Anime Review: Pandora Hearts, Volume 2

Pandora Hearts: Volume 2
Run Time: 310 Minutes
Studio: XEBEC
Publisher: NISA
Genre: Drama with Light Comedy Elements
Release Date: 01/25/2011

Three months ago I reviewed the first volume of Pandora Hearts. I found it to be a decent show, but a little too slow and filled with way too much padding compared to anime I usually watch. I also listed it as my least favorite of the four series Nippon Ichi has released stateside. That being said, I felt the series had promise and hoped it just got off to a slow start. Now that I’ve watched the final thirteen episodes of the series, it’s time to see if the second half is better than the first.

Like with all Nippon Ichi anime released, the first thing that you will notice upon receiving the set is the unique packaging the set comes in. The actual discs themselves are encased in thin packs. There is character are on the front and some snips from each episode, along with their respective titles, on the back. Both slim packs are then protected by the full glossy hard cover artbook we’ll talk about in the next paragraph. Covering all of that is the usual high quality display box. This box is twice the length of a normal DVD case and twice as thick, so it will be a bit awkward to find a proper home for it on your shelves. That being said, the packaging is so pretty you won’t care too much. The premium edition cover is not only hard and durable, but it’s also embossed with character art on the front cover. This time around we have Gil, Jack and the Will of the Abyss herself on the front in a festive sort of pose. The back of the box simply holds the Pandora Hearts logo in white lettering against a black background. It’s a lot simpler than the other NISA anime series that have character art on the back of their packaging as well, but I can’t deny this “less is more” approach is a more striking visual to the eye. Nippon Ichi might be following the same format for each of its DVD releases, but they’re still giving us the best packaging I can think of for stateside anime releases.

Then there’s the artbook that has become standard with each Nippon Ichi Anime release. Unlike the artbooks that have come with other Nippon Ichi anime series which have read Western-style (left to right), the Pandora Hearts artbook reads from right to left in an Eastern fashion. As well, this second artbook continues Pandora Hearts style of focus on actual illustrations of the characters rather than commentary on the anime or conversations with the director or voice actors of the series. Only eight pages of the artbook are geared towards anime commentary while the rest are full page images of characters in wacky poses ranging from a three legged race to a pool party. The book also contains a few pages of the manga in a bit of a cross-sell. The artbook is beautifully done as always and it’s definitely a huge selling point for anime fans and collectors. Nippon Ichi has really been making a name for itself with their anime and video game artbooks as of late.

Now it’s time for the anime itself. The second volume of Pandora Hearts covers the final twelve episodes of the series. Unlike the previous volume, this set of episodes is faster paced with a lot of mysteries about Oz, Alice, Abyss and the rest of the cast being answered. The first volume was about 75% padding and 25% plot and character development. In this set the inverse is true. Even better the padding there in these episodes is generally comic relief and it actually made me laugh regularly. The scene where everyone gets drunk and the anime has to point out they are all actual legal adults no matter how young some of them look amused me. I also enjoyed the added subplot of Oz’s sister having a crush on Gil and Uncle Elliott’s CRAAAAZY reaction to it.

As I said, a lot of questions are answered. We discover who or what Chesire his, the relationship between Alice and the Will of Abyss, what Oz’s power is, a good deal about the tragedy that unfolded a century ago, causing an entire city to be plunged into the Abyss, the truth about Xeres and what happened to his eye, and a little bit behind the motivations of the Lords of Baskerville. Unfortunately a lot of questions aren’t fully answered or even touched on at all. You never learn why Oz’s father hates him so much and wants him dead (You do get a brief and unsatisfactory bit with him in the last episode). You never learn what TRULY causes the tragedy of Sablier or how so many characters in the series managed to be there a century ago and what their true role was back then. As such, this will leave a lot of people disappointed. I know when the final episode finished, my reaction was “THAT WAS IT?” because it ended so anti-climatically. Hell, it *just* ended. There was no actual resolution for any characters or any real ending. It was just another episode and the end felt more like a “to be continued” bit more than anything else, as if there was going to be a second season of the anime. Which of course there isn’t. Pandora Hearts feels more unfinished than School Rumble in that regard, but at least School Rumble made its second season have an ending of sorts. Overall, Pandora Hearts still ranks as my least favorite of the four Nippon Ichi anime series released so far and although the second volume of episodes were a LOT better than the first, the writing was just all over the place and the number of plot threads left dangling just wasn’t to my tastes.

There are a number of extras that start to roll after the series ends, but there are less than we had in Volume One. Now remember volume one also had one less episode (12 to Volume 2’s 13) so it balances out. We get a thank you from Sharon in the same vein as all the thank yous we had in Volume One, and four silly shorts. Much like Volume One, I actually preferred the shorts to the main series and I loved the creativity and weirdness in them. If the whole series had been like that, I’d probably have liked Pandora Hearts as much as I enjoyed Toradora!.

So overall, the second volume of Pandora Hearts is as much a mixed bag as the first. The anime showed potential, but never really lived up to it. The writing was all over the place and a lot of things were just left hanging when the series was over, be it character interactions, plot resolutions, or any real sense that anything had actually happened. Both the artbook and hardcover slipcase are the highlight of the set, but the selling point really should be the anime series itself. Honestly, if you haven’t picked up a Nippon Ichi anime series yet, I’d consider Toradora!, Our Home’s Fox Deity and Persona: Trinity Soul before Pandora Hearts (and in that order).

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