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Pandora Heart



In a Victorian fantasy world, Oz is the young son of a rich noble family on the point of celebrating his ceremony of adulthood for his 15 birthday. Together with his little sister and his adoring servant / best friend Gilbert he explores the remote mansion before the ceremony occurs when he finds an old grave and a clock / musical box which trigger the vision of a young girl waiting all alone in a room filled with creepy toys who welcome him joyfully before trying to murder him. Later on, during the ceremony, a bunch of creepy guys in cloaks appear and send Oz to the Abyss, a parallel dimension of nightmares and demons called "Chains", for the crime of "existing". The girl, incidentally, is Alice, a Chain, and appears as well to defend him, because she claims him as her property.

Adapted from an unfinished shounen manga, Pandora Heart is a pretty good fantasy / mystery series filled with fascinating characters and dizzying revelation. The pacing for the most part is fast and entrancing, with decent storytelling but for the fact with the manga unfinished it offers no proper conclusion (always frustrating). The direction is a bit uneven, varying a lot from episodes to episodes from barely mediocre to pretty good. The animation and background art is only barely decent most of the time (with a few flash of excellent animation at random times), but the character design is pretty cool. The music, by Kajiura Yuki, is gorgeous as usual and helps setting up the gothic atmosphere.

The characters are the big draw, at least for myself as they fell very squarely into character types and relationship dynamics I really dig, and interpreted well enough they aren't mere cliches either.

Oz himself is pretty damn adorable. He's a easygoing and sunny child on surface, hiding father-related angst underneath his cheerfulness to the point of being creepily carefree at times (especially in the manga). He's caring and pretty smart (and the narrative uses his intelligence in cool way), self-destructive and sometimes a little bit cruel. Seldom have I liked some much a shounen manga lead. The rest of the cast is just as interesting.

cut for squeeing & vague spoilers of early episodes )

Pretty much everyone has a dark past / dark secrets they might not even remember, to the point that is far from believable, but who cares? It's part of the overall gothic-crackful atmosphere. There's a nice sense of the plot being driven by the interests of various sides in a way that is murky, complex and very intriguing, although at this point not enough of the plot has been revealed for me to know if it's all that coherent and consistent.

There's a big Alice in Wonderland motif of course, used to good effect for the atmosphere, as well as motifs related to time (lots of clocks) tied in interesting ways to memory and time manipulation thematics in the plot. And chains, lots of chains ♥. The thematics also address ideals of self-sacrifice and devotion in critical ways worked through the characterisation. I want to say the gender treatment is good, since it starts with such interesting gender role reversals and has a few other hints of similar stuff later on, but way too few of those are followed up, and, for example, despite the fact Alice is technically the most powerful character in a fight, she too seldom get to play it up, so it's a bit disappointing.

In conclusion, though it's little more than the latest shounen in the current trendy style, I found this series very much to my liking thanks to the interesting characterisations & dynamics. I'll keep following on the manga (which I caught up on right after I finished the anime) and as well as hoping for a second season of animation.
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[personal profile] salinea
Himitsu: the Revelation



In the near future, a technology is developed to be able to watch the visual memories of someone through scanning their brains shortly after the death. A unit of police called Section 9 is developed, specialised into watching the brains of the murder victims and criminals in order to solve cases.

Adapted from a josei manga by Reiko Shimizu (called The Top Secret in its French translation), Himitsu was something of a disappointment. I've watched so many great anime adaptation of manga lately, I had forgotten that it was such a risky form I can be very picky of XD. The problem doesn't come from the plot adaptation or addition, which, for the most part actually were an improvement (especially how they made Nanako a real member of the team SPOILER instead of only introducing her in order to be killed as she is END SPOILER in the manga) and necessary in order to increase the overall story's cohesiveness; but from the show's direction : basically it felt very forced and hammed to the point of cheesiness, always going for the overstated when it should have gone for the understated (especially since most of the plots are horrific and taboo enough in contents, they didn't need oversell the point to shock or hook us in) in a way that removed from the dramatic tension and made me roll my eyes more than a few times. The soundtrack is particularly grating, but, really, this is a flaw of the storytelling in general.

It's not all bad though : the source material is pretty interesting if you like mysteries about dark, mature subjects, with some interesting thematics about privacy and how secrets weigh on people. It can sometimes be gore; and there's a couple of episodes that sort of flirt with a CSI-like freak of the week vibe; but for the most part, it's handled rather elegantly. Most of the stories are well done. The art and animation is pretty good, with a realistic art style and beautiful effects of light. The cast of character is a bit slow to come into its own, but does have a beautiful dynamic when it starts. Our view point character, Aoki, is a young policeman newcomer to the unit. He's pretty straightforward and a bit lacking in confidence. Maki, the leader of the team, is a beautiful man with an aloof demeanour and a great capacity for awesome. Both the manga and the anime play with a sort of slashy vibes between those two in a superficial pandering to fangirls way which I find rather irritating since they obviously have no intention to pursue it any deeper than that.

Anyway, if you're as desperate for josei anime as I sometimes am, I guess I'd still recommend it, with some warning about the eye-roll worthy direction.

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Etrangere's anime reviews

September 2011

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