On the eve of nobleman Oz Bezarius’s fifteenth birthday, he and his loved ones gather to celebrate in a coming-of-age ceremony. But after Oz steps under a long-stopped clock and the hands finally move once more – thus fulfilling a mysterious prophecy – he is violently thrown into the legendary prison known as the Abyss by three cloaked intruders. Existing in another dimension, the Abyss is home to lifeforms born within its walls known as Chains; these beings can only live in the real world if they make contracts with humans, binding their power to the person’s body. However, there’s a catch – in time, the human will be overcome by the Chain’s power and then thrown into the deepest level of the Abyss. When Oz wakes up in the Abyss he is quickly attacked by hungry Chains, only to be saved by one named Alice – a Chain who appeared just before he was thrown into the prison. Together, the two make a contract and return to the real world, where they are enlisted into the Pandora organization – a group researching both the Abyss and the trio that threw Oz into it. Along with members of Pandora, the duo searches to find Alice’s lost memory fragments that are scattered throughout the world, to discover the secrets of the Abyss, and to determine if there’s a way their contract can be broken without killing either Oz or Alice.
That’s quite the lengthy synopsis but it does a good job explaining the premise of the show. In case it wasn’t clear in the synopsis Pandora Hearts is shaped around Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece “Alice in Wonderland”. That just so happens to be one of my favorite novels of all time so you can imagine how excited I was when I first read that synopsis and started watching the show. The story starts strong out of the gate getting to the crux of the story within the first episode. It keeps solid pacing for a majority of the show. It does slow down a bit towards the middle of the series as there comes a point where the characters aren’t quite sure what to do. I think this acts as a sort of break for the audience to slow the pace down again since it had been a little fast to begin with. The story focuses a lot on character development and interaction which I will touch on more in the character section. I’ve used this analogy before, but the layout of the story for Pandora Hearts can be best described as a puzzle. Throughout the show they are finding pieces of Alice’s memories and it feels in the gaps in what we are given at the beginning. I love mysteries that use this layout because it keeps you wanting to come back and see what’s going to happen next. It also had me wanting to savor the show. Other than a lack of time that’s also what took me so long to finish the show. I just found this story so enjoyable that I was sort of sad it ended and I also want them to make another season. Speaking of which, the show does leave some questions unanswered so if you don’t like shows that do that then this may annoy you. Going along with that line it is kind of hard to talk about the plot of the show without giving spoilers so I’ll apologize now for the vagueness of the review. I think I’ll just leave it as Pandora Hearts is a must watch for any “Alice in Wonderland” fan and those that like supernatural mysteries with a touch of comedy and romance.
Now I mentioned above in the story section that Pandora Heart’s story is centered heavily on the characters’ development and interaction. I could probably write several pages on that fact honestly but that would probably bore a good majority of you to death so I’ll do my best to condense it here. Let’s start with the development. Pandora Hearts has some of the best development of it’s characters that I’ve ever seen. In a story about self-realization and self-acceptance that’s to be expected in my opinion. Each character has demons that they each must face should they choose to do so. Oz has to deal with a painful memory involving his father, Alice has to try and remember her past which holds many painful moments, Gilbert must deal with the fact that he couldn’t protect Oz, along with many other characters that must overcome obstacles. As these characters face the challenges before them they are exposed emotionally and that’s where we really get to see the development begin. There comes a time throughout the show where we start seeing the characters act a little different than what we’re used to. Those moments make for some of the best moments in Pandora Hearts because it’s also where we get to see some of the romance blossom and where characters really begin to show their true selves. As for the interaction it’s sort of the same story although it’s mostly centered around Oz. Oz is the focal point for the main interactions that happen within the show. The interactions that interested me the most where the ones between Oz and Alice as well as the ones between Oz and Break. With Oz and Alice they both put on a sort of mask in front of others but when they’re together they really expose their true selves at times and it strengthens their bond each time. The interactions with Oz and Break are the ones where we get more pieces of the puzzle revealed. These are the interactions that push the primal plot forward in my opinion which makes them all the better. I think that’s about as condensed as I can get without starting to spoil things so I’ll leave it at that. Overall though, these are a great cast of characters that just go so well together and are perfect for the story that Pandora Hearts tells. As for my favorite character, it’d be a tough choice but I’d have to say Alice. She’s funny as well as a total badass; plus I have a soft spot for tsunderes that are done right.
Pandora Hearts has a phenomenal soundtrack. The opening is called “Parallel Hearts” by FictionJunction(yes that’s how it’s stylized). The song has strong female lead vocals with a rock undertone. It also has some classical sounds with a piano and violin accompanying the rest of the song. This blend just leads to a very good song that really does fit the show wholeheartedly in my opinion. It’s just such a good song that takes things you wouldn’t think would blend well together and it blends them flawlessly. The 1st ending song is called “Maze” by savage genius ft. Tomoe Ohmi. The song is almost a total opposite of the opening. It’s a more techno sounding song that is fast paced and has two higher pitched female vocals. Even so it’s still a pretty decent song that has good contrast with the opening. The 2nd ending is called “Watashi wo Mitsukete” also by savage genius. This is a much slower tune than “Maze”. It also doesn’t feature any techno music but instead has an acoustic guitar and drums. The female vocals sound much more sincere which I think is to fit the part of the show that it’s playing after. Again it’s a nice tune that adds diversity to the soundtrack. Now I haven’t done this in awhile but I also want to bring attention to a song that plays in the show itself. It’s called “Bloody Rabbit” by WAKANA ft. Yuriko Kaida. It reminded me a lot of the first opening for Ghost in the Shell: SAC. It has a techno background but what’s really cool is the female Gregorian style vocals. This song plays during many battles and key moments within the show and just something about that style of vocals just heightens the mood of the scenes. This was my favorite song on the soundtrack and I highly recommend checking it out. The music producer/composer for Pandora Hearts was Yuki Kaijura. Her other works include many other great soundtracks including the Sword Art Online series, the Fate series, and Madoka Magica.
The voice cast for Pandora Hearts was fantastic which probably explains why the acting was such great quality. Let’s start with the main cast: Ayako Kawasumi(Alice), Azuma Sakamoto and Kousuke Toriumi(Gilbert), and Junko Minagawa(Oz). I’d just like to state that Junko Minagawa shows such great range here as Oz as she actually manages to hit some pretty low voices. Ayako Kawasumi does great as Alice. I couldn’t imagine Alice sounding any different and it was such a perfect fit. Azuma Sakamoto does a nice job as young Gil while Kousuke Toriumi is also great as adult Gil. The supporting cast features some of my favorite voice actors/actresses and does a nice job at doing what they are designed to do which is support the main cast. The supporting cast goes as follows: Akira Ishida(Xerxes Break), Kana Hanazawa(Sharon), Daisuke Ono(Jack), Kaori Kukuhara(Ada), Hideyuki Umezu(Oscar), Jun Fukuyama(Vincent), as well as an appearance by Akeno Watanabe as Leo. Daisuke Ono and Akeno Watanabe are some of my favorite Japanese voice actors/actresses so hearing them in this show was such a treat. I also want to point out someone else who I think did a fantastic job and that is Akira Ishida as Break. As the voice of Gaara I was quite surprised to hear how he sounded as Break. He showed great range and really made Break the goofy character that he was. Overall this is just an amazing cast and the quality of the voice acting is there to match.
Pandora Hearts is such a great show that is a must see for any fan of “Alice in Wonderland”. The characters are some of the best cast of characters I’ve ever seen. They just mesh so well together and are so great by themselves as well. Their voice actors do an amazing job bringing them to life as well. The soundtrack is phenomenal as well and has such a diversity of music that it should have something for everyone. There’s a little something for everyone in this show including romance, comedy, action, mystery, and supernatural. These all blend together for one fantastic story that truly needs another season. Speaking of which Pandora Hearts has only 1 season totaling 25 episodes. I highly recommend checking it out. As for a score I think Pandora Hearts has more than earned a nice score of 9/10!