Posted on 25 September 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews, Pandora Hearts



The past spring season was a good one for fantasy-series. Among the best ones of this genre was Pandora Hearts. It takes the air of modern-day fairy-tales, and gives them a dark and twisted… twist, resulting into quite a unique series that focuses on themes as the past and forgiveness.

What sets this show apart is its distinct and dark style of storytelling. It has a heavy emphasis on twisted dialogues that are well delivered by the voice actors, and once it gets going, it just keeps getting more and more intriguing. This series has the very interesting characteristic that whenever you think that the creators couldn’t possibly pull any more plot twists, they do. This series is delightfully unpredictable, and just about every plot twist makes the setting more intriguing.

And what an intriguing setting it is! While at first it might seem like nothing special, but soon this series evolves into a multi-layered mystery-series that only gets more and more complex as the revelations come. Combine that with a deep and varied cast of characters and you’ve got a recipe for success.

As for this series’ flaws, it’s that the lead character Oz isn’t always able to carry the series. Whenever Oz starts angsting he tends to drag the entire series along with him, and his times of inner retrospective are deep, but also tend to drag along a bit too much. And overall, the cast could have been more fleshed out. At the end of the series, I only started to feel like I was beginning to get to know the characters. Add the fact that it’s not yet sure whether a second season will come to animate the remaining manga chapters, and you’ve got an incomplete series that desperately needs more screentime.

Nevertheless, Pandora Hearts really is a gem of a series, and when it delivers it really does over and over. Xebec created a really unique graphical style that combines the art style from the 90s and the past decade, and a lot of shots really are visual feasts in terms of aesthetics. The music by Yuki Kajiura may not be her best work, but still shines in every single way. Now if only that second season would get announced.

Storytelling: 9/10
Characters: 8/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 9/10
Posted on with categories: Pandora Hearts



I have a question for the manga-readers: was this episode really anime-original? I mean, it was a standalone episode and all, but at the same time it gave out a lot of new information about a certain character, it actually showed the current Sabrie and it also developed Oz a bit and it was well paced with a very nice insert-song at the end.

But yeah, Oz’s father was a very nice way to close off this series. It very nicely ties in with the beginning of the series, and it really is a major bit of development for Oz, getting over the trauma that was caused by the neglect of his father. He did angst a bit this episode, but he had enough reasons to do so, after finding out that his father made a contract with a Chain, became a member of the Baskervilles and forced Oz into the Abyss! I’m not sure about the coincidence that allowed him to meet up

The question still remains whether that second season is going to come or not. This episode gave no hints whatsoever about the creators’ intentions. Or rather, the sponsors’ intentions to finance another sequel. Let’s really hope that that’s going to be the case, because there is a lot of potential left in the second half. It’s going to be a bloody shame for the story to be just cut in half like this.

Overall, Pandora Hearts ended up as a really enjoyable series, despite a few bumps along the way. It always knew a creative way to develop its story and every time I thought that it couldn’t pull any more plot twists, it did. the characters all have a strange charm to them, though I wouldn’t count them among my favourites of the past season.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 18 September 2009 with categories: Pandora Hearts



Well what do you know? Even though this episode was anime-original, it was actually really good. I’m very impressed by the creators here: they showed that they don’t just know how to adapt a good manga, but they also showed that they can write on their own, keep in the same style of storytelling, don’t ruin the Kanon and yet they don’t entirely waste time by making everything irrelevant in the end. Really Xebec, that was a job well done.

Of course, I’m not exactly sure whether this episode ruined the canon of the series, but it seems pretty unlikely. the creators here create an epic scenario that makes sense within the context of the series. The Will of the Abyss feeling lonely, that seems like a perfectly acceptable scenario at this point and it provides a nice epic conclusion for this first season. It’s a bit of a shame that the creators couldn’t afford a whole new set of character-designs for huge amounts of chains running around, but nevertheless that Bunny Dragon looked really impressive.

This episode was also very good at fleshing out the characters: it didn’t provide any new information, but it let the information we already know about them sink in: Oz with his development, Alice with that fragment of her past, and Break who recently dropped the wall between him and the others. But what really surprised me was that there was a point at which they even improved on the manga. One of my main problems with this series is that Oz’s moments of self-reflection tended to go on and on and on. They were often way too long and cheesy. This time however, he’s short and to the point, and it makes just as much impact.

the animation also was very good in this episode, and you can really see that Xebec invested time in it. I only have one problem with it, and that’s basically a problem with just about every series who lets hordes of monsters roam around. These monsters individually proved to be clear threats and very hard to take care of, and yet when they’re in a group their IQ suddenly gets divided by 10. Especially the way they react to guns seems… random. But then again, that can also be because of Oz’s lousy aim. ^^;
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 11 September 2009 with categories: Pandora Hearts



Do correct me if I’m wrong, but this is he part where the anime seems to be going into original episodes that weren’t based off the manga, right? If that’s the case, then the creators handled it pretty well this time. This episode didn’t try to rush through revelations, or go into a completely different direction, ruining the rest of the series.

Okay, it was a build-up episode, but a very pleasant one. My guess is that the creators have decided to end the series with the truth about the tragedy of Sabrie, and if they can pull it off it’s at least going to be a satisfying conclusion. This episode was all about building it up and what I liked a lot about it is that it did bother to show the development of the past few episodes: how much closer the five lead characters have gotten after Break gave in and told about his backstory. It’s as if that broke down some sort of invisible wall with that. It was also pleasant to see Ada again, and the jokes around Oz’s private security were also hilarious.

I’ve said this before, but anime-original material isn’t bad at all. It all depends on whether or not the creators are able to handle it correctly, and I’ve seen plenty of series who pulled off great things when they included stuff that wasn’t in the original source material. For Pandora Hears it unfortunately seems unlikely for a second season, so I’d rather have at least some conclusion, rather than that the show simply “ends” after episode 25 (this is one of those shows in which a “life goes on”-ending like in Aoi Hana simply doesn’t work), and so far they seem to be doing a good job. I’m not going to get too enthusiastic before I find out what the creators were actually building up for, but it does look like this show isn’t going to pull a Claymore at the end.

Right now, I want to have a good explanation for those strange puppets that appeared at the end of this episode. Did Vincent summon them in an attempt to get those who are close to the secrets of the Tragedy of Sabrie out of the picture, and can the creators pull it off without being cheesy? Well, let’s find out in the next two weeks!
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 4 September 2009 with categories: Pandora Hearts



Well, since the manga is going on way beyond the end of this series, which is going to come in three more episodes, I’m not expecting too much from this series’ finale. Sure, the final episode may end up to become awesome, but the story isn’t going to come together like with most endings, and it’s probably going to keep me hungry for more until that second season gets announced. If it ever gets.

Nevertheless though, this show just keeps surprising me. Some of the flashback parts in this episode were utterly demented, not to mention that just about the entire episode was dedicated to Break’s past. We also learn about how Alice and the Will of the Abyss used to be twins, somehow strangely connected through each other in the Abyss. When Alice got killed, I assume that the Will of the Abyss remained in the deepest parts of the abyss, while Alice herself was just cast into the regular Abyss, where Oz ran into her.

Thinking back though, this series did miss out on being a classic. Now that this series has nearly ended, I’m beginning to understand why: compared to the other series this season, the cast of Pandora Hearts didn’t grow on me as much. This series has always excelled at two points: the complex storyline and back-story behind everything, and the demented style of storytelling that just keeps the surprises going. But it also excelled at these points incredibly well.

In the end, Oz ended up as a bit of a flawed character: he works when the focus isn’t on him, but when this show focuses on him it starts focusing a bit too much on his cheesy self-retrospection. As for the rest of the characters: the thing that made them awesome was this series’ style of storytelling: the people from Xebec did a great thing of translating the style from the manga to the anime, and give it as much impact as possible. But in the end, the cast members on their own just aren’t as interesting as the cast of Guin Saga, Phantom, Shangri-la, Full Metal Alchemist, Cross Game, the New Mazinger and some other shows.

Nevertheless, where as the spring season of 2008 brought some truly inspiring science fiction premises and the autumn of 2008 brought lots of new things to the table for the horror-series, the spring of 2009 excelled at the fantasy-premises. The new Full Metal Alchemist, Guin Saga, Pandora Hearts and Shangri-La (which walks a bit in between fantasy and science fiction) and if you include the winter-season Kemono no Souja Erin all came with great and inventive premises that really contributed to the fantasy genre.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 28 August 2009 with categories: Pandora Hearts



Whoa. Even for Pandora Hearts, this was a surprisingly good episode. Since it already has been two weeks since the plot disappeared (with the previous week a hiatus and the week before that more aimed at comic relief), but damn, I didn’t suspect that the creators were already going to arrive at Break’s background this early.

So this episode basically starts out as Oz manages to get himself an appointment with the person who most likely is to remember something about the tragedy of Sabrie 100 years ago: Rufus Barma, the longest sitting of the four dukes, and a collector of information. Apparently, Oz had heard of him from before he was cast in the Abyss. Makes sense.

Anyway, it then turns out that Barma likes to play with his visitors, and creates a whole illusion to try and hide who he really is. With the threat of the Baskervilles and all, this indeed seems like a wise move. Anyway, it seems that the biggest reason why he accepted Oz’s invitation is because he wants to learn something from Break. On a side-note, the foursome of Break, Oz, Gilbert and Alice look awesome in formal attire. It’s nothing new, but this series sure is good at its costume designs.

Anyway, while this seems nice and all, the second half of this episode completely turns the chessboard upside-down, to come with an Umineko-reference, when it turns out that Break’s background is much darker than I imagined (or should I say, Kevin’s background). In his original time, his family was murdered and he willingly travelled into the abyss to get their murderer back. He already had a contract back then. He then met the White Alice, who turns out to be no-one else but the “Will of the Abyss”. She then pokes Kevin’s eye out, gives it to Cheshire Cat, and kills his chain. wtf. To make things even more inexplicable, a young Vincent (who seems to be an acquaintance of the Will of the Abyss), brings an unconscious Gilbert (who also happens to know her) in and acts like it’s the most normal thing in the world.

This explains quite a bit: it explains how Break knew of the Cheshire Cat, and what he wanted from him (his eye back), it also is probably going to explain why he has such a deep-seated grudge against Vincent. The next episode is probably going to show Vincent doing something really nasty to him. As a result, it’s probably because of this that Break has vowed to find out what happened in the Tragedy of Sabrie: it’s his wish to find Vincent’s weakness, and what Vincent absolutely doesn’t want is the truth about the tragedy to come out. The reason why he refused to sacrifice Sharon has probably to do with his little sister.

Also… about Alice being the Will of the Abyss, this is just a theory but was the Abyss actually created along with the Tragedy of Sabrie? I mean, the people who returned from the Abyss all were special cases: Gilbert and Vincent were there when it was created if this is true, and this would also explain why Vincent knew the Will of the Abyss so well. Break meanwhile was probably the only human who willingly entered the abyss, which seems to be confirmed with how the Will of the Abyss said that he was the only one who maintained his conscience. Oz was special because he found Alice’s locket, which somehow did something with one of the Alices to make some connection.

Also, was I the only one who noticed the weird Rozen Maiden cameos in the Will of the Abyss’s dolls?
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 14 August 2009 with categories: Pandora Hearts



Okay.

That was awesome!

Whoever said that fillers are bad? Most of this episode was just random banter, but that’s exactly what made it so hilarious at this stage. Especially when Oscar brought out the liquor in the second half of the episode, the hilarity really started. And okay, I know I said filler, but it’s not like this episode was completely useless either. It did a great job of fleshing out the characters, developing them slightly and wrapping up the past arc.

But seriously, more anime should have drinking episodes. They almost often result in hilarity and yet you hardly ever see them. Obviously with shows about kids this is understandable, but with series where the characters are sixteen years or older, I don’t see much harm. This episode really showed some interesting new things about the characters, like how half of the members of the main cast are terrible at handling alcohol. Only Oz and Oscar seem to be fine with it, and Break only pretends to be drunk, but Sharon turns into an even bigger narcissist than she already was, and especially Gilbert and Alice experienced really heavy mood-swings.

Something also tells me that in this episode, the creators were having the time of their lives trying to come up with all of the different facial expressions throughout this episode. They were all very creative, and really funny.

As for the main plot, there was only about a minute dedicated to it, but the twist we learned was pretty big: Eliot is yet another guy who was warped into the future during the tragedy of Sabrie. In fact, he was the one who wrote Alice’s song, and something tells me that the creators had a very good reason to keep Alice out of the action during the past Ada arc.

There is some bad news, though: next week is going to be a hiatus. Damn.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 7 August 2009 with categories: Pandora Hearts



This episode was really there to add more depth to Oz: Eliot’s rather rash words have hit him hard in this episode, and even though it probably wasn’t that special for Eliot, it really gave Oz the opportunity to reflect on himself. But yeah, there are only six episodes left for him to show how much he learned. Second Season Where?!

Through Lotti, we also came to learn a lot more about Jack Bezarius and his past. It turns out that he wasn’t anyone special when he was still alive: he just happened to be best friends with Glen Baskerville, the instigator of the Tragedy of Sabrie. Glen turned out to be far from the evil overlord that I imagined him to be, and something must have really screwed him up to have ordered that tragedy. Not to mention that it’s still unknown what Vincent and Gilbert were doing there.

On a side-note: the first DVD for Pandora Hearts seems to be doing pretty well right now in the sales, being the only one aside from Higashi no Eden and K-On (which were bound to appear there anyway) to appear in the top 18 of DVD sales in the past week. Here is a surprise success for Xebec.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 31 July 2009 with categories: Pandora Hearts



I must say that this episode turned out completely different from what I expected. Now that the setting has become your average high school, I was expecting a more light-hearted chapter, and the way this arc started indeed seemed to suggest so. So I was wrong.

Because this was the last place I expected the Baskervilles to show up at. I’m not exactly sure how they knew that Oz was visiting his sister this day, but the Tragedy of Sabrie turns out to be a bigger mystery than expected, especially since the ones who instigated it don’t even know everything that happened. I suspect that they want to know the exact details of what Jack did back there in order to prevent it from gobbling up the entire country.

The most interesting thing in this episode was the piece of meta-fiction in terms of the Holy Knight series, which seems to be a series of popular books in the Pandora Hearts universe. I loved how both Oz and Eliot (the new guy, who seems to be part of the Nightray family, of all things) had completely different ways of interpreting a guy named “Edgar”. Oz, being cast in the abyss and all, has lost just about all of his self worth, but it turns out that he even thought little of himself before he was cast into the abyss, which again brings us back to the way he was raised by his parents. This episode shows that he still fails to see the many people that care about him (Ada, Gilbert and especially Alice). Those words from Eliot made a lot of impact.

And on a side-note: what kind of school has a barbecue club? Seriously?
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 24 July 2009 with categories: Pandora Hearts



Okay, so this episode was basically an aftermath and introduction. In the first part of the episode, Sharon’s kidnapping is wrapped up, while the rest of the episode shows us a familiar character returning: Ada, Oz’s sister. Both were excellent opportunities to see different sides of some characters. What I liked most about this episode was how we come to see Break and Sharon in a totally different light.

We learn that Break too was alive 100 years ago, and involved in the time-warp that got hold of Gilbert and Vincent. He was then found by Sharon and her mother, and while he started off as a closed off brat, it was Sharon’s mother who turned him into the playful sadist he is today. As what happened to Sharon’s mother, we still don’t know. She could be dead, but this show has a tendency of keeping it a mystery of who survived and who died.

As for Oz’s sister, she overacted a bit in my opinion. I’m not too fond of how she turned into some sort of blond bimbo, but she definitely has potential if she gets fleshed out more. Oscar in the meantime was priceless in his worries over her. The school also seems to hold some mysteries that have to do with Alice, so I’m wondering what these kids can add to the story. I mean, if they’re at school, they were five years old when Oz was cast into the Abyss, so they can’t have something to do with the whole story, can they?
Rating: * (Good)

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