There are some series that take a while for you to used to; they grow on you gradually, they have rough starts, or maybe a certain character appears later on and grabs your interest. Then there are series like Pandora Hearts, where from the first few pages everything clicks. It’s hard to describe, but just the right combination of art, chemistry, story and characters, (especially the characters), made me almost positive that I was going to love this series. And I really, really, do.
Genre: Supernatural, Fantasy, Mystery, Comedy, Drama
Status: North America: 9 volumes released, Japan: 16 volumes (On-going)
Publisher: Yen Press (US), Square Enix (JP)
Premise: The air of celebration surrounding fifteen-year-old Oz Vessalius’s coming-of-age ceremony quickly turns to horror when he is condemned for a sin about which he knows nothing. He is thrown into an eternal prison known as the Abyss, from which there is no escape. There, he meets a young girl named Alice, who is not what she seems. Now that the relentless cogs of fate have begun to turn, will they lead only to crushing despair for Oz, or is there some shred of hope for him to grasp on to? (From Yen Press)
Pandora Hearts has always been floating around in the group of series that I know and hear about often, but I never actually bothered trying. Its anime adaptation wasn’t especially intriguing (especially the animation, it deserves better >:|), and the summaries that I’d read online didn’t catch my eye either. I was still pretty skeptical, but once the characters were introduced I was surprised at how entertaining—and fascinating—they were. From the get go, you could tell what kind of personality they had without recognizing any glaringly obvious cliches. Oz and his little sister, as well as their childhood friend, Gil were easy to like (and very amusing. I felt bad whenever I lol’d at how much Gil got bullied). But the main thing is, I cared about what happened to them, as soon as after the first chapter.
Once the big turning point at Oz’s coming of age ceremony unfolded, the pacing picks up and doesn’t slow down. Since then, the story never really reaches any boring moments and the characters only get more complex as the plot goes on. It also helps that the cast interacts so well with each other that it’s hard not to fall in love with them. Oz’s happy go lucky personality was a pleasant surprise when I was expecting a bland everydude; he’s got plenty to angst about, but he never comes across as whiny or mopey. It took a little longer for Alice to grow on me, but Gil and Break stand out as they’re as intriguing as they are amusing. (And good looking. Lots of eye candy all round.) Of course, the characters that you’re introduced to in the beginning are far from revealing their shady pasts, but they’re interesting and fun even before you start discovering their secrets.
What starts out as a mysterious amnesia-ridden plot with a few Alice in Wonderland motifs thrown in for good measure becomes much more complex as the cast expands and the plot gets twistier. There’s a dark atmosphere hovering over the whole thing, but it’s balanced out with plenty of lighthearted moments and comic relief. Oh yeah, and plot twists. If you’ve been following along with the story so far it gets pretty crazy, but instead of pulling them out of nowhere, these are the kind of plot twists that make sense in retrospect.
This series is so easy to recommend because it has a little bit of everything; serious plot development, humor, big reveals that’ll make your head explode, beautiful art (especially in later volumes. Have you seen those covers?), OH SHI- moments and adorable scenes. And just a hint of romance and bromance. A lot of my favorite series share the same traits: pretty art, an entertaining plot that also gets you thinking, and a demographic that isn’t quite shojo or shounen, but instead somewhere in between. So, readers, has there ever been a series that easily became an instant favorite, and for what reasons? I’m happy to call Pandora Hearts one of mine.