SEGA is known for many famous and iconic franchises, including Golden Axe, Shenmue and Sonic the Hedgehog. But one is a very interesting series; Phantasy Star. Originating as a traditional JRPG series made by some of the developers that worked on a number of Sonic titles, the official Sonic Team went to work on a MMO variant of the Phantasy Star series to push the online features of the SEGA Dreamcast. It was huge and became the ‘main’ series for Phantasy Star, appearing on the GameCube, PSP, Xbox 360 and more.
Now, in Japan there is the very successful numbered sequel to the game series that released in 2012 called Phantasy Star Online 2, with Sonic Team once more taking the helm with the title. And to give the game more legs after launch, SEGA commissioned an anime series to be produced based on the games series to run in early 2016. Taking notes from other successful anime series, does this series stand on its own legs or does it pale in comparison to the original series its based off of?
The story follows our main character Itsuki Tachibana, who is attending Seiga Academy, which is a traditional high school setting you see in a number of anime shows. He has various friends and is signed on to become vice president of the school counsel, with one of his goals being to write reports on the different features and elements of the online title “Phantasy Star Online 2” to show how it helps the students rather then it detracting from their learning.
Now, one would think this set up sounds bland and boring….but the show is smart. It uses the game as a way to showcase the action of Itsuki learning how to socialize with others and it slowly migrates fighting in the game into something far beyond what he originally signed on for.
What makes this story work is a great cast of characters with lots of humor sprinkled about. The school president Rina Izumi is a good character that slowly opens herself up to Itsuki and they become better friends as the show goes on. The other main female character of the show is the stoic Aika Suzuki, who has an odd attraction to Itsuki. She has a lot of funny moments in the early parts of the show and bounces off everyone very well.
Ituski also interacts with other players in the game and it feels rewarding, as he works as a team with his friends both in-game and in real life. They have unique personalities and I honestly enjoyed some of the humor they provided.
Sadly, the anime can become quite generic, as it falls into a few tropes you expect. But its smart to pick the ones that work well for the characters and setting rather then ones that are very distracting. Ituski isn’t dense to the world around him and doesn’t fall into the trap that sometimes male main characters fall into for example.
While nothing original, the story does take some interesting turns post episode eight and continues to ramp up to a very fun finale.
This is something that really impressed me, as it blends traditional 2D animation with some clever CGI and 3D animation during the Phantasy Star Online portions of the show. The color choices are very vibrant and some clever cameo’s and nods to other SEGA franchises will make any SEGA fan smile at different points of the show.
The fight scenes are very well done and from the little I saw of the original game, the anime links up the source material very well artistically. Musically the show is really solid. I listened to the games OST after watching the anime and it lines up well. Even the intro theme matches the game well. Sonic Team makes amazing soundtracks for their titles, so an anime based on one of their games having a good OST shouldn’t surprise anyone.
This anime never got an English Dub, but the JP Voice Actors are very solid and match the characters they voice very well. Great presentation overall.
This anime can be a bit generic at points and it doesn’t do anything super creative with the Phantasy Star World; you don’t explore planets and stuff until the final set of episodes for example. But the show does what it does very well and I really enjoyed my time with the show.
Overall, I enjoyed this show a good deal and recommend it if you love SEGA games or enjoy fun action anime. It does a lot right on the action and character front, that the sometimes generic nature of the show can be ignored.
You can watch the show on Crunchyroll for streaming if you want to give the show a look.