Pandora Hearts 1 by Jun Mochizuki: B

From the back cover:
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. Thrown into the Abyss—an eternal prison from which there is no escape—Oz 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 will Alice provide him with some shred of hope?

When Oz Vessalius’ coming-of-age ceremony is interrupted by hooded figures—later, we are told, from a race of people known as Baskervilles—he ends up accidentally wounding his friend/servant, Gil, and is sent to a mysterious dimension known as the Abyss. There, he meets Alice, a “chain” (a creature born in the Abyss) known as the B-Rabbit, who is anxious to use him as a means to escape. Meanwhile, a mysterious trio, including a young man with an incredible resemblance to Gilbert, plots to use Oz for their own purposes.

There’s a lot going on in Pandora Hearts. About half a dozen mysteries are introduced in this volume, with many hidden identities and agendas among them. A lot of things don’t make any sense at this point. Normally, this is the kind of thing that would bother me, but somehow in this series, it works. By the end of the volume, Oz and Alice are back in the real world and have reached a kind of Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE arrangement in which Oz pledges to help Alice recover her missing memories and the two of them have agreed to work for Pandora, an organization that monitors the Abyss.

Oz is a likable character, though I found the attempts at comedy sort of out of place. In the beginning, there’s somewhat of a gender reversal, in which he’s the one being rescued by Alice and ending up on the receiving end of an unsolicited kiss, but instinct tells him she isn’t evil, despite what others say, and by the end of the volume he’s done his share of protecting her, as well. He’ll probably exhibit more characteristics of the shounen hero as the story progresses.

There’s somewhat of a shoujo feel to Mochizuki’s artwork, which features delicate lines, at least one angsty bishounen, and fashions that cause Oz to resemble, especially when chibi-fied, Momiji from Fruits Basket. Some character designs are less interesting than others—Lady Sharon, with whom Oz is instantly smitten, being a prime example—but there are some fun eccentric ones, too.

Because this first volume is so very expository, I have no idea what to expect from the second volume, but as long as things start to clarify a little in the near future, I suspect that the story will end up being quite entertaining indeed.

Pandora Hearts is published in English by Yen Press. Only the first volume is currently available, with the second slated for release in May. The series is up to ten volumes in Japan and is still ongoing.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

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  1. Ah, he does look a bit like Momiji! I really wanted to pick this up, but I couldn’t afford another series. 🙁
    The anime is sitting on my computer, waiting to be watched. Got around to a bit of it, and enjoyed the initial story, and some beautiful animation (gorgeous colors).

    It really does sound interesting.

    • Yeah, I was kind of surprised to find that there are ten volumes in Japan already. Somehow I thought that there were only a few.

  2. This series is the type of series that gets better as it goes long. I’ve watched the 25-episode Anime and read seven or eight volumes, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Like Tsubasa (which has an uncanny resemblance to Pandora Hearts), there is more to every character than what it seems. From here on in, it’s a whirlwind of secrets, betrayals, confusing mysteries (after eight volumes we still don’t fully know why Oz was sent to the Abyss), and revelations.

    • Ooh, that sounds very appealing indeed! One thing I liked about it is that even though it’s kind of confusing now, it’s clear that this is on purpose and is not a result of shoddy storytelling.


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