It’s time to look at a rather confusing and convoluted manga. This one lasted for a very long time so it got to set up a lot of plots and then end them. As opposed to other series, I didn’t find the ending all that rushed, which was definitely a good thing. At the same time, I can’t say that the series was that good though. While it never turned into a train wreck like Black Butler, it ultimately never got to be all that great either. 07 Ghost was a confusing title, but one that had potential and I think a re-read of it makes the series all the more interesting. With Pandora Hearts, I don’t believe that going through the series again would make it much better because it still has a lot of negatives that can’t really be scrubbed away. If anything, reading it in such a quick batch would likely just make me remember more negatives that I may have forgotten otherwise. As you can tell, this won’t be a very positive review. The series isn’t terrible though so the score won’t be super low, but low enough to keep it under the line.
The series follows Oz, a member of royalty. He was cast into the Abyss, which is the home of demons. They are called Chains in this series though and you can make a contract with them. It comes at a great price if you don’t do this the right way though and as a result, Oz now has a timer on his life. Once it goes down enough, he will die. Using his partnership is naturally now recommended all that much. One day, Oz meets up with his Chain, the B Rabbit. Her human form is that of a little girl who doesn’t know all that much about human customs, but she likes eating and can fight very well. This works for Oz as he finally has another fiend. His butler, Gilbert is the other. The heroes decide to help Alice (B Rabbit’s human name) find her memories, but this will put them in the way of many powerful aristocrats and evil organizations who have their own plans for this unique chain.
That’s the plot from the beginning at least, but it changes rather drastically as the series goes on. If you thought that you’ve read a convoluted manga before, I can assure you that this one is even more so. I pride myself on the fact that I never really get lost in any movie, anime, manga, or other form of media. This one is no exception, but sometimes it will be tough to get what’s happening. My advice is to just take it in stride. Whatever you gleamed from the scene you should simply add to your head canon and continue from there. That’s the way to do it if you ask me.
Now, what holds this series back? Well, there are a few things. For one, this is one of those mangas that can go a little overboard with how violent it is. In particular, this usually applies to the flashbacks, like one which involves Alice and her true origin. The massacre is mentioned and hinted at several times before appearing and it manages to live up to the name. In the present, the violence never gets to be all that bad so it’s really just flashbacks which make things dicey. The past can also be very dark at times, which can also be a bit much.
For example, one character is basically born to die. She must be sacrificed in an old ritual that has survived throughout the many centuries. Even her brother, who is a super honor bound guy that everyone looks up to decides not to try and save her. On the contrary, he is the one to do the deed. To fulfill an experiment, another scientist asks Alice if she wants to have a kid right before she dies and she agrees to it. That was really random and also pretty nonsensical. Alice’s ancestor should never have agreed to such a thing. It definitely cheapens her character. As a result of all this, the real Alice ended up being born in darkness and not having much of a life to start out with until she met Oz. Even from there, the other Alices all try their best to mess things up for Alice before going through quite a few 180s until they decided on a personality.
Unfortunately, the art is also not that good for this title. Quite a few of the characters have identical character designs so they all start to blend together for a while. By the end of the series, I was finally able to distinguish one of the blond villains from the other, but it certainly took a while. The art also can’t keep up with the fight scenes so whenever a battle occurs, you end up missing a lot of it. We get large visuals and double splash pages, but there’s simply too much happening for the page to contain it all and things get rather crazy. The artist could take some tips from how Bleach handles its fights.
I can say that there was some clear improvement from the start of the series to the end though. The artist certainly did his/her best to make the action scenes more legible. We also got many cool closeups and images of the hero with his monster/chain in the background. Two of the images that I used for this review are examples of that. The series had a lot of epic visuals throughout which is why its a shame that the series ultimately wasn’t better than how it turned out. The concept still could have been great and I think that Pandora Hearts could have been a great success if it had played it straight and acted as more of a standard action title with each character being able to summon his/her chain to do battle with. It could have been a tournament series of just an average Shonen battle manga. This didn’t happen, but it would have been neat.
All right, let’s take a look at the characters. Oz is the main lead in this series. He can be a decent main character at times as he tries to be a nice guy who gets the job done and takes out the villains. Unfortunately, he is very similar to Ciel from the Black Butler series in the sense that he also tends to crack a lot and go off the deep end. He goes on a big murder spree a few times through the series. Usually it’s because he’s either being mind controlled or the villains decide to push his buttons, but he does let loose quite a few times. It makes it a little harder to take him seriously later on when he’s giving friendship speeches. His weapon of choice (Large scythe) is pretty cool though and I’m glad that he can fight a little. I wish he were stronger so he could put up more than just a little fight, but it’ll do for now I suppose. What Oz needed to be a better character is a nice injection of confidence and consistency.
Alice was a likable heroine. I think she would have worked a lot better as the main character instead of Oz. She never seemed to fall for the villain mind games that Oz and Gilbert always stepped into. Her only annoying trait was that she always tended to act very uncivilized and would bite Oz as a greeting once or twice since she thought that was normal. It’s not taken to extremes like with other characters though so it was manageable and in the end she is one of the better characters. Having her as the lead over Oz would have been a great idea. Just seeing her deal with the other 3 Alices and convincing them to see things her way is an example of why she’s so good.
We’re going back to inconsistent characters with Gilbert though. He’s someone who I wouldn’t trust too closely. Technically, his goal is to protect Oz and that’s what he does for most of the series, but a spell was placed on him which sort of forces him to betray Oz at one point. Suffice it to say, this did not help his case one bit. I know that mind control’s an iffy thing, but it’s always a little hard to recover from that. Beyond this scene, he wasn’t all that bad. He did a decent job of protecting Oz and he did have a chain so at least he could fight when necessary.
Oscar is Oz’s uncle and the guy was definitely nice. Despite the tragic origin stories that came to light later on, he always had a positive disposition and cheered Oz on whenever possible. Unfortunately, he was also completely powerless and never really had an effect on the story. On the other hand, Zai was a pretty terrible character. He’s Oz’s Dad and basically a villain who hid among the rest of the cast. He barely appears and really only shows up to insult Oz and get the main character into another Shonen depressed state. The guy really didn’t have a purpose here at all.
Vincent is one of the antagonists although he tries to act like a good guy at times too so he’s really all over the place. Needless to say, I definitely didn’t like this character. He made some decent threats at times I suppose, but for the most part he was really just all talk. It doesn’t help that he got a fairly generic design within the realm of this manga. It’s a good design for the average series, but here it just looks similar to everyone else. There’s nothing really likable about him.
Echo’s a fairly decent character. She doesn’t really have any emotions, but gradually starts to get them during the series. Out of nowhere she does obtain a split personality though with a being named Noise. It acts as a puppet controller which can manipulate her actions and tries to sever her bonds. It definitely leads to some dark moments for the character and does wreck everything for her. Echo’s a likable character, but it’s a shame that she was really losing the mental battle against Noise. What happened to the heroes having strong will power? There is a lot of mind control in this series so it doesn’t stop with Echo.
Next up is my favorite character of the series. Elliot felt out of place amidst the others because he had a great moral compass and never wavered in his trust in justice. He constantly called everyone else out on the corruption afoot and he didn’t need any special powers to fight it out with the others. He only used a normal blade to fight for his ideals. I suppose that I can’t say much else due to spoilers and such, but needless to say I wasn’t crazy about how things played out for him. In my eyes it was a mistake on the manga’s part. Granted, it was certainly unexpected so I’ll give some kudos there.
Leo is one of the worst characters in the series and I certainly couldn’t stand him. Originally he started out as a soft spoken guy who always liked to throw insults for no good reason. It was supposed to grow on you, but it just came across as irritating the entire time. In the second half he gets a lot more vocal, but it’s because he’s being partially mind controlled for these sagas. Either way, it didn’t do anything, but make me lose even more respect for the guy. Leo’s powerful, but verrrry annoying and unlikable.
Break isn’t all that much better. He’s the “hype” character of the series who can even fight when he is completely blind. That’s impressive and all I guess, but he’s always very cryptic and it’s hard to find him likable at all. He’s certainly no hero and will do anything if it means that he will be closer to his goal. He’s one of those characters that no side can trust, but he doesn’t pull off this role all that well. Sharon is one of the main heroines, but her role is rather small. She can actually fight to an extent, which is nice, but she didn’t really do anything in the grand scheme of things. Getting into a fight does keep her from being too generic or powerless at least.
Rufus appears as the first big villain in the series aside from the Baskervilles. That’s how he appears at first, but then he starts switching sides like crazy. It doesn’t help that he’s a member of royalty either so nobody dares to mess with him. Even the heroes just allow him to have free reign the whole time. He gets a plot twist near the end, which does nothing to help him. After all of the hype that he got, Rufus didn’t do much with it.
Reim was a fairly good character. He was a loyal sidekick who would take a bullet for his friends. (And he did just that) He never became one of the more important characters, but sometimes the minor ones are the guys who steal the show. We’ve also got Jack, who gets a number of plot twists. They all serve to make him less and less likable until he ends up being one of the meaner/crueler characters in the series. At first it seems like he’s at least being evil in order to save someone, but then it turns into more of a classic revenge story, but on someone who doesn’t seem like she’s earned his wrath. Jack’s plot really makes no sense no matter how much they try to make him sympathetic. His plot is all over the place and he can’t even trust himself. It’s a shame since he started out as one of the more likable characters. When he told Oz the truth about the Rabbit, I did actually enjoy that twist.
As for the Baskervilles, they don’t actually get much character development. One of their members is a little girl who likes to murder people after playing them. On one hand, she acts rather innocent, but then that seems to be a facade on other occasions. By the end, it’s unknown which side was real since the manga plays up both aspects. There’s also an older lady who seems a lot more reasonable and offers to help prevent the end of the world depending on what the higher ups say. There’s a guy who is around to punch things…..that’s basically his role. You’re left to wonder why these villains work for the big boss since they seem rather confused about the whole situation as well. Why do they know some things and how do they ultimately fit in with this mystery? In the end, that is a mystery which engulfs the other mysteries. It may have been mildly explained at some point, but this group never gets a big flashback to flesh them out. Ah well, maybe a bonus chapter or a post series interview dealt with that.
The series takes a lot of cues from Alice in Wonderland so fans of the classic fantasy stories will likely enjoy this series a little more than they would otherwise. It’s definitely a nice tribute to those classics. I mentioned earlier that reading the series from beginning to the end in a quick batch or two probably wouldn’t help the series, but I thought I’d add a disclaimer that it could be the reverse. I really can’t say for sure until I re-read the series and it could be a long time until I do that. Naturally, it’s always a lot more fun to read a series all the way through with no interruptions, but that’s really not possible until a series is over and even then, only if your local library has it all or you already own the series. Plus, the double edged sword is that you will remember everything. The good and the bad will both be a lot more fresh and you simply have to hope that the former wins out. This series made it to 24 volumes and did get a pretty big fan base. There’s a lot of content to be found here so if you enjoy the characters, it makes sense that you would like the series a lot. It really just needs to start on the right foot for you.
I will also give the manga some props for the fact that it really didn’t have any fanservice. Perhaps I am forgetting something, but as far as I can recall, there was none of that to be found here. Considering how long the series lasted, this is actually quite the feat. It’s sad that this is actually a super rare occurrence, but that’s just how it is nowadays. The manga stayed classy throughout and I also can’t recall any animal violence although I say that with far less confidence. I wouldn’t be surprised if something happened at some point.
Overall, some may appreciate that the series is so convoluted, but that was not the case with me. As mentioned earlier, the series never got very bad and I certainly wouldn’t compare it to titles like Black Bird, Vampire Knight, or Black Butler, but I also don’t really want to put it in the same conversation as Pokemon Rescue Team or even the Kirby manga. At the very least, you can have some fun reading this manga and it is all very interesting even when it’s not all that clear what is happening. Complexity isn’t always a good thing. Typically it is as juggling several different plots at once can make for a fantastic read in the end, but it has to be juggled well. This series didn’t do that and the art certainly help its chances either. I’d recommend skipping on this title and if you want a good manga with a lot of depth, go read Death Note instead. I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed. (Now that will be a fun retro review at some points.) Still, if you do check this out, be sure to let me know what you think of it in the comments.