Pandora Hearts: anime review

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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.

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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.

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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.
Rating: C+

Facts
Title: Pandora Hearts
Genre: action, fantasy, mystery, comedy
Released date: April 3, 2009 – September 25, 2009
Episode: 25
Director: Takao Kato
Animated by: XEBEC

35 responses to “Pandora Hearts: anime review

  1. “There, he meets Alice, also known as B-rabbit, the most feared Chain”

    Lol, that’s hilarious, kind of reminds me of 8-mile.

    Hmmm, pandora hearts….why does this sound so familiar!?!? Probably because of how close it sounds to Kingdom Hearts :P But nice review. Yeah, when it comes to anime with okay animation, the story has to be extremely good. An anime like kimi-ni-todoke can kind of relax a bit because the animation is so beautiful though. And I definitely know of a few shows that are hard to categorize. For the most part, I just dump them into the action/adventure category.

  2. Well, the soundtrack is listenable though it’s not enough to pique my interest to watch the series and I guess according to your review, it might not be my kind of thing since I prefer my series to have focus, which this does not especially in trying to blend in comedy, action, and serious moments.

    A friend of mine also told me about the conclusion which he describes as being disappointing and it looks like you and him are in agreement on that point.

    • I didn’t like its conclusion, part’y because its ending did not conclude anything. The worst part is that, as far as I heard, there won’t be any sequel.

  3. I completed the serie, yet I didn’t like it. Felt dissatisfied all the time, animation and lineart was quite ugly, music wasn’t all that good and all I enjoyed was the plot, which got ruined by all these factors I mentioned.

    Maybe it’s better to read in Manga-form, nevertheless I consider this anime unworthy, it was fine at the beginning but went all way down later on.

    • I have no objection to your comment, really. The animation could have been much better and the ending…well…maybe I should lower my rating. Readers’ comments are starting to make me waver!

  4. Both Ending and Opening were bad in my opinion. Overall anime wasn’t even good, so indeed I think you should consider it. I can understand your high rating though, I also tend to be influenced by some anime, heck, my MAL was spammed with 8/10,9/10 and 10/10 notes, had to fix that madness ^^.

    Well, I’m new here, what’s the scale of ratings you use? If it was 1-10 I’d give Pandora no more than 6.

    • I use A-F rating (you can read the details about rating description at ‘Rating System’ page on main menu) but honestly, I often find myself unsatisfied with some rating I gave especially to the anime with both significant flaws and merits. Pandora Hearts is one of those anime. Nevertheless, I won’t change my rating unless I’m absolutely certain because as time pass, my memory fades and I don’t want to re-rate anime that I cannot clearly remember. The best solution, I think, is to rely on what I wrote in my review rather than on my rating alone.
      BTW do you have twitter account? I think I’ll follow you :)

  5. Considering making one, I will give you name once I do it :)

    A
    B – What! Damn it’s high :o
    C
    D
    E
    F

    Just deny me these ‘theories’, if you manage to do so(even in your own opinion), then indeed you shouldn’t change the rating:

    – Pandora has bad lineart, animation (D)
    – Music is really average (D)
    – Plot is, speaking positively – Average/Good (C/D)
    – Characters aren’t too impressive, but not bad either. (C)
    – Even though it’s like that, Pandora has a nice atmosphere (B)
    – It’s not making you impatient to watch next episode though. (D)

    4x D, 2x C, 1x B. That’s my opinion, in that scale it would be D/C. Now look it up for yourself, hopefully you will see that it doesn’t deserve that good rating <('-'<)

    • I thought Pandora blows too. But I think that you shouldn’t assign a letter review just base of accumulating everything, but rather how you feel at the end of watching it.

      -Raito

  6. Yeah, sorry for being pushy, indeed in your taste it could be awesome.

    Anyway, my twitter account : T_Shanny, no idea how to use it though! : )

    • I’d never think of you as pushy or anything bad. You gave me several serious and thoughtful comments. It takes a good deal of patience and dedication to do so and I’m very grateful for that. As a blogger, this kind of comments is what I really hope for.

      I’ve been thinking about my rating for this anime and I compare it with my older review with B-rating. And I think C+ is more appropriate. I like the characters and the convoluted story of Pandora Hearts but I don’t like its animation, its uneven mood and the ending. those are significant flaws. The content of my review remains the same but I may revise my final rating to match it.

  7. Yea I didn’t like the dim colors either. There’s a few shows like this: Kurokami, Shikabane no Hime come to mind, and the thing is, I thought that both of these shows, like Pandora Hearts, were all good shows, despite this fact, maybe even better than Pandora Hearts (I really liked Kurokami’s action scenes).

  8. I highly recommend to not touch Kurokami, as for me it’s just really poor copy of Shakugan no Shana. Watched about 2-3 eps and already hate it. Too typical, too bad characters.

  9. Glad I didn’t watch this. I hear about this anime quite a lot, but after reading your review, I think it’s probably something I won’t enjoy.

  10. Yeah, sorry for the long post, my site’s back up now. Danger abated for now >.>

  11. i actually really liked pandora hearts. although the animation isn’t so great especially for the coloring and line art, it seemed like animation from the 90’s. but i always put plot ideas before art, and on the idea/plot scale it blew my mind. not only that pandora hearts suited my fancy very well, i also came to like the characters as well (especially break) and the fact that oz does not get stronger but embraces his weaknesses is something i like. i could say action could be more though. the music was alright i suppose. not best of yuki kajiura’s work but certainly alright. not to offend yuki, her works are amazing. although she plays better in the general fantasy genre, perhaps she was trying out the darker fantasy but did not turn out to be her best.
    either it was enjoyable. until the final moments though. i just liked it for the style and plot/idea which i am very big on and hearts just hit my taste perfectly. out of 7/10

    • I understand what you mean. It sometimes depends on which factor each person weights more that the other. The plot is, like you mentioned, one of the best features of the show…if only it could be properly concluded during the end ^_^

  12. Actually i like pandora hearts but i think the action is quite bad and dull. The plot is ok at first but then at the end it went down bottom. It just that the ending left so many questions until it makes me go nut… well thanks to that i then go hit the manga after i can’t ctrl my curiosity about what happen after. huuu~

  13. This SHOULD HAVE NEVER EVER ended
    Why
    WHY
    why it ends like that
    So Sad :'(

  14. Don’t base your judgment just on the anime (not the best thing I have ever watched:P) read the manga, its popular for a reason:)

    Well I would give the anime a C too, but for the manga I would rate it A+ because of the really interesting plot (crazy theories galore lol X) and for the awesome evil guys :D. And for the anime: it stops before what most fans believe is the best arc – the Sablier arc, then the current one .

  15. i watch the first episode till the third.It make me want to watch the next episode.Quite nice the setting and the story line + music.

  16. well the story was good but its boring just thanks to the action scene well it quite worked up!
    I like the idea of chains and abyss but I didn’t catch the part on how and why alice to start up everything.
    Well as i watch i notice that “eh.. how come they didn’t accomplish anything?” that comes on my mind..!

  17. in the anime’s defense, i think the dimly lit animation was on purpose, to give the anime a certain feel. and i agree that the antagonist were poorly developed, but i think that has a reason too. in the manga, they reveal that a lot of the “bad guys” are really some of the characters that were “good guys” at some point, or they take a character and show that that person really is evil, or they are someone else, or they have a split personality, etc. So i think they didnt want to make a whole new cast of antagonists so they just worked with what they could. also, the ending was very inconclusive but, again, that wasnt really its fault in general. in the manga, one of the characters becomes a host for glen baskerville’s soul. a bunch of stuff like that happens, and the story line sort of becomes messy. i think the anime tried to steer clear of all of that. youre right, the final battle scene was pointless except for the fact that they showed that the will of abyss was lonely, but that was already hinted at. i thought they did a good job with character development and i thought the music score was really good too.

    anyway, im probably just being biased because i like pandora hearts a lot, and i always defend animes i like. really great reveiw, by the way!\

    srry this was so long :D

    • Thank you for the long comment and your opinion is very welcomed :)
      I wrote this review as a person who had no prior knowledge of this manga before. So I think your point is valid and that my review has to be interpreted for the anime version only. :)

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