Pandora Hearts – A Swan Dive Into A Pit of Needles and Razor Wire – Unexpected Great

No matter how much some people (like me) think that we’ve eliminated most of our bias, there are always going to be shows that you look at with low expectations. I’ll admit it, I am not 100% equal opportunity. I have no intention whatsoever of watching Asura Cryin’ or Tayutama and I’d avoid Phantom like the plague if it weren’t getting such positive word (I’ll probably still hate it.) Pandora Hearts is a show I only gave a chance because I was bored and didn’t really expect anything to come of it. Perhaps my low expectations were a factor, but I was very pleasantly surprised with what I saw.

For me, Pandora Hearts’ strength lies primarily in it’s art and directing. Note that art and animation are two very different things. The show’s animation was very average, with characters barely moving at all through the episode beond walking and BOATLOADS of pan shots (which were annoying for me because I was downloading and pan shots jitter when you’re downloading. On my computer anyway.) However, I really enjoyed the art (which has been criticized by a number of people, but I generally like to think that most people have no fucking idea what they are talking about when it comes to this.)

There is definitely a very gothic atmosphere to this show, being that it does take place in Victorian-era England (I think) and there is a lot of dark, sort of antiquated color used. Even though there wasn’t a whole ton of detail, I felt like effort was put into making the rooms look nice. Anime has a high tendency to put way less furniture in a room then there should be, and this show heals that problem. The vast pastel-like backgrounds were very nice and there was one particular piece of architecture I enjoyed (the rediculously huge stairacase.) In particular, the starting of the episode with the golden city that glistens just as it is suddenly destroyed by a huge purple explosion was very nice looking. And frankly, some of the lighting made me think of Shinbo. So there’s that.

Now, it wasn’t perfect. There was an issue with windows and a certain veranda. The backgrounds seen through windows seem to lack dimensionality, as if someone had hung a painting of a landscape in a windowframe. This doesn’t make them any less pretty, though, just a little awkward. I absolutely LOVE the character designs. They heavily remind me of Persona, only the characters are younger. The hair and eyes were particularly nice and I’ve seen some pretty cool outfits thus far.

The plot hasn’t really done anything yet, and it’s pretty generic so I was surprised that I didn’t find myself bored. I think I was way too busy staring at the art during the exposition scenes. There was a good mix of dark and lighthearted moments, and none of the comedy felt too overboard. The characters all seem acceptable thus far, though the main character has shown little to no personality thus far. His little sister is moe and his best friend is a ton of fun as well as totally adorable (note: not a shotacon!)

There is a soundtrack by Yuki Kajiura, which occured to me approximately when a song played that sounded EXACTLY like one of the songs from one of the Kara no Kyoukai soundtracks. It was like the same instruments doing the same things only the tune was slightly different. I like Kajiura and all, but fuck, she needs some new ideas!

But lets not skimp out on the episode’s biggest ‘wow’ factor. The whole thing is just plodding along normally with some exposition and fun until the main dude and his friend fall into a werid place with a lone headstone cross and a pendant hanging on it. The main guy touches the pendant and is sucked into a mental psycho-zone where creepy animals are talking to him, a creepy girl is doing creepy things, and comes damn near to raping him while an insane mask type thing crosses her face. The whole scene totally flipped the show on it’s head and from then forward it was very apparent that this was not just some sunny kids show. In particular, events at te end of the episode lead me to believe that some darkness is sure to come.

I’ve gotta say, I’m looking forward to this one. I’m not as excited as I was for, say, Soul Eater, but it’s definitely looking to be an enjoyable ride. It’s just weird that the director has a history of shitty anime and most of the crew are the people who worked on To Love Ru and pretty much nothing else.

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