Angel: Of the few series I have watched while on the HSA! team, I have enjoyed Pandora Hearts the most and I believe that it should receive more love and attention!
Yes, Tales of Abyss sucks except for Guy. <3
On a serious note… Stalin likes bananas… I am so glad I passed my exams and I am on holiday break… Yep. OMG I AM BANANA.
What else is going on in my mind besides random garbage? Har har, I actually have a delicate criteria for determining my favorite anime. First, the series must obviously have fantasy/mystery/action/comedy elements. Then, the series must be dark in some way, as in a character has a mysterious or conflicted past and events go wrong, among other tragedies. Next, I do not want to see said character becoming upset over the hardships, but learn and mature from them, ultimately developing into a strong and consistent character. Thus, the image above is misleading; this is no sugary bishie romance, but a fairy tale with rich yet dark twists, comical moments, and well-rounded characters!
In other words, how to cook anime to perfection: dark storytelling, memorable characters, and brilliant soundtrack.
One of most highly anticipated series for Spring 2009, Pandora Hearts primarily attracted attention from the preview’s clean animation (and background music). However, as soon as the first episode aired, fans became irked as the animation studio, XEBEC, instead used a dull 90s art style. Furthermore, the episode initiated with some slice-of-life scenes, somewhat forced comedy (e.g. Oz’s teasing of Gil, plus the latter’s unexplained fear of cats), and dropped mysteries (e.g. Oz being attacked by a strange girl accompanied by talking dolls and flames) with little significance nor development until later. Thus, some fans who would rather waste their brain cells watching harems and ecchi became bored and dropped PH after 1-3 episodes.
In other words, the first episode does not do justice in revealing how awesome Pandora Hearts is!
As long as you can get through episode 3, your life is smooth sailing from there. PH starts off slow but picks up fast as the plot unfolds and intrigues your mind. For instance, I found myself speculating in my sleep as to who killed Alice, which is a feat I have not repeated since Code Geass, my all time favorite series.
As with every good series, the first few episodes depict the context (situation and characters) to establish some level of stability TO SOON CRACK AND COLLAPSE :’D so please, do not expect to be spoon-fed every clue and answer. PH invokes you to think and speculate, not watch so aimlessly like Naruto… Some old battle, just another face; nooooooo. PH constantly develops the plot by becoming increasingly dark, especially during the Cheshire Arc (episode 10, I believe) when many mysteries are linked simultaneously, almost orgasmic, woot. Maybe I should back up if you are not catching on…?
The heir to Duke Vessalius, Oz Vessalius, is living a luxurious life at age 15 and is attending his coming-of-age ceremony. Despite maturing into a noble role, Oz prefers to play with his little sister, Ada, and his best friend and faithful servant, Gilbert. While playing, they discover a hidden underground grave and find a pocket watch, which Oz keeps. Later, the ceremony begins, but is soon disrupted by dark robed “death gods,” who sentence Oz for his sins into the Abyss, a deep cryptic chamber in an alternate dimension where prisoners are sent. Upon arrival in the Abyss, Oz encounters strange monsters called Chains, in particular, a Chain disguised as a human girl called Alice. In order to escape from the Abyss by using Alice’s power to transform into B-Rabbit (the strongest Chain), they establish a Contract, only to return to reality 10 years after the coming-of-age event. Their connection arouses suspicion within a special organization, Pandora, albeit the common goal is to uncover the truth about Alice’s past, the Abyss, and the Tragedy of Sablier.
Designs, Development, and Deliciousness
While I will not advocate that the characters are flawless, each PH character grows onto me as their personalities are defined. My favorite characters are Alice and Break, although I can squeeze in Oz and Gil too. <33333
Alice is a brunette and is a lovely tsundere (respect!), so I am instantly inclined to love her antics. Alice loves meat, claims Oz as her personal man-servant, and honestly does not care what others think about her as she does as she pleases. As a tsundere, in one scene, Alice is spacing out and Oz asks if she is okay, which angers her as he left her alone for most of the episode, causing her to kick Oz down a flight of stairs. Another example of her adorable personality is during the arm wrestling match, where the guys could not win by sheer force (Gil surrenders, Oz persuades) but Alice do so, plus progressively changing her aura from mellow, to sassy, to full RAAAAAGE. Once she wins, she gleefully hops around, causing Oz to slightly blush. How ferocious yet sweet! <3 In contrast, Alice almost softens up near the end of the series as she becomes more aware of her relationship with Oz. For example, they lean on each other back-to-back in front of a fireplace and eventually, Alice becomes jealous when Oz is elsewhere. Despite these changes, her stubbornness shines throughout as she continues to be headstrong in battles, to the point of trying to ignore commands. Underneath, Alice’s past is explained, which is quite tragic as she is not only connected to mysteries, but is closer to them than you can imagine. I am trying to refrain from spoilers; must move on before I spill everything like a gossip girl!!
Break is the gray haired guy (most characters with gray hair are not that old, but I wonder about Break…!) but more importantly, he is hella funny! There is not an instant when I am angry nor self inflicting face palms with Break. From disappearing in cupboards to rolling on tables, carrying a talking doll to delivering sly comments to disturb the main cast, Break is always smiling and kidding. Under that lighthearted exterior, Break has a wicked side, seen especially during the Cheshire Arc and later action scenes as despite bleeding, Break kicks more ass. Then, (I would like to refrain from spoiling, but here is a hint) Break’s past is developed as to why Break works for Pandora to use the power of the Abyss to change the past, which appears cynical on paper but proves otherwise.
Oz, fair haired (SHOTA! -shot-), and Gil, the dark haired, go hand-in-hand in their development, although I say that Oz changes drastically. Oz is quite a cool character, as despite having his birthday party ruined, is apparently betrayed by his friend, is sent to a foreign dimension for the sin of his existence, and is attacked by Chains, he calmly eats cookies and jokes around with Alice… Perhaps this is not cool in your eyes (perhaps disturbing, mmm), but the reasoning behind Oz’s dissociative (and yandere in the manga, where Oz cuts up a rabbit or later makes comments about him being better off dead to tease Gil) personality is explained later on in a rather depressing light: parent issues. T__T Well, Gil is consistent, although his level up from clumsy servant to a badass gun toting bodyguard is instant win for me. Basically, Gil transformed from a gender confusing (Ric and I debated on Gil’s gender after watching episode 1, haha) to one sexy character… Mmm… Jack is another sexy one, but I am trying to get my mind of the gutter, oops.
Onto the Main Appetizer, Shall We?
Ah, plot; how I despise writing about you! To keep things simple, I will say that PH starts off slow by introducing the aforementioned level of stability (peaceful empire, friends, family), all the more to emphasize the CRUSHING OF HOPES AND DREAMS (school has rotted my brain) when things go horribly wrong, bwahaah!… Ok, nothing major happens like bloody massacres, much to my chagrin. >:C However, the plot becomes increasingly dark as one, no two, perhaps ALL of the major characters become involved in a tragedy.
Well, I cannot reveal much, as episodes 1-3 establish the context, episode 4-5 depicts the gang’s first few battles to find pieces of Alice’s memories, and episode 6 presents the first enemy struggle plus a wicked cliffhanger of Oz pointing a gun to himself (tense, not emo). Then, the plot is genuinely picked up around episode 7, which reveals some clues of Alice’s memories and connections to the Vessalius family, specifically Jack Vessalius. Mmm, it is all about that mysterious blond bishie (distracted :Q). So yes, instead of mindlessly fighting enemies to find the computer room memory shards, the cast actively addresses the main source of question, the Abyss. Basically, active > passive, children.
In contrast, PH can become confusing at times (e.g. when you finally start to grasp the truth behind Oz and Jack, Alice and…) but the events execute well (although the ending could have been inconclusive to allow a second season). Just digest PH, and if you cannot, pick up or download the manga because I know that you are not doing anything important otherwise. ^____^ If I can marathon, you sure can, as my attention span is limited; although my mind is stimulated by well defined characters and twisting plot, it can be subtly captivated by the little cherries to the ice cream known as aesthetics.
Okay, I have heard of many complaints about PH’s “dirty” animation — I have high standards, and I did not have a problem watching this. In fact, I believe that the desaturated and retro look is an appropriate mood for this series, as opposed to a bright/clean/colorful animation style. This is a dark series as in a journey through hell and back, not a a journey across a rainbow, so it is essential to have unsaturated colors to complement the sullen mood. So yeah, thanks for turning an eff up into a fix up, XEBEC.
Pandora Hearts has STELLAR music; such raw talent makes my spine chill. Even if you do not watch this series, I highly recommended that you listen to samples of Yuki Kajiura’s music. I am having some difficulty identifying a specific genre, but her work is definitely not pure pop/rock/rap/metal, among other distractions, haha. Her work reminds me of some elegant and classical instrumental piece (piano and violin influences) with Gothic elements (ominous chants), which is always wonderful to relax too. Literally, I am at peace when I listen to her music at 2 AM in the morning.
To listen for yourself, simply search for “pandoraheartsnetwork” on Youtube for a nice list of the OST. From that, my favorite tracks would be the opening, #01 Pandora Hearts, and the pocket watch’s tune, #26 Melody(Lacie). The opening speaks for itself and you will not regret spending 90 seconds of your life listening to it; as for Melody, I have a penchant for jewelry box music (I used to play a similar tune so I would fall asleep). I would list so many more, but I feel biased enough.
I would discuss dialogue too, but my knowledge of Japanese voice actors is so limited. Shame, I even forgot Lelouch’s VA. ;; Overall, I enjoyed the voices, as Japanese VA’s rarely disappoint me. The main starlet would be Cheshire’s VA as he really fits his character, a twisted and rejected pet cat, haha.
Overall, as I have addressed and praised in my reviews (I wonder if many read them…), Pandora Hearts has a remarkable tale and characters to share. Give Pandora Hearts a chance, like I have before I once considered dropping it around episode 4, and it should become an instant favorite.
Next up on the calendar is my amazing friend, Ric. Do look forward to his article and corny jokes. (b’-')b
Until next time, my lovelies.