, 2016

Time for another adaptation of a super popular MMORPG into an anime series. Do we need more of this? Apparently, either the series is made to please fans of the popular Phantasy Star Online 2 (PSO2) so they have something extra to wow over or the game itself is not getting enough subscribers and players like how WoW, LOL and Dota are getting. Therefore Phantasy Star Online 2: The Animation may be another step for its creators, Sega to attract more fan base to the game and increase its number of subscribers. Honestly, that is just my theory. Otherwise, why bother to adapt a game into a TV series. From history even in Hollywood standards, games to the silver screen never made a good transition. I guess you’ll never know if you don’t try. Although this anime will be adapting the settings from the game, the series is however a totally new story. A new narrative on its own unlike the one in the game. I suppose it is to keep things fresh so that veterans won’t be bored in expecting the same stuffs and it will attract newbies to the game. I can’t tell since I didn’t play the game. At all.

Episode 1
Itsuki Tachibana is on his way to Seiga Academy. Get it? Seiga as in Sega… Despite his typical main character look, he is stopped by the security for looking like somebody suspicious since he misplaced his tag. Hey, at least he is doing his job. The popular student council president, Rina Izumi assures the security he is a student of Seiga. Then magic. He found his misplaced tag. He meets up with his friend, Kouta Kayano who asks him if has played PSO2. I suppose such games are the trend now so if you’re like Itsuki who doesn’t play it, you’ll be left behind. Rina gives her speech during the opening ceremony. You know how popular she is when boys and girls just swoon whenever she passes by. She is perfect in her academics, sports and other club activities that she could win top model student for 10 years running. Serious. Itsuki is called to see Rina and since he forgot, he turned up late. Rina has decided to make Itsuki the student council vice president since the previous one moved overseas. And her first task for him? Play PSO2! Wow. Now I understand why people like her. But why choose him? Seems his grades and lifestyle make him a suitable candidate. Note, he is not in any club so this also means he has nothing better to do. Wait a minute. Why didn’t they hold elections? Or why doesn’t she listen to some of her student council members as they are against his? So much for democracy, Little Miss Dictatorship…

On the reason why he needs to play PSO2, based on his report and after understanding Seiga’s social network, the student council will see fit a style of management appropriate for Seiga. Yeah, you know how everybody is busy looking at their iPhones these days… But Itsuki doesn’t play online games, can he do it? Well, he helps out in other clubs so this is like nothing, right? Itsuki seeks Kouta’s help to play the game. He left him some instructions since he is currently taking a break from PSO2. After Itsuki creates his avatar, he starts playing and finds himself inside the organization of ARKS. He meets a fellow veteran player, Soro who just changed class. This guy is eager to teach a beginner and blabbing about fate. Just ignore him… The emergency is sounded when ARKS is under attack by Darkers. Itsuki signs up for the mission. As a beginner, does he know what to do? Just this simple rule: See enemy, kill enemy! Luckily he gets help from Soro or else it would be embarrassing if he dies on his first outing. Itsuki earns Soro’s praise when he did a headshot kill without any form of aiming assistance. Sure that is not beginner’s luck? Next day after he submits his report to Rina, she reminds him not to let his current grade slip as it is his responsibility too. Because whether this sight of students obsessed in playing their handheld PSO2 depends solely on him! Wow. That is a big responsibility.

Episode 2
Another typical cliché. A girl who has been living abroad for a long time returns to school as a transfer student. Aika Suzuki is now in Itsuki’s class. She talks and acts like a military personnel but is famous enough that classmates bombard her with questions that she answers like a robot. Like other typical clichés, Aika seems interested in Itsuki as he tails him everywhere he goes. Including the toilet. There is one point Kouta tapped on the back of her shoulder, her reflex is to punch him but she holds back right before it connects. Kouta is no useless guy too because he is already in block position. Aika even freaks Itsuki out as she tails him back to the dorm. Itsuki has a horny dream whereby Rina wants to flirt with him. He must be really disappointed to find it is a dream because he was preparing to kiss her. But not as shocking as he finds Aika on top of him! Another girly scream. So Itsuki has got a bad reputation among some of the girls who become Aika’s groupie b*tches. Not that she cares anyway. Itsuki thought he could let out some steam by playing PSO2 but after a mission, he gets scolded by Soro. He doesn’t understand why so he asks Kouta. Kouta is surprised Soro is his partner because that veteran player is a very famous solo player (Soro = solo?) known as The Aloof Warrior. Kouta explains what Itsuki did to earn Soro’s wrath. Something about his reckless playing despite he was levelling up well. Not that I care anyway. Itsuki didn’t realize that and falls into depression so he hasn’t been sending his periodical reports. He gives excuse that he has been logging in but Rina knows better. From her wild inner ranting, we learn she wants to really chew him out because he has been playing constantly. Oh, she is Soro.

I suppose Soro needs to let out some steam and kill some Darkers but falls into a cage trap. Luckily Itsuki is here to save the day. He is sorry for the other day but since he fought brilliantly, all is forgiven. Apparently you can also enjoy your time in PSO2 by watching a virtual idol concert other than taking side quests. Itsuki resumes in handing in his report. Just then, Aika barges in like it is her own office to question Rina’s rational to choose Itsuki as part of ARKS. Rina has something important to prove. There is something about Ethernet and the boom of online games which is a symbol of communication revolution in this era. Really? Now, the academy is considering banning it but Rina views it is restricting the freedom of students who enjoy the game and thus this is like interfering with their private lives. Really? Or is it because Rina is an avid addict player too? Thus Rina wants to prove that with this, students can still do well in exams and not neglect their studies while enjoying playing this game. So it is like real life ARKS (students) versus Darkers (school authorities)? After hearing Aika’s great records in the game, she assigns Aika to help Itsuki to write his report. She is now appointed as the special adviser to the vice president. You bet everyone is damn shock in yet another dictatorship move without democratic consultation. Aika accepts the job with glee.

Episode 3
Itsuki is being made to do lot of ground work as well as fellow grunt, Yutaka Sasaki. So it is no surprise that Itsuki wants to click with him and be gay with that shy guy but the latter is obviously keeping his distance. Kouta joins Itsuki playing PSO2. Like the noob he is, he is being explained a few terms like role playing (Kouta’s avatar is Koa), how an alias is used for avatar so as not to mix up your real life with the game and yes, trolls. Itsuki plays a quest with Kouta and his regular group. He finds it so fun that he can’t stop ranting before Rina. While Itsuki is out on an errand, he heard a couple of macho construction guys talking. To his shock, they play PSO2 and their avatars are sexy female cat characters in Kouta’s group! OMG! That’s real life and fantasy for you! Soro happened to be passing by so Itsuki invites him to join in a group quest. Since they have a spot open, this cowboy dude, Musashi joins them. However during the battle, he sits there and does nothing while leaving the rest to sweat it out. He even spews a couple of insults. They realize he is the troll everyone is talking about. More high and mighty attitude from him even back at base. What’s more, he is got the cheek to send them a friend request! Naturally Kouta would block him but Itsuki wants to talk and find out more about him since behind every avatar there is real person behind. So this guy goes to talk to him but Musashi threatens to reveal his real identity. Itsuki doesn’t mind and then he did the unthinkable. Noticing how similar Musashi talks like a certain someone, he wonders if Musashi is Yutaka. Everybody heard that and Musashi is so embarrassed that he instantly logs out.

Because of that, Yutaka doesn’t go to school anymore and Rina wants Itsuki to fix this as this will hurt PSO2’s image with the school. He is your responsibility. If he won’t face Itsuki in person, I guess online he will. Yutaka reveals in PSO2 he gets to be his real self. In real life, things never worked out for him. That is why he is so envious of Itsuki. But Itsuki believes that is not the real him. He knows the real Yutaka is a nice person. I guess that seals it. Musashi apologizes to everyone for trolling and they forgive him out of respect for Itsuki. Now when they go on quests, Musashi doesn’t want anybody to help and will destroy all those mother f*ckers himself! Yeehaw!!! He didn’t exactly change but at least is better than before. Rina calls Itsuki to meet her. She is surprised about his method of trying to get to know a person in real life and in the game to become better friends. The purpose of this meeting is so that Rina can reveal she is Soro? Want to scream that louder for the entire world to hear? But this hardly surprises Itsuki because he knew it for a long time. Because he seems to notice both characters somewhat use the same phrases. Heh. At least he isn’t as dumb as he looks. As proof, he tries to imitate all those dramatic lines she says. Wait. He remembers every one of them?! This is so embarrassing. You regret it now, Rina?

Episode 4
Rina seems to be stammering as she tries to ask Itsuki to accompany her this weekend. You mean it’s a date?! Because of that, Itsuki now has this silly grin on his face and even turns down Kouta’s invitation to an annual event. So long, pal. He is going to step into the adult world. Turns out this ‘date’ is an annual offline PSO2 fan event. Disappointed? The reason why Rina was flustering was because it is her first time here. Totally disappointed. Kouta spots Itsuki and when he sees Rina with him, he falls into shock. Betrayed? He is so down that a cute cosplay chick gives him a drink to freshen up. He is energized and goes to find and thank her. However something happened to him… Itsuki is freaking surprised to see the real faces of his online team. That sexy siren, Silver? Just a little girl! He never knew Yumiko and Last Samurai are married with a baby. And that robot Kid is actually a butler-like grandpa! Second childhood? They hang out and after learning Rina is Soro, they can’t help invite her to join in more quests but she prefers to play alone. They even want to ask if Rina and Itsuki are dating but before they could finish their sentence, Rina vehemently protests they are not. They only think that kind of reaction means it is true. Itsuki gets a call from Kouta on PSO2. He needs his help but cannot name the details. Then he goes offline.

The group ponder the predicament he is in and fears that there may be something dangerous going to happen here. They go on this side quest to find him instead of telling security so as not to cause major panic. Because they cannot find him, petty tensions among the group start to arise. Seriously, this group who worked so well online can get into this kind of argument? With Rina’s motivation words to bring them back together, they continue to look for Kouta. Retracing what Kouta has said, they believe he is at the storage room. They find his dropped handphone. Contacting him again on PSO2, after they vow to never abandon him, Kouta reveals the truth… He is in the toilet! Apparently that drink made his stomach upset and he needed to urgently answer the call of nature. Too bad there weren’t any tissue papers, thus the emergency. Everybody is so disappointed that they walked off. Yeah, this is one sh*t quest that stinks. Kouta also learns about Rina’s real identity and connects the dots about this ‘date’. At the end of the day, Rina is flustering trying to thank Itsuki for accompanying her. Kouta interrupted them to brag he took pictures with beautiful cosplay girls but still couldn’t find that prettier one. The thought of her makes his stomach upset again… Speaking of her, looks like she has disposed of something dangerous in the background that would otherwise bring chaos to the convention.

Episode 5
If you don’t understand what the heck Tia and Patty are ranting as information brokers, don’t worry. It’s not important. Because they’re NPCs. Because Aika has been quite close to Itsuki, everyone thinks they are dating. Even Aika’s b*tch girls think he is taking advantage of her. Then there is this part Aika doesn’t know why and how bus routes work so Itsuki clearly explains it to her. It makes Rina jealous and thinking they are really dating. WTF. After Itsuki and Rina finish a student council task to borrow equipment from another school (to save cost), they hang out at a mall and see Aika nearby. Her cute smile somewhat awakens some material instinct inside Rina. WTF. Because of that, she would like to become her best friend-cum-mother and takes her out shopping for clothes, games, etc. WTF. A little girl is crying and it seems her balloon is stuck high up. Don’t worry. Aika can grab it just by jumping! Woah! Did she have a cheat code on?! Another problem: The little girl is lost. Under the pretence of playing hide and seek, they go look for her mom till they find her. This hide and seek incident reminds Rina of her past where she used to be a ‘forgotten child’. Kids always forget finding her when playing hide and seek. And this familiar boy that found her… Itsuki also remembers his childhood days but it is his dream to become a hero and save the world. Doesn’t he find that embarrassing now? As Itsuki is on PSO2, he is surprised to see Rina logged on using a new character that looks like herself and even uses her real name. But with bigger boobs? Does she feel left out that Itsuki and Aika are similar in this context and that she doesn’t want to lose out? The duo are on a quest when they are aided by that cute cosplay chick. Her skills are super awesome and the mission is done in no time. Itsuki finds her moves familiar and believes she is Aika. He wants to add her to his friend list but she declines because she has no time for his games.

Episode 6
Itsuki you lucky bastard!!! Actually the student council are heading to the hotspring for an errand but Kouta can’t help think Itsuki x Rina. The inn is run by Last Samurai and Yumiko. Wife tells husband not to touch PSO2 because he has been slacking on his job. Itsuki feels bad for him because he is addicted to PSO2. You don’t say because Rina forbids him to play PSO2 too! When she was presenting her report to the board, they noticed Itsuki’s grades drastically dropped. Like a slap to her face. That is why this trip is for him to study to get his grades back up. Until then, no PSO2. While he is diligently doing the bundle of homework, a student council member, Mika Konoe drops by just to spite him as she wonders why Rina is so interested in him. Upon finding out the questions are set by Rina and she is already so busy with her other work, Itsuki felt bad so he shapes up to complete them all. He finishes them all up in the dead of the night and heads to the hotspring for a much needed relaxation. He logs on PSO2 just to tell Koa he can’t play. Of course Koa gets the wrong idea that something steamy is happening in the hotspring right now. Even more so when Itsuki needs to immediately log out as Aika is coming in. Her mission of hers ended early so she is here. She doesn’t mind sitting naked with him? Rina sees all of Itsuki’s finished homework. Impressive? Since she cannot find him, she logs on to ask Koa. He is freaking excited to be joined by Rina because what do you know? PSO2 has its own hotspring too. Can’t wait to see sexy Rina, eh? But she logs in as Soro… Where did all the enthusiasm go? So dead… Once she learns Itsuki’s whereabouts, she leaves. Mission failed. Rina soaks on the other side of the hotspring and they communicate via PSO2. Funny, right? She is shocked to learn Aika is with him. But then Aika senses something amiss and she leaps out! Basically, she flew into the sky! The rest heard Last Samurai scream. He claims a Darker popped out from his screen and was chased by a girl. Yumiko thinks he is drunk because of the beer. But more importantly, didn’t he break his promise? Oh sh*t… Itsuki’s grades are back up so he immediately logs in. Feels good to be back, huh? Rina warns him about even playing this game right in the middle of class! He claims he is multi-tasking. Isn’t Rina is doing the same? She is doing it flawlessly without getting caught. That’s how a pro does it.

Episode 7
Mika tries to ask Rina if she is free this weekend. Apparently she has something to do with Itsuki. That guy again… What better way for her to take out her frustrations by beating up Darkers with her cute furball avatar. But she is in a pinch and logs out. Unfortunately her problem doesn’t end there because the Darker pops out from her screen! Aika’s Darker sense is tingling and rushes to the spot but before she gets there, the sense disappears. So is Mika. She has been absent from school since but because the student council is busy with their discussion with other clubs for the festival, they put this at the back on their mind. It only gets worrying when Mika continues to be missing and they cannot contact her or her parents anyhow. Itsuki and Rina see Aika asking other people if Mika plays PSO2. Rina catches Mika in the act of rummaging through Mika’s room for clues. Rina sees a book that Mika has about a place to try out some monkfish dish. It just makes her feel guilty all the times she passed her up. Aika leaves once she found Mika’s handheld on the floor. You may think Itsuki is inconsiderate asking Rina to play PSO2 but his intention is that maybe Mika is online and they can ask around. No headway. Till Last Samurai and Yumiko say they think they might see a girl in their school uniform. It is strange because can avatars in PSO2 be customized to that? They head to that spot and are shock to see Mika enclosed inside a cocoon. Darkers besiege them as they turn on the power to rescue Mika and kick Darkers’ ass. But they are having a tough time and Mika is rescued by Aika and her friend. Although she is in safe hands, Rina is about to be killed by a Darker. This is when Itsuki powers up like a main character to do some kickass killing. Yeah, and he had no idea what happened. Next day, everyone is glad Mika is back although she had no memories of what happened and claims she has been in hospital all the while. Itsuki tries to squeeze answers out from her but I guess the most important thing is that she is safe. So bug off with those questions. Itsuki notes that Aika was there to save Mika but she claims she didn’t play PSO2 yesterday.

Episode 8
Itsuki is suspicious of Aika and tries to tail her but fails miserably. She wonders if he is interested in her. I think he is trying to be funny buy saying yes but a few students heard it and think he is confessing. Aika doesn’t reply and now they think he got rejected. When he remembers about some student council work, they think he is avoiding the issue. Cut this guy some slack! Rina and Itsuki go around asking club presidents to agree on some proposal for the festival. With her begging so cutely, it is hard to say now. Any guy who does is gay! Maybe Kouta is a little jealous so when Itsuki does his cute impression on her behalf, it is just freaking gay! I guess rumours that Itsuki confessed to Aika has spread that Rina seconded the idea that they should be the emcees at the festival’s after party. Even online, he is looking for Aika and Rina is not impressed. And she’s not mad! Doesn’t this sound familiar in real life? Silver is worried because like in Mika’s case, a college student in her neighbourhood also went missing. Itsuki’s purpose in finding Aika’s whereabouts is because she might be in the field where the missing person is. He tries tailing her in real life again. Failed miserably once more. This time he runs into Silver who thinks they are dating. There is a nearby shop that is closed and supposedly where that college student went missing. This is where Aika is going. Silver takes it as Aika dumping him and will be his date. Lolicon? Actually, a ploy to leech him off his money to buy ice cream!

If that is not bad enough, wait till he gets back and Rina is waiting for him furiously! Adding insult to injury, she is scolding him so loud that everyone in the hall could hear about how she doesn’t care who he dates (really?) but he missed out an important student council meeting. This is embarrassing yet pitiful… Itsuki finally finds a field where Aika is. He tries to help her kill a Darker but takes a big damage. He is to be done for but some barrier activated. Then he changes into some super form and unleashes a super Over End blast to cut it into half! Woah! Aika logs out as soon as it ends. Itsuki is not happy and tries to find her in her room. Not so fast! The security is at least doing his job stopping him. In an interrogation, I guess he was too deep ranting about his high school escapades of something similar that Itsuki manages to sneak out! WTF?! Itsuki realizes his hip is pain. How can a damage he sustained in the game be real in reality? It gets worse when a Darker pops out from his handheld. Aika is here to save the day but another Darker pops out. Since she is busy handling one, Itsuki is left running from the other. As he tries to block his attack, he then transforms into his ultimate form. Let’s understand this later because right now he is going to kick some serious Darker’s ass.

Episode 9
They defeat the Darkers and subsequently Aika brings him to her base. He introduced to her commander, Kasura. Kasura gives Itsuki a drink to heal his wounds. Just who are they? For starters, they are like NPCs but aren’t. Huh? That is because PSO2 isn’t a game. It is real. And so are Darkers. Time for a little more explanation. Darkers led by their big boss, Dark Falz are planning to invade Earth. However in order to do so, they need a vessel for Dark Falz. When Itsuki powered up and used it to defeat the Darker, that power is called Photon Arts. That power is what Darkers are seeking. Thus the kidnappings to see who have the highest compatible Photon Arts for Dark Falz. Thankfully Mika was not chosen but because Itsuki’s Photon Arts is very powerful, he is going to be a very regular target. Kasura wants his help to help defeat Dark Falz whom he is sure is already in PSO2. Welcome to Oracle. Itsuki is in high spirits taking out Darkers after Darkers. However with the increase in attacks, Aika tells him to stay away from the fight and this makes this boy mad that he is being left behind. There is one time he didn’t heed her advice and jumped into the game. He almost got defeated by this strong Darker but was saved by Aika’s comrades, Xeno and Echo. He starts feeling afraid when his power couldn’t cut down this Darker. As explained, this is a Boosted Enemy, a Darker that has evolved. Aika continues to tell Itsuki to stay out or he’ll get in their way. Because of that, he is able to focus on his student council job and everyone is amazed and praising his outstanding work. But behind the scenes, no PSO2 means he is a sad cat.

Aika has been away for so long that even her b*tch groupies are worried. They even talk to Itsuki to find out more since they are always together. Since when they are friends? I thought a few scenes ago they were dissing him? Meanwhile Aika is against Kasura’s plan about using Itsuki as bait because she feels he is an ordinary Earthling with a life and has not undergone any official ARKS training despite his high Photon Arts. Since when she is concerned over his boring normal life? Kasura reminds her priorities are wrong. If Dark Falz invades Earth, nobody can have a normal life. Besides if this is the path Itsuki chose, they have to respect it. Another Darker pops up before Itsuki. I guess he remembers his promise so he runs away like a coward. Luckily Aika is here to save his ass. But during that, she gets injured. Now see the mad look on his face. The kind that says ‘you f*ck with my girl, I’m going to f*ck you up so hard’. Yeah… He powers up and destroys the Darker. Literally the monster didn’t even see his moves coming… That furious, huh? Aika wonders why he is fighting Darkers. He can’t sit back and let her protect him. Male ego, I guess. He wants her to let him fight with her and promises he won’t get in the way. She wants him to call her by her first name as this is what her teammates call her for coordinating purposes.

Episode 10
The festival is around the corner but Itsuki seems to be tired. Aika doesn’t want the student council members to blame him as it is her fault in keeping him up all night. Oh dear. That is pretty ambiguous… Rina is worried that Itsuki is working so hard that it may be affecting his health. So she privately talks to Aika about this and you know how she ambiguously puts her words. But Aika says Itsuki tends to handle things on his own so she will try her best to protect him. This talk continues to bother Rina… I think I know why as much as you do. Aika and Itsuki continue to hunt and defeat Darkers and even get backup from the legendary ARKS girl who was once consumed as the dark vessel but miraculously returned alive, Matoi. The festival proceeds as normal. Masaya Kudou of the student council is bugging every pretty girl thinking they are those sexy female cat characters from PSO2. Doesn’t he know he looks like a creep? Then he realizes they are those macho construction guys. You should see the regret on his face… Aika senses a Darker during her maid cafe shift. She makes haste as Kouta tails her. While Itsuki helps Rina at the garbage site, a Darker pops out and attacks him. Wow. See him being thrown like a ragdoll! He is about to be killed and shocked Rina suddenly and instinctively summons her guns to fire that Darker away. Now she is targeted. Although the Darker is destroyed, reinforcements arrive. Aika is surprised to see Rina too has the Photon Arts. Rina is still reeling from the shock of what is happening so she gets captured by the Darker leader. Cue for Itsuki to get mad and slash his way like a berserk hero. Yeah, nobody touches his girl! Unfortunately this time, the Darker escapes. He lost his girl. Shocking, no? Not as shocking as Kouta witnessing the entire action battle. What in blazes just happened?

Episode 11
Kouta needs some explaining but even telling the truth needs time for him to digest. They don’t have that so our heroes rush off to rescue Rina. They find her in a cocoon on some desolated planet. However it seems she is corrupted as she attacks them. Itsuki is weakened by her attack so Aika has no choice but to take him away while Xeno stays back and stalls for time. Itsuki wakes up in Oracle and is told that Dark Falz has merged with Rina. In no time they will become one. Itsuki wants to help but is told to return to Seiga and think about when Rina returns. The student council members are worried that Rina is missing and was last seen with Itsuki. He can’t say much about her circumstances but he promises to get her back and for the time being run the festival. Now Itsuki goes to explain the truth to Kouta. Kouta then goes to tell Yutaka this and because Mika was eavesdropping, she too wants the whole truth. Yeah, soon everybody will know everything… Itsuki is not pleased there is nothing much they can do to save Rina. But as Kasura puts it, is he going to save a girl at the expense of the entire human race? I think a young teenage boy in love might just do it… The situation is already out of his hands so please let them handle this. Of course Itsuki isn’t going to be a good boy and listen to such orders. He is going to save Rina himself. He thought Aika is here to stop him but she assures him her job is to protect him. So focus on saving Rina and get their asses back safely in one piece. Fortunately (or not) Itsuki doesn’t have to play the only hero as Koa and the rest of the known PSO2 avatars/characters are going to join him in this rescue mission. That is what friends are for, right? So no Darkers are going to get in the way of Itsuki. Big or small. Powerful or super powerful. Unless it is super duper big powerful Darker. Then that is why we have an excuse to see the party cooperate to take this menace down. Itsuki and Aika go ahead after a chasm separates them from the group. This giant hideous bug before them is Dark Falz’s final form.

Episode 12
A bunch of mechas are heading this way. They are AIS (ARKS Intelligence Silhouette) and are the most powerful bunch of military unit in ARKS. Want proof? They fire their lasers challenging Dark Falz and beat the latter. Although Dark Falz is damaged, he is regenerating. I suppose AIS is also recharging, the reason they can’t finish Dark Falz now. That is why Itsuki better hurry to save Rina or AIS is going to wipe her out along with Dark Falz. Aika uses her weapon to open a portal to let Itsuki enter Dark Falz. As for how to find Rina, he must sense her. Gee, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack, right? It is proof of how much he feels for her, right? I guess he is taken aback to see smiling Rina and forgot about Suzuki’s words of not letting the darkness get the better of him. Doesn’t he notice her evil eyes? When they shake hands, the darkness immediately engulfs him. Tentacle rape?! However, thinking about Rina gave him the strength to break free! WTF?! He is now at a scene in Rina’s past whereby she was the forgotten child. And you might have already guessed it, Itsuki was the one who found her. And now that he has found her again, yup, there she is right in the core of Dark Falz. After calling out to her passionately, cue for them to reunite by reaching out to each other and join hands. Yeah, so freaking cliché. They power up enough to blast their way out of Dark Falz and rendezvous with Aika. Then the trio combine their power to use a towering sword beam, Star Gazer to cut Dark Falz in half! Woah! With the threat over, Aika now gives her excuse not to return with Itsuki and Rina to the festival because, well, her mission is over. WTF?! Is she trying to be the tough guy? After the duo are sent back, remnants of Dark Falz begin acting up so Aika uses her weapon to absorb it. Rina comes back just in time to host the after party of the festival. It is no surprise she even wins the beauty pageant. Of course she apologizes to all those she made worried. I don’t know what reasons she gave but I believe they must be just glad to have her back. Itsuki narrates the aftermath. He returns to his seemingly ordinary (AKA boring) life. He lost his ability to enter Oracle after that and he attends more offline meetings with his PSO2 group. Rina graduates and Itsuki takes her places student council president. All the while, Aika never returned. There is this cheesy moment Itsuki wants to put his hand on her shoulder but was interrupted with Aika’s return! Great timing, girl. Where the heck were you?! Oh, you are back just to tell them you are leaving for another mission?! WTF?! Sure, they will always be connected no matter how far away with PSO2, right?

When Fantasy Is Reality…
Oh well, at least it is slightly better than some animes of this genre, say, Gunslinger Stratos. You have to agree with me on this one, right? I know the characters feel mediocre and the plot as well because the whole series about studying the effects of playing PSO2 just to convince the authorities that video games do not have a direct correlation with your grades feels like a big BS excuse just to play this game. And hence a story. Besides, whatever happened to that? I assume that it must have worked out well because you see the students of Seiga still playing with their handheld on school grounds. This means the authorities are convinced, right? Uh huh. Rina’s parting gift for you future Seiga generations. So be grateful! After all, what is a Seiga school when you can’t even play a decent Sega game, right?

I know the ending was a bit rushed too. Especially when Aika went a little missing after that. It didn’t explain what the heck she was doing during that period. Then she returns just to tell us she is going away. WTF?! At least she has the decency to show her face. But still, popping up for a short while just to say goodbye is still WTF material. It might not be hinted at the end but I am suspecting that Dark Falz like many of the strongest antagonists in video games around, he isn’t totally destroyed yet. That is why I suspect that when Aika absorbed and contained him in her weapon, it may be some sort of foreshadowing of something. I don’t know. It wasn’t really explained but perhaps it is just to f*ck with our minds like people like me who tend to think too much about this kind of petty stuffs.

At first this series was slightly ‘refreshing’ as compared to the rest of its counterparts in this genre. That is because the setting is about high school kids playing the game. The game world itself is not a setting. So it was different to know that the unlike other animes whereby the fantasy world is real and the characters live or at least play in it for survival, this series features our kids just whipping out their handheld and log into the game if they want to hunt down monsters or take on side quests. Of course that changes in the final third of the series. It wouldn’t be any surprise because whenever anybody logs into PSO2, you can see them interacting like in reality. As though they put on their sci-fi cosplay outfits, change the backdrop and voila! It’s like they are in the game, right? I mean, come on. Do you think the characters can really move that freely with their body actions, facial expression and gesture instead of the standard movements set in the game? So eventually the game had to become the reality, right?

The characters feel pretty generic too. Like Itsuki being the main character despite being a wuss and sometimes sounding like a gay. Because of the power of main character BS, he gets to power up and kick Darker ass with his incredible latent talent. You know it bugs me how he can transform into his Photon Arks power up version during all that but after Dark Falz is defeated, he can’t even do that anymore. It is like they don’t need him anymore and thus blocked him from doing that ever again. Rina, yes she is the beautiful, strong and independent woman till the producers decide to make her the damsel in distress. And Aika as the mysterious transfer student who turns out to be more than meets the eye, ushers our main character into something that affects the destiny and fate of mankind. You know that crap. But at least she doesn’t stay a cold person all the way as she learns to open up and make friends. But prior to that I can’t help think Aika is a little liar because if you noticed whenever Itsuki asks her if she was there in the game, she would deny it. Although, it is pretty much clear that avatar is Aika herself. So why need to hide and cover up, girl?

I think they were trying to force in a little romance because you could see how obvious and cheesy it is and it fails. So cliché that the most popular girl who is also the prettiest in school, has the best grades, good in sports and perhaps the greatest role model for all humanity, starts taking a liking for a pathetic main character. Did you not notice that she is using her position and dictatorship to make him part of the student council and play PSO2 with the flimsy excuse of trying to convince the higher ups about the balance of studies and games? Perhaps her pretty face is the only reason why the listen to her. And with Aika coming in between them, you can see her getting irritated just about anything she hears or sees that concerns the duo. And with Aika who isn’t really good in picking her words, the ambiguity factor just goes up by another notch. Then you notice how Aika has been spamming about her mission to protect Itsuki as of late as though it is some sort of hint he has something for him. She would also defy her orders just to stay true to this single mission of hers. I mean, it does look like that, right?

Other characters feel generic too and just to add some spice and variation in addition to your main character. Like the other members in Kouta’s groupie, you would only remember Last Samurai as a henpecked husband whenever he steps out of line in real life. Oh, and his amazing manly chest hair too. Yumiko the nice wife until her husband does something silly and she’ll not hesitate to give him an uppercut. Does she play fighting games too? Then you need to have the generic lively little girl in Silver and the polite old man, Kid (I think he has another real name but I couldn’t be bothered. Yeah, they should just call him Jeeves or Alfred…). And not forgetting Kouta, the other guy who is also idiotic whenever he gets passionate. Aika’s groupies are to make it look like she isn’t a lone wolf. Other than that, I can’t see any point to have such b*tches as her friends. Okay, they aren’t as bad once you know them but not that it matters anyway. It is just sad that they never see her again. Really. They waited for her to return to their class’ maid cafe but she never did. Because all they got was the short end of the stick of Kouta dressing as one to substitute her! No way! So from what we see in the final scenes, did the producers forget about this little part of at least making her groupie happy of seeing her one last time?

Other characters in ARKS do not make much impact. Like Kasura who might be the commander of ARKS but he sounds like as though he has an ulterior motive and could be a turncoat. Thankfully he just sounds like that. Because Itsuki is the main character, Xeno and Echo are relegated to be lackeys that only make their screen time appearance whenever necessary. And I think poor Xeno got owned big time by Dark Falz (while possessing Rina) when he was letting Itsuki and Aika escape. Be grateful! I don’t even know why Matoi is in this anime for besides that she is a real character from the actual game itself and I suppose is to make fan boys squeal over her cameo. Same case for Kuna as she is like the Hatsune Miku of the series. She is also a character from the real game. So they really have a singing idol in this game, huh? Yeah, what a better rewarding way after a tough quest than to watch your virtual idol sing and dance on stage. I suppose it does motivate some players.

The other members in the student council are also one kind. Like Masaya, another passionate idiotic guy whom you will only remember the time he gets screwed after learning the female avatars online are actually macho men. Gay time? I think he got along pretty well with those guys in the end… Split personality Yutaka is a bigger wuss so that it makes Itsuki look less a wuss. Mika the tough chick and so called best friend to Rina in the student council till a certain main character comes along and then she turns into a slightly spiteful b*tch. Oh, there is also a pair of members looking as emotionless as they sound because they either complete each other’s sentences or in perfect sync with each other. Twins? The Tweedledee and Tweedledum of the series?

Art and drawing are pretty standard although they mix in CGI during battle scenes. Many of such scenes, even the characters are rendered in CGI. I guess this makes sense because when you have the game in CGI, to add to the realism, such animation style is necessary so that traditional hand drawn 2D and computer animation will not clash. Sometimes I think maybe they took out some scenes from the game and place it in here but I could be very wrong since this is an original anime. While the character designs are pretty standard, I can’t help notice that when Itsuki and Rina power up into their Photon Arts outfit, they kinda look like the main protagonist and his girlfriend in Gunslinger Stratos! Yup. Looking very familiar…

I suppose the action sequences are okay but if you are hoping to see some spectacular power moves, my best bet is for you to play the game. Yeah, level up your character and equip him/her with rare power weapons for all those flashy hard hitting critical attacks. As far as this anime is concerned, such fights are hardly anything to shout about. It just gives us reasonable entertainment. If it is the producer’s hope of luring us into the game with such scenes, then I believe it is not effective. At least I can say that on my part. I’m saying this partly because I do not play the game and in fact the first time I got to know that PSO2 even exists is during my stint in another Sega created anime, Hi-sCoool! SeHa Girls. Therefore seeing Darkers like mindless drones and when they attack, it doesn’t really feel threatening. It does only because Itsuki is a noob. Eventually I predicted somebody will come save the day or destroy the Darkers. After all, like in many other similar games of the same genre, they exist in large numbers for us players to wipe out and level up, right? There are even comprehensive explanations of the several terms used in the game during the mid-intermission screen. It is really cool if you are interested more about the PSO2 world. But then again, to me it feels like baiting you to go and play the game.

There have been a few misidentifications in identifying a handful of seiyuus. Probably I have seen so many animes that they are all starting to sound alike. Like Kouta, I thought it was Mamoru Miyano because when he goes into his passionate idiotic mode, he really sounded like him. Instead Kouta is voiced by Nobunaga Shimazaki (Shido in Date A Live). Same case for Aika as I had a feeling she sounded like Sayaka Ohara but really wasn’t. It was actually Mao (Madoka in Denpa Kyoushi). Thankfully there are some unmistakable veteran ones I got it right like Hiroshi Kamiya as Kasura, Kana Asumi as Patty, Yuka Iguchi as Tia and Satomi Satou as Matoi. Oh, Kikuko Inoue is Yumiko? I would never have guessed. The other casts include Shouta Aoi as Itsuki (Ai in Uta No Prince-sama series), Ayaka Suwa as Rina (Ikumi in Jinsei), Rie Murakawa as Mika (Hotaru in Non Non Biyori), Emi Nitta as Silver (Honoka in Love Live), Katsuyuki Konishi as Last Samurai (Oga in Beelzebub), Aki Kanada as Yutaka (Chibitalia in Hetalia Axis series), Tesshou Genda as Soro (Metal Knight in One Punch Man) and Hiroyuki Yoshino as Musashi (Bossun in Sket Dance).

The opening theme, Zessei Stargate by Aoi Shouta feels like generic anime rock but I guess for a genre like this, there isn’t anything more suitable than this type of song. Now, the more amusing, if not weird one is the ending theme, Rare Drop! Koi! Koi! One More!, a duet by Rina and Aika. It isn’t so much about this pop idol music but rather the ending credits animation whereby a bunch of Rappy birds (PSO2’s mascot) dance all the way. Then it is like the producers think the birds’ dancing are so cute that viewers might want to dance a long so they put on the bottom right hand corner of the screen an animation of Soro doing the exact same dance movements! I guess it is hard for humans to imitate closely to birds but easier if it is a robot with humanoid features (hands and limbs, so to speak). Because of that, Soro’s dancing feels a bit ‘girly’. Uh huh. Despite the masculinity physical appearance, this ‘girly’ dance makes Soro look gay! I’m not kidding! You will either fawn over the cuteness or cringe hard enough.

Overall, I believe fans of the game can only truly appreciate this series. Or hate it. Casual fans would just categorize it as another MMORPG adapted series with nothing extraordinary standing out. But if this anime series is enough to get you motivated to go try out the game itself and then you get hooked over playing it, looks like Sega is in the right direction. Another mindless sucker walking into our palms, hahaha!!!! Whoops! Sometimes when you are too addicted in playing such MMORPG games, you really become immerse and it distorts your vision of reality that you begin seeing the fantasy stuffs in the game as real. An omen which I am thinking is what this series is foreshadowing. Otherwise why do you have people interacting like real inside the game? And could Darkers popping out of the screens be an indication they have been playing too much? Could it all be just a figment of their imagination? And why is nobody reporting it if it is such a big issue? Either everybody is also hallucinating or Japan’s government do not want to be laughed by the world as their citizens cannot tell the difference between reality and fantasy so they are keeping it under tight wraps. Who knows, the entire Seiga and the town might be just one big asylum and sanatorium for extremely addicted people with no hope! OMG! I can’t believe I am saying all this conspiracy theory. Only way to debunk all this by playing the game :-).

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