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Down the Rabbit Hole: Pandora Hearts Vol. 1 Review

So far, NIS America’s foray into anime has continually impressed. With sumptuous box sets which rival a summit once established by Geneon Entertainment’s lavish output, the publisher best known for developing and publishing the Disgaea series of games has been catching the attention of animation aficionados. Adeptly, the company’s inspired series selections- from Todadora!‘s quirky and endearing storyline to Persona: Trinity Soul‘s restrained interpretation of the Shin Megami Tensei universe, have helped to convert that initial attention into respect.

The recent release of the first volume of Pandora Hearts manages to maintain NISA’s winning record. Following the treatment given to previous collections, the first thirteen episodes of the series are immaculately  packaged. The two DVD Slim packs and accompanying book are housed in an immersive eight by eleven inch black-matte box, adorned with a bit of fanciful script on one side and a gorgeous color print on the other. While the onxy-colored packaging isn’t the fingerprint magnet, viewer might suspect, I doesn’t reveal the slightest scratch and imperfection. Although NIS dutifully packed the case in an ample supply of bubble-wrap, a few slight bumps on the corners and a scratch of the front of the case was noticeable. (Edit: I was told by a NISA representative that box sets sent to customers are shipped within sturdier packaging.)

In sharp contrast to the gothic black cover, Pandora Hearts‘ hardbound artbook is covered with dazzling white cover. Offering viewers a generous amount of series artwork, biographies, insights and even a manga excerpt, the text makes a near-idyllic companion piece to the series.  Unlike the supplemental material which accompanied both Toradora! and Persona, Pandora Hearts‘ book reads like a Japanese literature, from right to left.

Set in a alterative Victorian-era universe, the series follows Oz Vessalius- a young man who hails from one of country’s four noble families. Oz is about to be honored in a traditional coming of age ceremony for his fifteenth birthday- a ritual tied to a enigmatic tragedy which beset the land a hundred years earlier. A mysterious group of hooded intruders known as the Citizens of Baskerville storm the ritual, displaying the ability to freeze the guests in time. As the faction confront Oz, they declare that the young boys existence in an unforgivable sin, and banish him to the confines of the Abyss.

Restrained to this realm are Chains- malicious life forms which feed on human flesh. As Oz is attacked, a black, scythe-wielding rabbit named Alice comes to his aid. As the sole method of escaping the Abyss, the aristocrat impulsively signs a contract with the rabbit-girl, not fully aware of the agreement’s consequences. When the duo return to the real world, they find that a full decade has passed, and are introduced to a group studying the Abyss named Pandora.

Western audiences will immediately discern the anime’s inspirations. Drawing from both Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and notions of Purgatory/Hell, viewers are offered a familiar contexts, which help offset the series often plodding explanations. Viewers accustomed  to swift elaboration might become frustrated with Pandora Hearts– at the end of the volume several major unanswered questions were looming. Although the series’ main characters blend trope (one character has amnesia, another frets incessantly) with a measured amount of novelty, I thoroughly enjoyed Pandora’s supporting cast who provided unexpected appeal.

From a visual perspective, the series’ offers even erudite animation fans a few twists. Pandora Hearts often uses muted tones punctuated by the sporadic crimson red to promote is dark gothic appeal. While petulant viewers may bemoan the series decision to include a bit of digital grain in some sequences, most will find that it gives the anime a distinctive atmosphere. While I usually don’t notice costume in anime, Pandora Hearts‘ wardrobes helped deliver a gothic vibe. In keeping with NIS’s practice, the volume contains easily-read white colored subtitles, forging a dubbed delivery.

For viewers with a bit of patience and a craving for a competent horror/mystery anime, Pandora Hearts Volume 1 offers thirteen enjoyable episodes along with a first-class art book. While the collection’s price may seem a bit steep,  it’s a reasonable premium for the box-set’s elevated aesthetics. Although I didn’t enjoy Pandora Hearts quite as much as Toradora! or Persona: Trinity Soul, I still found myself eagerly anticipating each new episode. As such, I’m hoping Volume 2 will wrap all the loose ends up triumphantly. 

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

32 comments

  1. Seems like it might be cool. I heard of Persona but never heard of this one.

  2. $47.99 is a hefty price for anime. I don’t understand why it has to be so expensive.

  3. One of my friends loved the anime. I hope she lets me borrow it.

  4. Since when did you review anime?

    Very cool. I hope you keep it up.

  5. I expect a full report of Sekirei. Count each boobie, please.

  6. Ive watched Hellsing, InuYusha, and One Piece. Think I’d like this?

  7. Maybe I’ll give it a spin if I get some money for Christmas.

  8. In the one I watched his name was “Oz Bezarius”

  9. How the music and voice acting in it?

  10. check the links. They did the Persona and Toradora reviews.

  11. Deagle did you heard Funimation is bring Disgaea in a few months?!

  12. It’s in Japanese, so unless you speak it (I pretty sure Deagle doesn’t) you probably won’t notice.

  13. So it’s basically $100 if you want the whole anime? Too rich for my blood.

  14. pretty good review. I hope the plot summary didn’t contain any spoilers.

  15. thanks desert. I’d like to see more of these kind of reviews.

  16. I’m sure his calendar is marking down the days.

  17. How much does it copy/borrow/beg/borrow/steal from Alice in Wonderland? hopefully it does use the story too much.

  18. Whats the action to talk ration for this one? Seems like it could go either way?

  19. I think just Deagle reviews the anime. But that OK by me.

  20. the setting and story seems like it could fall into the “woe is me, the hero” type of drivel. At least that’s one of the bigggest complaints I’ve heard.

  21. Ordered. I hate you Deagle. I’m going to start sending you my credit card bills.

  22. Thanks for the review, Deagle.

  23. No more than any other reviews I’ve read.

  24. From the little video preview, they are all enormously sized. If thats your thing.

    I guess Funimation is hurting these days.

  25. I watched the first three episodes and I think I’ll pull the trigger on the box set. I really hope there’s no damage to the set.

  26. Anime is not cheap. You’re heard of the surcharge, right?

  27. I love the site and I enjoy reading almost all of your (and NOLA’s reviews) and of course I love playing games.

    But I never have connected with anime. I think it’s strange that you review it on the site, as you don’t review regular movies (or even video-game themed ones). Just my 2 cents.

  28. I watch the occasional series online and I like the reviews. If offers something besides just game reviews.

  29. Don’t read them then.

    Keep them coming Deagle!

  30. it’s not that bad. There’s just a few scenes like that.

  31. I saw your Our Home Fox Deity tweet. When will you be reviewing that one?

  32. Great work dude, u gave nice post to us. Thanks for spending the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic.