It may be hard to believe, but it’s been a whole since the anime adaptation of Phantasy Star Online 2 aired. Believe it or not, I love animated series based off video-games. Some of my favorites include the Viewtiful Joe anime, Bomberman Jetters, Megaman Starforce anime, and Sonic SatAM. The thing is, those shows were trying to be proper adaptations as well as tie-ins. What happens when you get a show that is just basically a giant commercial with a boring first-half? You get something that is truly a chore to sit through and watch.
Today, I wanted to give my personal thoughts on that very show. Keep in mind, I have nothing against the Phantasy Star Online 2 game. I may be a hardcore Phantasy Star fan-boy, but I’m not going to pick on a series because it tries something new. The problem with PSO2: The Animation, is that not only does it fail as an adaptation, it also fails at being entertaining.
So, what is this anime? Well, without spoiling too much, it’s a canonical tie-in with Phantasy Star Online 2. I can’t say how it ties into canon, because that would be spoiling it. What I’ll say is that the anime takes place on earth, as opposed to the universe that the games take place in. The first half of the anime is just people playing Phantasy Star Online, with very little threat or consequence plaguing them.
It’s boring, bland, and hard to sit through. The anime revolves around Itsuki, a young man who is invited to join the student council. The catch? He has to keep up good grades, while also PLAYING PHANTASY STAR ONLINE 2. Yep, it’s one of those shows! Yes, the point of the series (at least the first half) is for Itsuki to prove the higher-ups of the school that a person can play an MMO while maintaining good grades. What would normally be an easy task for someone with decent time management skills, eventually becomes a chore for Itsuki.
I was taking college courses last year and I decided to do an experiment: Could I get consistently good grades while playing Phantasy Star games? As such, I played both Phantasy Star Zero and Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst around the time of several tests. I got good grades on all of them and didn’t fail a single one. Now, to be fair they were probably easier tests than what Itsuki would be taking. Still, point stands is that I juggled two different massively large Phantasy Star games while getting good grades, while Itsuki could barely handle a single one. This is just a nitpick, but let’s dive further into what makes this show so bad.
For one thing, those first six episodes are nothing but slice-of-life nonsense. Most characters are bland, and the lack of unique character designs makes most characters feel same-y. Sure, the designs in-game look more interesting, but we very rarely get to see those designs early on. Most of their time is spent outside of the game, with them engaging in a lot of boring exposition and filler. While it’s true that there are hints of something greater about to happen, it takes forever for the show to actually get to it.
The second half picks up and introduces us to some crazier elements and that’s when the show gets interesting. However, most people would have quit long before then. There’s little in way of the engaging content keeping the viewer watching. Heck, they spent an entire episode at a Phantasy Star convention, which I don’t even think exists in real life!
Another problem with the show is that those first few episodes treat the audience like idiots, a lot. They will explain internet lingo that most people who have been to a message board would’ve known already. This is especially confusing, since the anime is targeted mostly at people who already play the MMO. If you play any kind of MMO, you’re going to pick up on this lingo on your own, that’s just how it works.
Not only that, but there is just a lack of that energy and thrill that made Phantasy Star games so special in the first place. They could’ve easily adapted 90% of the PS games into an anime, but instead they just made a clone of Sword Art Online. Sega is actually friends with the makers of Sword Art Online, A1 Pictures, so it makes sense to pay homage to them with a series. The problem is that PSO2:TA just feels like it’s trying too hard to be like Sword Art Online, without trying to be like Phantasy Star. It’s got a serious case of identity crisis and it ends up hurting the show considerably.
Now, I’ll be lying if I said this show didn’t have some good stuff in it. The in-game designs are fun and interesting, and I love the charismatic personalities of the people who are playing the game. The opening them is pretty snazzy and fits the Phantasy Star world very well. Lastly, the final few episodes manage to be more entertaining than the entire package put together. Sadly, there’s not much more good I can say about it.
It’s bland, boring, generic, aimless, and doesn’t get to the good stuff until over halfway through. I get that it’s a tie-in, but that’s not excuse for putting out a sub-par product. People have been asking for a Phantasy Star anime for decades now, yet Sega couldn’t even put effort into creating something that lives up to the quality of the games. Worse still, they gave this series an American release, yet the game its based on still hasn’t come out over here. What the actual heck, Sega?
Regardless, I can get why people like this anime. Some of the slice-of-life scenarios can be kind of entertaining, plus it’s more PSO2 content. However, for the life of me I just could not get into it. I’m not going to judge anyone for liking this anime, I respect that people can get something out of it that I couldn’t. I just don’t think I’ll be re-watching this series anytime soon, because I was so turned off by how its content was presented.