To young Oz Vessalius, heir to the Vessalius Duke House, the perilous world called the Abyss is nothing more than a folktale used to scare misbehaving children. However, when Oz's coming-of-age ceremony is interrupted by the malicious Baskerville Clan intent on banishing him into the depths of the Abyss, the Vessalius heir realizes that his peaceful life of luxury is at its end. Now, he must confront the world of the Abyss and its dwellers, the monstrous "Chains," which are both not quite as fake as he once believed.
Based on the supernatural fantasy manga of the same name, Pandora Hearts tells the story of fifteen-year-old Oz's journey to discover the meaning behind the strange events that have overtaken his life. Assisted by a mysterious Chain named Alice, whose nickname is "Bloodstained Black Rabbit," and members of a clandestine organization known as "Pandora," Oz begins to realize his existence may have more meaning than he could have ever imagined.
When you lose everything and end up with nothing, how do you pick yourself up and move on? Do you lash out in anger and bitterness, hiding your wounds? Do you allow the emptiness inside you to shut out any emotional reaction, numbly accepting your fate? Do you desperately search everywhere for what remains of you, hoping to piece yourself back together? Or do you fear losing again so much that you spend all your time protecting what you already have, nearly crushing it in your tight grasp?
With each of these suggestions, I refer to a particular character in the story whose struggle with loss reflects one of these patterns. This theme of loss and the struggle to regain or find acceptance is by no means a new one to either drama or anime/manga, but in Pandora Hearts it is approached in a sensitive, original, and surprisingly light-hearted, pleasing manner. Though emotionally gripping, Pandora Hearts is rarely dark and angsty, favouring quirky, likeable characters and a humourous, tongue-in-cheek storytelling style.
The XEBEC-produced art/animation quality may be somewhat lacking, but the irresistibly charming Pandora Hearts is sure to make you fall in love with its beautifully crafted story, characters, fantasy world, and music.
- most loveable, original and well-developed cast I’ve seen in a long time
- detailed, interesting “Alice in Wonderland”-themed world
- story contains few “filler” episodes and is perfectly paced, sure to leave you gasping for more
- emotional, memorable OST by .hack//SIGN & Noir (and many more) composer Yuki Kajiura
- one of those anime that has a bit of everything: drama, action, humour, even hints of romance
- sub-par art quality, rather unacceptable by today’s standards
- weak, disappointing ending; many story threads left hanging without resolution
- some unavoidably cliché moments and a protagonist who is often ineffectual and, worse, annoying in his willingness to lay down his life
- no clear antagonist in the story, though this isn’t really a problem until the very last episodes
15-year old Oz Vessalius is the typical spoiled selfish noble kid, playing pranks all day, teasing his servant and best friend Gilbert, gaining favours from his indulgent uncle Oscar. Then, on the night of his coming-of-age-ceremony, time freezes and Oz is forced into the Abyss by mysterious strangers. Trapped in this nightmarish alternate dimension, he meets a strange, devilish young girl named Alice, who is really a Chain (a sort of “monster” of the Abyss). They form a Contract: Alice decides to help Oz return to his world, while he promises to search for her missing memories. As they find out more about her, it turns out there’s a lot he doesn’t know about the past either….
The story follows a somewhat well-worn path – disaster befalls naïve youngster, he meets mysterious girl, they discover new things, make friends and beat bad guys – but the difference is that the characters who fill all the traditional roles are so original and interesting. Alice, as the heroine of the story, is refreshingly powerful and strong-willed, with a bad mouth, a meat fetish, and a wicked laugh – and a surprising sensitivity. Oz, on the other hand, is earnest and soft-hearted, though he oddly doesn’t seem to care too strongly about anything.
There are also plenty of mysteries to be solved and plot twists to be revealed. However, I wouldn’t say that the plot is the anime’s strongest point. Not quite. Most of the “plot” really has little to do with the present situation at hand and is more about exploring the characters’ pasts. In fact, almost all of the really interesting moments in the anime are actually revelations about the past. As you might expect, all this jumping back and forth between past and present, real and alternate dimensions, while fascinating, can leave one confused and overwhelmed. Lastly, I can’t neglect the fact that the ending is truly dismal. Like many anime (it seems), a promising beginning, middle and even climax is no guarantee of a satisfying ending. When you reach the final episode I’m sure you, too, will be thinking, “What? They can't leave it at that - there must be some mistake!!"
There’s no way Pandora Hearts gets anything less than full score on this one. The characters are simply enrapturing. It’s hard to pick a favourite because there are so many good choices! For starters, the designs are original, enticing, and complement the characters’ personalities well. Oz, despite being 15, has the vacant, vulnerable look of a younger boy, suggesting his innocence and fragility. Alice looks fiery and ferocious with her red jacket, demonically pointy hair, and long high-heeled boots; but her short stature and smooth, childlike features render her cute and approachable. Gilbert is astonishingly handsome, dark, and mysterious when he first appears as Raven in full black attire; as soon as his hat comes off, however, (so to speak) he becomes comical with his messy “seaweed” hair, his emotional tantrums, and his self-conscious cigarettes. Two other characters I feel deserve special mention: Xerxes Break, a silly yet understatedly dangerous character whose loose sleeves flop over his hands, whose smile is always shaped unnervingly into a V, and who wears a freaky rattling puppet-doll on his shoulder called Emily; and Vincent Nightray, who has two different-colored eyes, one yellow and one red, as if to represent his unpredictable, split personality (at times saccharinely sweet; at others cold-bloodedly cruel and deceptive).
Each character is quirky, with multiple sides to their personality. Oz occasionally shows a hyper-romantic, flirtatious side. Alice, as mentioned earlier, will do anything for meat. Gilbert has an incurable phobia of cats. Sharon, a girl who is older than she looks, likes young boys and seems to have a thing for Alice. Break is addicted to candy and other sweet things. Vincent is disturbingly obsessed with his brother. And so on.
The characters also have incredible chemistry together. Oz and Alice have this cute little "You're my man-servant, do what I say!" "Hahaha, of course Alice! (but not really!)" thing going on, with semi-romantic undertones. Oz and Gilbert, meanwhile, have an endearing "master and servant" relationship that's complicated by the fact that Gilbert looks (and is) much older than his "master" (and made hilarious by the fact that Oz can still get away with teasing him.) Naturally, Gil and Alice find themselves caught in a struggle for the affections of their master/man-servant Oz, hurling funny names at each other that soon become familiar ("Stupid rabbit!" "Seaweed hair!") - though when it comes to Break, they are united in their icy distrust of the slippery, duplicitous character.
The true strength of the characters lies in their multi-facetedness. No character in the main cast feels “all good” or “all bad.” For much of the story, there is even no clear antagonist, as each suspicious individual is shown one by one to be pure-hearted in some way. Somehow, the anime hardly suffers for this lack of “true evil,” which I view as a testament to the strength of the characters.
As for character development, the entire anime basically revolves around the characters’ individual backstories. There is nary a character in the main cast who we do not see some kind of flashback of. In a way, the characters’ pasts define who they are even more distinctly than the present action. Strangely, I found this worked very well, leading one to speculate fascinatingly about what must have happened before the main story.
Art & Animation (6/10)
By today’s standards, as well as the standards set by the rest of the anime, the art really sticks out like a sore thumb. And let me get this clear that I don’t in any way mean Jun Mochizuki’s original designs; I’m talking about the frame-by-frame art quality of the anime, which was produced by studio XEBEC. Compared to contemporaries in the same genre that I’ve been watching such as Kuroshitsuji and Nabari no Ou, the art and animation really has a lot of catching up to do. Unpolished, often with very unappealing colour palettes, and few extremely eye-catching or original backdrops, I wondered frequently why they could not have done this beautiful story justice with a higher budget. Without the charms of Mochizuki’s character designs, the art would nearly render this anime unwatchable. The opening of an anime should be its one greatest chance to dazzle and woo the audience with flashy, high-budget sequences; yet Pandora Hearts is one of the only good anime I’ve watched where the quality of the opening animation failed to impress me at all. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautifully conceived opening with wonderful music and fascinating visuals, but the animation itself is little beyond lacklustre.
Music & Voice Acting (9/10)
Yuki Kajiura’s work truly is beautiful. It’s hard to say anything bad about it. When it comes to emotional drama, suspenseful themes, heart-wrenching themes, and tragic themes, she is the master. Her English-language insert piece, "Everytime you kissed me," is a thorough success, and the ubiquitous "music box" theme she created for Pandora Hearts, "Lacie," is hauntingly memorable. But I can be nit-picky. The themes can get slightly repetitive and, if you’ve heard her previous work, it'll probably feel a little deja vu. The endings and opening, while excellent, are not extraordinarily exceptional. In the end, the one point I knocked off comes down to the music not being extremely original, just very good.
There is nothing really left to be desired from the Japanese voice acting. Everything is just as it should be. The boyish, suave Junko Minagawa (Ryoma Echizen , Ritsuka Aoyagi) is the perfect choice as Oz, while listening to Kosuke Toriumi (Yuri Lowell, Kiba Inuzuka)’s sexy voice as Gilbert is like eating chocolate ice cream, and Akira Ishida (Gaara, Kaworu Nagisa, Athrun Zala, many others) does a spectacular job as the eccentric, foppish Break (and Emily!), as usual. In all respects, a very strong cast.
Bottom line: Pandora Hearts has its share of flaws, and probably won't please absolutely everyone (action fans, why are you still here?!), but once immersed in its lovely, charming little world, its intoxication is a very, very pleasant experience. (9/10)read more
I would just like to say that this is the very first anime I've given a 10 to without watching it in its entirety. I've always enjoyed twists on Alice in Wonderland and I love the darker genre of anime so needless to say Pandora Hearts drew me in right away.
The synopsis doesn't do the story justice. Imagine being 15 and having everything and then being sucked into a world that is similar to a broken toy box where the dolls try to eat you. Thats just what Oz Bezarius goes through on his coming of age ceremony on his birthday. I won't say much more or else I could spoil something, but trust me that the story is up to par.
The art was brilliant. It's hard for me to watch an anime with bad artwork so I try to choose those with characters that are pleasing to look at. The fight scenes and magic are also very well played in this anime. I think my only complaint is not with the art-work itself, but with the quality. Having to wait each week you take what you get and sometimes the colors/etc. look dull in the fan-subs.
I love the music! This is one of the few anime that I just can't get enough of the opening theme. Parallel Hearts by Function Junction is awesome. If you have time look it up on YouTube...there are a lot of people who have done piano and accoustic versions of it that are just wonderful. I also really like the music box melody and just in general the music is great throughout. It presents the anime with a whimsical and yet forboding feel.
The characters are amazing. Theres something for everyone from the crazy and weird humored (Break) to the broody and mysterious (Raven) to the over-powered and short tempered girl (Alice) to the flirty kid who has a lot more pain hidden than you'd think (Oz) and even the girl that hardly talks but knows how to take down anyone (Echo).
Enjoyment and Overall both get a perfect 10. This is probably the first anime in a long time that I just can't get enough of. Though the entire series isn't out yet after you watch a few episodes you'll be sitting on your computer each Saturday waiting for the next one to come out too!read more
First off, I have to confess that the only reason why I'm writing this review is because there is a review here that says it's a horrible anime and I can't allow that to be said, 'cause this is my favourite anime of all time! (sorry MAL this just had to be said don't worry I focus only on the anime from now on)
Pandora Hearts is a anime/manga that is completely unique, seriously I've read over 200 manga's (i haven't added them all to my list on this site btw) and searched through hundreds more to find one similar to this and I can't find one that matches the suspence, mystery, action, and down right awesomeness this anime offers.
I have to admit that the first episode is kind of confusing. So many things are introduced that some people i guess, can't handle the new world that this anime introduces. But as the anime goes on you start wanting more, so many questions so little clues, and the answers you slowly get not only make your jaw drop to the floor, but add so many more questions that need to be answered. (seriously it makes you want to learn Japanese so you can watch the next episode that much sooner) This anime really sparks your curousity. The very characters in this anime seem to be a mystery all themselves, I mean the first line of the anime is "Oz Bezarius, your sin is, your very existence" and then you at home watching this think "What the heck? That's just a kid, what could be so horrible about his existence that he is thrown into a prison for the worst criminals out there?" And the questions don't end there.
The art is, just like in the manga, so beautifully done it's like looking into a window of our own past. This world resembles one from the Victorian era in europe or later, with dukes, and kings, and parties more like balls, with castles and mansions so wonderous it makes you feel like you've gone make in time. The charaters of this story are also drawn fabulously with their very characteristics drawn into their beings. It doesn't take you long to remeber who's who in this anime. (which is a problem i've had in the past with other animes, and also having more characters with western names also helps!)
The music in this anime is just great! Not only are the opening and closing themes catchy and memorable, the battle music and just any time music gives this anime a more present time sound and feel. The characters voices match the characters themselves perfectly and are not annoying in anyway,(i hate when characters have annoying voices they are a total turn off) even the chains (creatures of the Abyss/monsters) voices sound match them perfectly.
I'm trying my best not to spoil anything about the characters so I'm only saying their charateeristics, but if you feel like I spoiled something for you I deeply apologize.
Oz Bezarius- fifteen years old and future duke of the Bezarius household. He's kind of childish, for a boy who is now having his coming-of-age ceremony. He trust others easily and cares about others a bit to much and maybe doesn't care enough for himself. He loves his little sister Ada and loves to tease his servant/friend gil who is one year younger than him. He is very kind but his mysterious past gives him a bit of a dark side. He is a character who you easily love and is the "hero" of this story.
Gil- Oz's most loyal servant and friend. He tries his best in all things he does and is deeply ashamed of his failures. His biggest fear is cats and helps Oz get away from his duties and play around and explore.
Alice- the mysterious chain whose true form looks so human that you tend to forget that she isn't. Her other names include: Bea Rabbit, black rabbit, and most famously The Blood stained Black Rabbit. Her power is unlike any other chain. She is a girl who speaks her mind and doesn't let Oz forget that he is her servant and should feel honoured that he is contracted with her. Her favourite foods include meat, meat and more meat and to her the world is her playground. Her past in one of the main points and mystery of this story and what her memories hold are the answers to many questions.
Sharon- a seemingly young girl who Oz meets at his coming of age ceremony. Her cute mannerism and charming smile make you believe she is no one of importance, but her warning she leaves Oz with makes you wonder who in the world is she?
Break- a strange man with a doll on hisleft shoulder named Emily. He is Sharon's servant, who's odd manner makes him more than meets the eye.
This is just a few of the character's in this story but they are the ones I feel are most necessary to know about before watching the show.
I know this review is pretty long (not inteaded) but I hope I have given you a better idea about how amazing and unique this anime is. (i mean i like unique things right?) And if you are not satisfied or this review doesn't help you i deeply apologize. But if you want more and are not satified with the 8 (soon 9) episodes available. I highly recommend the manga and if you want more then just the 17 chapters available in english, message me about the next twenty chapters where I can tell you where the raws and their english translations are. Again I highly recommend this anime I know the more popular it is the sooner an english dub will be made.read more
Imagine your reality falling into pieces on your fifteenth birthday, pushed into a broken toy box and relentlessly pursued by people you barely know.
Pushed aside and left broken, do you accept death in the name of saving another's life, desperately looking for pieces of yourself to confirm your existence? Knowing nothing about yourself, wanting to find out, yet scared of finding out, how do you move on? How do you protect something you once lost, in fear of losing it again, suffocating it with your loyalty and inability to let it leave your sight?
Pandora Hearts explores the story of Oz Vessalius ( or Bezarius, as I'm used to ), a boy whose life is thrown into chaos on his fifteenth birthday, at his coming-of-ceremony. The anime, I'd say, has an overarching theme of loss and self-discovery.
The Abyss is a deep, dark place where sinners are dragged into-a place that Oz stopped believing in until he was thrown in. With the discovery of a pocket watch that sings a haunting tune, strange things begin happening and Oz meets a young girl called Alice, a Chain from the Abyss with the form of a black rabbit once her suppressed power is unleashed, who is searching for her lost memories.
I won't reveal anymore. The whole charm of the anime is found in the characters and the past shrouded in mystery. Oz, Alice, and his faithful servant, Gilbert, begin their quest to search for pieces of memory that Alice is searching for.
On the surface, it looks like a normal anime. Questing for memories while defeating enemies but that's exactly where we're misled. The pieces of Alice's memory are intertwined with others', and for the most part, the plot involves flashbacks of the characters' pasts. One fragment only leads to more questions. Pandora Hearts' strongest point is its characters. The characters are never one-sided and they are so skilfully woven that we see begin to slowly see the flaws in them. Why does Oz accept everything so light-heartedly? Nothing seems to bother him at all but as we move on, we see a darkness emerge, once layered and locked away.
Despite all that, the anime retains its timely comedy, providing a light-hearted adventure for the person watching. Alice and Gilbert are constantly fighting for Oz's attention, coming up with nicknames like "Seaweed Head" and "Stupid rabbit". Oz leaves them to their own antics, only to be unwillingly dragged in and pulled from both sides. Oz, disturbingly calm about everything, with a policy to accept everything as it is because anything can happen. He has also been shown with a tendency to flirt, much like his uncle.
Alice, while meat-loving, sarcastic, tsundere-like and shows some signs of sadism, has a sweet and vulnerable side. Gilbert, while short-tempered and sensitive, is gentle and hold a fierce loyalty to Oz. The only time Alice and Gilbert cooperate with each other is when yet another interesting character, Xerxes Break slips in ( quite literally ). Break is one of those manipulative characters who believes in using others and being used. He also likes to pop out of the strangest places, but he, too, has a larger part than simply being a "minor" character. His mistress, Sharon, is a deceptively sweet-looking character who, in punishing Break, shows no hesitance.
Vincent Nightray, a man who, at times is, sweet while other times, scarily crazed and shows an alarming obsession for his older brother. Then, although he didn't have much screen time, Eliot Nightray and his attendant, Leo. Eliot was truly a crucial character who played a large part in Oz's development. There also some undertones of hinted romance but that doesn't play a large part.
The episodes passed by too fast for me to realise that I was almost at the end. Oz, as a character, peels away the protective layers he had unconsciously wrapped around himself and slowly starts to face himself. He, Alice and Gilbert have grown undeniably closer and it's time to face past demons. The mystery behind what truly happened in the past is left as a question mark and in that aspect, I believe the anime could have ended off better.
Even then, the plot did a great job. I'd say, honestly, it didn't feel like there was "evil" like in some anime, there's pointedly evil people who do the most horrible things. But in this, you slowly start to realise that things are not as they seem and that's exactly what makes this a classic watch. The plot wasn't perfect, I admit, there were certain clichés but the idea of building something with pieces of memories and at the same time, building the characters' pasts solidly, they did a wonderful job. I did cry once, at that important part of Eliot and Oz's meeting.
Moving on to the OSTs, they were perfect. I love Kajiura Yuki's music and using the English piece "Everytime You Kissed Me" by Emily Bindiger really raised the quality of the anime. The OST is one of the things that gave me goosebumps. One thing I had a problem with, though, is that it tended to become repetitive. At some point, I realised that the same OSTs were repeating and it didn't have as much impact as it should have. Even so, the OST really did help to make this a top-notch and haunting anime. The voice acting was great. There were times when it kind of slipped and you start to wonder if Oz's voice actor is a female but I think she did a really great job of voicing Oz. It was deceiving because I always thought it was a male ( except for those few times she had to scream ). The voice actors manage to bring out the feelings and the characters they are.
The animation appealed to me, but in today's standards, it hardly stands out. The animation, however, holds this certain fluidity and childishness in young characters, showing that, perhaps, the story isn't as deep as it seems and we shouldn't look too much into it. The animation remained smooth throughout so I don't think it was much of a problem.
Pandora Hearts is worth your time and effort. But I wouldn't say that it would appeal to all fans who might be more inclined to other genres. I really enjoyed it, hence the full score. It's still a great watch so give it a try! read more
If you enjoy the classics like a true lit geek, then you'd be happy to know that there are several anime series that are inspired by stories written in the unforgotten past by authors that would forever live on.