Pandora Hearts Volume 1
Produced by: Xebec
Licensed by: NIS America
Contents: 2 DVDs containing episodes 1-13, Special Features, Premium Edition Box, and Art Book
Language: Japanese with English subtitles
Official Website: Pandora Hearts
Available for purchase at: NIS America’s Online Store, Anime Castle, Right Stuf, and The Anime Corner Store
What happens when you combine the Alice in Wonderland story type with characters taken out of a Victorian styled era with some creepy dolls and fighting sprinkled in? Well you will be getting Pandora Hearts out of Japan. This isn’t your standard retelling of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland however, but that doesn’t mean that fans of the storyline or just Alice in Wonderland in general shouldn’t be ready to jump all over this one. Coming to us from Xebec Anime Studio and NIS America Pandora Hearts looks to set itself a step above your average white rabbit involving media.
Viewers will not be disappointed as they begin Pandora Hearts as they are soon treated to very well drawn backgrounds and well-designed characters. One of the most strikingly designed areas is within the Abyss itself when you are brought into a world full of scary dolls that appear to look into your soul all while you’re watching the show itself.
The overall theme of the series is easily recognizable as Victorian era as the clothing all the characters wear and their environments are similar to that time period. Many of the environments may appear drab at first but can easily be seen as very well drawn pieces of work that use real to life coloring that provides a top of the line appearance and that is simply the background. Women wear dresses which bring out the gothic lolita appeal and with frilly dresses and styles the Victorian transformation is complete. Men also get the same treatment, thankfully minus the dresses, with clothing styled right out of the Victorian era, frills and all.
Another thing that people may notice is that when they begin watching they will notice that the picture is grainy. No this isn’t a badly enlarged video, it is a stylistic choice made by Xebec themselves. Xebec chose to use a film grain effect throughout Pandora Hearts so that it would not only give it an old-style feel but also to heighten the themes. This grain effect, while an artistic choice, can be off putting as some viewers may have preferred a crisp image instead of the grain effect. It does add to the viewing experience if you appreciate it, but can take away from it at the same time.
Audio & Subtitles:
If you like Japanese voice work in your anime then you are in luck because Pandora Hearts keeps the original voices and Japanese dialogue from the show and instead NISA has placed English subtitles at the bottom of the screen. This is preferable on my standpoint as English dubbing can not only lead to changed meaning, but very poor performances and unsynched character actions. Which means that the subtitles provide a better experience.
Pandora Heart’s soundtrack is handled by Yuki Kajiura and her music is hard to describe in any other word than stunning. Nearly every scene that you watch will have her music playing in the background which give the feeling that the viewer is about to be drawn into the experience with her mastery of musical themes. Whether it is suspense, drama, action, or heartfelt scenes there is a musical score to go along with it.
The subtitles themselves are a white font that is easy on the eyes, unlike the yellow font which is used occasionally in other works. The subtitles are unobtrusive and don’t get in the way of the scenes at all which is a must for subbing work. There is even Opening and Ending theme translations with Japanese wording above if you feel like a little karaoke.
Pandora Hearts originally was a manga drawn by Jun Mochizuki and the Anime itself is based around the manga. Pandora Hearts focuses around the tale of Oz Vessalius, Alice (also known as Black Rabbit), and Oz’s servant Gilbert. There are plenty of moments where the story could have changed into something chopped up and broken with little flow and connection but thankfully the show sticks true to the fluid story movement mixed in with action sequences occasionally to keep the suspense going.
The world itself that the story takes place in is similar to what one would expect in a Medieval Era Europe with four different dukes and their families who have certain abilities that grant them powers. Now Oz is turning fifteen years old and that is when the Vessalius family performs something called the Coming of Age Ceremony. Oz however takes his servant Gilbert to play outside but Oz discovers a grave with a pocket watch and a cross on it.
After picking up the objects Oz sees a vision full of very creepy dolls and a mysterious girl that wants to take his life. After being shaken out of his vision by Gilbert he returns home with the pocket watch. But things are not right as the Coming of Age Ceremony is interrupted by red hooded people called The Citizens of Baskerville. They attack Oz and claim that his whole existence is a sin and perform a spell to rid the world of his presence.
Oz is sent into another dimension known as The Abyss by the spell. Remember earlier when there was mention of Alice in Wonderland and how Pandora Hearts has themes involved with it? Well The Abyss can be seen as the rabbit hole that Alice falls down, and the rabbit she finds ends up turning into something completely different. In Pandora Hearts the rabbit that Oz finds actually is a humanoid Black Rabbit named Alice.
Now inside of The Abyss not only does Oz have to deal with the fact that there are creatures within The Abyss known as Chains that want to kill him, but the fact that he is trapped there as well. This all changes when he is saved by a Black Rabbit named Alice. Alice is also a Chain and chooses to form a contract with Oz so that she can protect both herself and Oz before returning home via a magical portal from the pocket watch. They leave The Abyss only to find that much has changed since they’ve been gone, including the fact that ten years have passed.
With all of the mysteries abounding right off the bat it creates a web of story that the viewer will constantly be watching for the next answer so that they will be able to solve at least one mystery. Who exactly is Oz and why is his existence a sin? Add this to the fact that characters occasionally get flashbacks specific to themselves and just the character interaction in general with one another leads to quite an entertaining experience.
Now this isn’t called a premium edition for nothing. Pandora Hearts Volume 1 Premium Edition comes with a handful of special additions that are not simply your standard premium additions, but great add-ons that enhance the experience.
The whole package itself comes in an oversized hard black box that has a portrait style image on one side featuring three characters: Oz, Alice, and Gil. The other side features the wording Pandora Hearts Volume 1 Premium Edition in white print and white ivy along the top and bottom. This package contains two DVDs and an artbook. One thing that some may find troubling is the fact that the oversized packaging of the premium edition will make it difficult to place alongside your other DVDs, but who would want to hide them away on a shelf anyways?
The two DVDs contain 7 episodes on disc 1 and 6 on disc 2 with disc 2 featuring the special features. The special features include 5 different omake that are very humorous with gags and fourth wall breaking actions. Another special feature is both the Opening and Ending sequence without the credits so you can watch them cleanly.
The true prize of the Premium Edition however is the art book. The art book is hardcover and reads right to left instead of your standard left to right. It contains full backgrounds of the different characters within the series and even goes so far as to describe the clothing they wear. There is also a full vocabulary list for reference in case viewers become lost as to something’s meaning within the series. Also there are beautiful full color illustrations of characters from Pandora Hearts that are a sight to see. Before you reach the end of the book however you will come across a small manga story that has been fully translated to English. The manga involves Gil and is mainly for laughs.
Pandora Hearts creates an intriguing viewing experience that sets the world in a gothic environment with Victorian touches upon the creepy aspect of both all the while keeping things fun and enjoyable with the comedic character interactions. With the Grain effect applied some may be put off by the Pandora Hearts’ appearance, but in the end it truly adds to the experience and it would be a pity to pass it up for a simple reason such as that.
The storyline itself is a web of mystery that is woven as you watch more and more, wrapping itself around you until it is too late to escape the fact that you can’t stop yourself. While different pieces of the story obviously relate to Alice in Wonderland the references aren’t overtly thrown in for no reason. With this being a two volume series fans will easily be clamoring for the second volume to arrive so they can continue to delve deeper into the web of mystery.
I give Pandora Hearts Volume 1 Premium Edition: