Pandora Hearts (manga and anime)

10 12 2009

Hello again.  This is Laserwolf writing to tell you all about what has been consuming a lot of my time lately.  A series I didn’t know anything about until I decided to judge it based on its covers (pretty pretty).  Luckily for me, the inside of the manga was even better!

Pandora Hearts (パンドラハーツ)

Author/artist: Jun Mochizuki (望月淳)

Genre: fantasy, drama, horror, comedy, supernatural, monster, mystery, very loosely based on Alice in Wonderland

Number of episodes: 25

Number of volumes: 10 (ongoing)

Availability: Manga published in Japanese by GFantasy (Square Enix).  English licensed by Yen Press (first volume is scheduled to be released December 2009).  Anime done by Xebec.

GFantasy Pandora Hearts page (Japanese): click here.  Includes pictures of manga covers and brief characters bios.  Free wallpaper!

Yen Press Pandora Hearts page (English): click here.  Summary of the first volume, information on release dates of future volumes.

Pandora Hearts anime site (Japanese): click here.  Includes summaries of each episode, character bios, links for merchandise, and information for when/where you can find it on Japanese TV.

Summary:

Oz Vessalius is an unwanted child, born into one of the four main houses that hold powerful gates leading to the Abyss.  Oz’s existence is abruptly and completely changed during his coming-of-age ceremony (age 15), when the ceremony is crashed by the Baskervilles, who send Oz into the Abyss.  Before going to the Abyss, Alice (otherwise known as B. Rabbit) appears, fights with the Baskervilles briefly, and tells Oz she will be waiting for him in the Abyss.  She says she was drawn to him through the sound of a pocket watch that Oz found the day of the ceremony, which plays music she and Oz both find strangely familiar.

Oz and Alice meet again in the Abyss.  Alice is a “chain”, a creature of the Abyss with great power (though resembling a girl with long hair, she has the ability to turn into a giant black rabbit that wields a scythe).  However, as a chain, Alice is unable to leave the Abyss for good without the help of a human contractor.  The two of them form a contract, and she helps him leave the Abyss.  In return, he promises to help her search for her lost memories, while also searching for the reason he was sent to the Abyss in the first place.

Upon returning from the Abyss, they are taken in by Sharon Reinsworth (Reinsworth being one of the other four houses), Xerxes Break, and Raven (adopted member of the Nightray house).  These three people are members of a mysterious organization known as Pandora, which was founded by the four houses.  Oz and Alice soon learn much more about what it means to form a contract between a human and a chain, especially what it means to form an illegal contract, which is what they have done.

There are many other characters that appear in the series – Oz’s family, his best friend Gilbert (Gil), other members of the four main houses of nobility, Baskervilles, etc, which I will not talk about in detail so as not to spoil the plot.

What is the difference between the manga and anime?

The anime and manga are almost identical up until near the end (of the anime), and though there are small differences, they do not change anything fundamentally important about the series when they occur.  Even the dialogue is almost identical.  There are 25 episodes in season one of the anime, which is finished, but I believe there will probably be more made after there is enough material in the manga for another season.  Unfortunately this may be a few years from now.  The ending of the anime was around volume 8 in the manga, but included things which were not in volume 8.  Most likely, they decided that they wanted it to have more of an “ending” feel to it, rather than a sudden stop, so the ending of the anime has a rather dramatic confrontation (something which was definitely not in volume 8 of the manga but resembles something which happens in volume 10).  However, after the confrontation, the situation is not drastically changed, and the story is by no means finished.  The ending definitely makes room for more episodes in the future.

If you are watching the anime on the DVDs, there are short bonus videos which are based on the inside covers of the manga volumes.  The inside covers are usually very amusing, so be sure to check them out if you can!  I’m not sure if they will be available in the English version but I hope you get to see them.  The manga also has omake pages for each chapter which are often histories of various characters presented in funny short stories about their past.

Volume 8 of the manga has a special story at the very end, which is a sort of alternative-universe Pandora Hearts, with a murder mystery plot.  It has characters based off Liam, Oz, B. Rabbit, and Gil.

My honest opinion:

The overall feeling of the series is a delicate puzzle, which gradually takes shape over time in sometimes very surprising ways.  There is never too much revealed at once, and conversely, there is never so little revealed as to be a big frustration.  I found myself confused in the very beginning, because there was no frame of reference, but in a short span of time I found myself wanting to watch and read more and more of the story.  In fact, after I finished watching all 25 episodes, I started watching them again.  At the same time, I was reading the manga.  This series seems to get better and better over time.

The art is fantastic, the plot is extremely interesting, and I find myself caring what happens to the characters.  I also love the dark atmosphere of the Abyss and Alice’s past, which can be pretty creepy at times.  Not to mention, “Lacie”, the song from the pocket watch, has such a great melody.  I’m not sure if I have ever been this into a series before!  It really does get better as it continues.  My only hope is that it has a great ending, because if it doesn’t, I will be extremely disappointed.  Pandora Hearts is my new favorite.

My rating: 5/5

Why should you read/watch it?  (I’m going to try not to include spoilers this time!)

In addition to interesting plot, Pandora Hearts has great character development.  Oz, as the main character, is looked at in great detail.  His past is tragic.  You can tell that he tried so hard to please his father, but his father never had any love for him.  As such, he and Gil, his servant-turned-best-friend, grow very close.  Oz’s uncle Oscar becomes a father figure for both Oz and Gil (Gil was found outside their home with no memories and effectively adopted).  Oz has obviously been greatly influenced by this lack of parental love, which is shown in his reactions towards situations in which parents are not there for their children (relatively early in the series).  However, it creeps up again when he visits his sister Ada at her school and meets Elliot Nightray – he realizes that his philosophies of simply accepting things as they are and never wanting to inflict pain on others are deeply rooted in the fact that he had to accept the lack of his father’s love, and he never wanted to cause his father any trouble.  It is not until Elliot spouts multiple lectures that Oz realizes the point of what Elliot is saying and decides to change.

One of my favorite characters is Xerxes Break.  One of his favorite things to do seems to be having tea and desserts.  He will eat plate after plate of sweets, and more often than not, he will steal other people’s cake right off from their plates (he seems to love sugar just as much as Alice loves meat).  He also appears frequently in strange places, for example, from under beds and tables, and he can leave from strange places, like the inside of a cupboard.  Just how he is doing this has not yet been explained.  Maybe it’s an ability he gets from his chain.  Xerxes seems to be a big joke to Alice, as she is always calling him “piero” (Japanese for “clown”), and even Oz cracks jokes about being surprised that someone like him could have friends.  Xerxes is very closed-mouthed about himself but eventually his dark past is revealed.  There is quite a lot more to him than just eating lots of sugar, and he knows more than you might think.

Conversely, my least favorite characters are Oz’s father and Vincent (Gil’s brother).  Quite obviously, my initial dislike for Oz’s father was caused by the fact that he didn’t love his own son.  He said some pretty nasty things.  And he did some even worse things!  And as for Vincent… the guy just gives me the creeps.  When Gil and Vincent reunite for the first time, what is Vincent doing?  Mutilating stuffed animals with scissors.  And that is probably the least of the bad things he’s done.  This guy is either just plain rotten or very good at pretending to be horrible.  (And yet, after reading volume 10, I can’t help but wonder if he’s not so bad after all.  Just another reason to like this manga – the good characters aren’t perfect and the bad characters aren’t rotten enough for you to dislike everything about them.)

This story is so artfully weaved that hints that were given from the very beginning might only be seen the second time through.  If you want to read or watch something that requires little or no thought on your part, this is not the series for you.  If, however, you want to be engaged and involved in a story which keeps you guessing, this is a great choice.  Often, something in the story will occur which will create a question in your mind, such as, “Who is the person that sent Oz into the Abyss?”  These questions are faithfully answered in due time, and if you think hard enough, you might be able to solve them before the answer is revealed.  I figured out who the person that sent Oz to the Abyss was before Oz realized it, can you?

What is the secret behind the song the pocket watch plays?  What is the truth behind Alice’s past and why has she lost all her memories?  What was the sin that caused Oz to be sent into the Abyss?  What happened in the tragedy one hundred years ago, and how are certain characters connected to it?

There is no reason you should not read or watch Pandora Hearts!!  Go find it right now and get started!

A Side-note!

The author/artist of this series, Jun Mochizuki, created a 1 volume manga in 2006 featuring some characters which very strongly (visually at least) resemble characters in Pandora Hearts.  The name of this manga is Crimson Shell (クリムゾン・シェル).  The story is about monster rose plants.  You may be interested in checking it out.  It was just released November 2009 in English by Yen Press.

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One response

7 10 2010
tytmb

You say it is loosely based on Alice in Wonderland. In fact, it is very heavily based on Alice in Wonderland. It is just very cleverly disguised.

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