Oz has just turned 15 and at a coming of age ceremony is attacked and cast into the Abyss where he meets and makes a contract with a chain named Alice. on their escape from the Abyss, Oz is going to have to confront these mysteries head on as well as a whole pile of new ones.
Review – Not holding back from spoilers at all:
Right, if you are looking for an anime that finishes or offers any resolution you can pass on Pandora Hearts right now. While there are 25 episodes of this we are really just starting to meet the characters who have some of the answers to some of Oz’s and Alice’s mysteries when the show comes to an abrupt and inconclusive end.
Before I talk about the end anymore, I am going to point out that Pandora Hearts is actually an amazing anime and I really enjoyed watching it. Right, so now I’m going to spoil the last few minutes of the final episode so if you want it to be a mystery skip over the next bit.
Okay, Oz has an epiphany about his own existence and goes and tells his father off but otherwise we aren’t given much in the way of a resolution. And are Oz’s daddy issues really the main point? Other than that we’re given this pearl of wisdom from the final episode:
And I’m just not sure that writers should advertise the fact that their own story is ridiculous.
If you can forgive an ending that pointless what you will find in Pandora Hearts is a really interesting piece that is an incredibly dark tale with heavy influence from Alice in Wonderland as well as a unique story in its own right.
While Oz remains 15, his time in the Abyss doesn’t measure up with time in the real world so his childhood friend is significantly older than him on his return to the real world. This creates a really interesting dynamic in the show because Oz’s memories of his friend and the reality of the man he has become keep blurring and his expectations are met and then betrayed again and again. For Gilbert, while his motivation never changes, he’s had a lot longer to sniff around the mysteries surrounding Oz and has had to give up a lot to gain the power that he needed to be able to help him. It makes for one of the more interesting childhood friend stories I’ve seen in a while.
Oz himself is a bit of an air-head. He comes off as rich and pampered but of course has been rejected by his father and has been lonely and hurt (because who doesn’t need a tragic back story). He’s also really weirdly accepting of strange things to the point where even the creepiest characters in the show point out that Oz is in fact quite creepy. The thing is, we’re never really sure where we stand with Oz. Is he what he looks like, a rich 15 year old who went through a trauma and is now out for answers and revenge, or is there really something going on with him (other than possible possession, past lives, or just plain evil). It’s fun guessing but without the series giving any answers that’s all it remains (and yes, I know some people will say read the manga and in this case I am seriously tempted but haven’t committed to that just yet).
Outside of the Oz/Gilbert relationship we also have Alice. She’s a chain from the Abyss but was human. She’s lost her memories and part of the story involves Oz helping her find fragments of her memories, though they might be better off if they just gave up on that one given every time they find one things get more twisted and confused and darker. She also transforms into the Bloodstained Black Rabbit who is kind of awesome in a fight (at least at first) and seems overpowered though later in the series she seems to get defeated more and more often. Stronger enemies or loss of focus we aren’t really sure. That said, as is always the case in anime, when Alice and Oz’s feelings match up, she suddenly gets signficantly stronger again.
I’d also have to mention Sharon and Break. These two characters are fantastic (if equally creepy) but never really give us anything more than fragments of information. Whether that is because they genuinely don’t know the answers or because they are working at manipulating the situation (or a bit of both) is also never made clear.
The last character I’m going to talk about (although there are literally dozens of others that could be mentioned) is Jack Vessalius. He mostly appears in Alice’s memories and looks suspiciously like an older version of Oz and occasionally takes over Oz in order to make weird and confusing declaration. He’s definitely got his own agenda but what that agenda is remains shrouded in as much mystery as the rest of this series.
I think what I like about Pandora Hearts is that it just kind of goes. It has that Alice in Wonderland feeling of she’s fallen down the rabbit hole and now she’s reeling from encounter to encounter and along the way she’s going to learn about herself and she wants to find the way out but you are never quite sure when that’s going to come of why. The exploration of darkness within humans is done really well and the idea of being careful what you wish for is also woven through the story quite nicely. That said, the anime is a mess of ideas that don’t get enough time or attention to ever be actually called a storyline. Instead our story is just Oz running from place to place and dealing with immediate threats while piling up foreshadowing that never really eventuated into a climax.
Normally I don’t rewatch anime that don’t end but Pandora Hearts just hits the right notes to suck me into the world and the story. It’s dark while not trying to be soul crushing, it has action but balances that with character development and dialogue, there is intrigue in the overall narrative but also smaller stories with side characters that are resolved, and at the end of the day I just enjoy watching it.
Pretty much if you like darker fantasy adventures with some character self-reflection this anime is going to appeal, though be prepared for an ending that just makes you want to throw your hands in the air and ask ‘why’.