Review: It’s not easy to categorize Pandora Hearts into any specific genre. The anime seems to play safe by trying to please every people of different demographic by mixing vast diversity of themes like monster action, comedy, mystery, supernatural and drama. As a result, the anime often switches back and forth between different mood; monster fight-tear squeezing drama-comic relief and so on. Fortunately, the regular alternation of mood is well executed and does not interfere with the overall plot line. The show turns out to be pretty enjoyable and will surely please everyone. But on the other hand, by refusing to take the risk of building the story on the same tone for too long, Pandora Hearts never really achieve excellence.
Unlike other anime, Pandora Heart’s story heavily relies on what happen in the past, not the present. The show’s momentum is solely driven by the constant revelation of bits and pieces of history surrounding the events called ‘The Tragedy of Sabrie’. Oz is the heir to Vessalius House. On his coming of age ceremony, he is attacked by mysterious hooded people and sent to the Abyss, a mythical dimension and the birth place of monsters call Chains. There, he meets Alice, also known as B-rabbit, the most feared Chain and by making contract with her, Oz escapes from the Abyss. Afterward, Oz and Alice sets on a mission to uncover the truth behind their existence, the truth that connects all the events in the past and present together.
The storytelling balances well between providing entertainment and maintaining the anime’s main plot about discovering the truth behind The Tragedy of Sabrie. Just when I feel that the show begins to go astray, the main plot will emerge and new information about the past of certain character or what happened in the past will be revealed and the show gets back on tract. Since the anime takes place in Oz’s time, a hundred years after the key events of the story, there is endless opportunity to play around hiding, hinting and revealing this large amount of information with the viewers. And Pandora Hearts does just that, all the time. The whole anime is like a big jigsaw puzzle and it’s almost at the end of the season that the viewers will see, albeit vaguely, how the characters and events are connected.
Initially, Oz is an extremely stereotypical hero; young, kind hearted, honest, irritatingly naïve, reckless and prone of getting into troubles. Putting his mysterious past aside, he is very predictable. Oz’s role in the show also appears to be problematic to me especially in earlier part. I can’t help notice that he hardly has his own mission or goal. He is always pulled around by the strings of events which are mostly caused by other characters like Xerxes Break, Alice or the Baskervilles. He is the object of every faction’s mission but he never really takes action on his own and the worst thing about his character is that he barely knows anything about what’s happening around him. He even knows much less than the viewers and that makes him look dumb, unreliable and ignorant like when Vincent kidnaps Sharon and Xerxes refuse to tell Oz who the kidnapper is and Oz doesn’t even bother to find out even after he met Sharon. So he ends up as the only one who knows nothing. Nevertheless, during the final part of the series, Oz’s uniqueness becomes more distinguished because instead of becoming more powerful like he would be if he were in other anime, he starts to embrace his weakness and flaws. I also like how the anime points out that Oz’s seemingly courageous sacrifice is rather his defense mechanism to avoid taking responsibility and to push the pain to others around him. Other characters like Alice, Gilbert and Break are also well developed throughout the series and they all have puzzling and interesting backgrounds. Despite the well characterized protagonists, the antagonists, like the Baskervilles and Vincent Nightray, seem to be completely forgotten and appear to be just shadowy figures that make hollow threats with devilish smiles.
Contrast to the brilliant original score, the animation quality is way below today’s standard with lots of lazy shots and static sequences. Combined with unnaturally foggy lighting and dim colors that plague the entire show, Pandora Hearts fails to capture me aesthetically.
Towards the end of the series, the climatic sequence is deliberately inserted into the show. Suddenly all hell breaks lose, army of chains starts rampaging the city and our heroes are forced to take action. Unfortunately, this final sequence hardly manages to conclude anything or provide any new information. It’s seems like the producers just need a big action scene with lots of explosions in order to properly end the anime series. As a result, instead of a proper and decisive ending, the anime leaves a truck load of unanswered questions to the viewers to carry. If I consider Random Hearts as an overture to a longer and greater show, I can confidently guarantee that this anime is really entertaining and will definitely leaves you longing for more. But as an individual series, the anime is severely incomplete and can be quite frustrating to watch. Conclusion: Pandora Hearts is a fun and solid show that desperately needs a sequel.
Title: Pandora Hearts
Genre: action, fantasy, mystery, comedy
Released date: April 3, 2009 – September 25, 2009
Director: Takao Kato
Animated by: XEBEC