From generic to awesome in one episode flat.
Anyone who watches this has already said it, but its really the best way of describing it – Pandora Hearts is this season’s dark horse… or sleeper hit, if you prefer. What initially looked fairly generic somehow managed to blow away the expectations, leaving us with a dark, fantasy-type show with plenty of horror elements thrown in for good measure (I don’t care what anyone else says – that rabbit doll with bleeding eyes in seven was easily one of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen in an anime).
However, even given its stylistic strengths, this thing would be nothing without its cast. Yes, some elements of Oz aren’t terribly new or fresh, but at the same time I find his lack of broodiness and arrogant temperament to be a nice change of pace from our usual teenaged male leads. Alice also possesses a few archetypal traits, such as her amnesia, but thankfully goes beyond type – I find her animal-like tendencies to be fairly intriguing, and also enjoy her brashness and aggressive disposition. Sure, she might be another mysterious-girl type, but she’s got a ‘chin up’ attitude that those sorts usually don’t have – this isn’t the weepy, helpless amnesia girl one generally gets with such a character. Raven isn’t quite as engaging as the other two, honestly, but I do find his character change over the ten years of Oz’s absence to be pretty awesome – I probably would’ve clubbed him had he remained the whiny push-over of the first episodes.
Yet, given that, I can’t help but declare that the best characters of the show are two of the side-characters, Sharon and Break. Admittedly, this probably due in part to the mystery surrounding the two, neither of whom age during Oz’s years in Abyss. Even half-way through, a lot has yet to be explained about the two, although we have been informed of why they don’t age, and Sharon’s Chain somewhat makes an appearance in the most recent episode. Break probably ranks as my favorite character in the show, as he is both vaguely creepy and entirely enigmatic. It doesn’t hurt that his voice actor has his role nailed.
One can’t ignore the world-building that has taken place, albeit in a somewhat subtle manner. I’m hoping that the politics of the world don’t get too tangled, though, considering how many players we’ve already met, and the fact that it seems implied there are quite a few more lurking about whom we have not yet met.
Some people have complained about the animation for this show. I will admit that, had I not known, I probably would’ve initially put an airdate on this somewhere in the mid-90’s. However, if you look more closely, you’ll realize that, while certainly not the best thing currently, the animation really isn’t that bad. What the issue is here is that the artwork and style look a bit dated. Personally, I don’t mind; I love nostalgia avidly, and also think its kind of fun how the show looks a bit dated, since the type of show it is seems fairly suited to that 90’s era of fantasy shows.
My one peeve with this show is the background music, honestly – or, at the very least, the background music for battle sequences. Yuki Kajiura is on hand, sadly proving a criticism of hers, since all the music just sounds like her same old same old. Whenever Oz and his comrades duke it out with rogue Chains, I feel like I’m watching Mai-HiME all over again… which was ok for Mai-HiME, but this isn’t that, so could we get a little differentiation going here music-wise?
I’m looking forward to the second half of Pandora Hearts. Here’s hoping it can remain at its constant speed!