*This review is SPOILER FREE*
Those who come to the Abyss are all the same. They’re all desperate to get something back. But everyone goes mad partway…
See, I really, really don’t understand how an author, mangaka, f-ing story writing genius, can immerse readers in something so gloriously messed up, beautiful, emo, crazy, funny, deep, and downright strange like it’s nothing. More than just a few times I laughed out loud and shook my head thinking: psshh, that’s absolutely ridiculous and stupid, then turned the page only to stop just short of curling up into a ball in a dark corner, gently caressing the book and whispering softly to it, while crying myself to sleep. How the heck can a person accomplish not looking like a mad person while reading this series? It’s not that I’m actually just crazy…honest. This is just one of those books where you WILL get people whispering about you and strange, slightly fearful, glances if you read it in public, cause incomprehensible outbursts of emotion are a thing throughout this series.
Okay, now that I’m done with my rant, on with the review:
I honestly never expected to really like this series and wasn’t expecting much from it. I tried to watch the anime adaptation a couple years ago, but couldn’t really get into it (never made it past the first part of the 1st episode). After the first volume I figured I’d enjoy it, but it probably wouldn’t be a favorite. Once I got to the 4th volume I figured I’d really like it, but might not buy it-in my poor defense I’ve got a pretty extensive list of manga to buy so I’m really reluctant to add to it. But past that…I stopped caring about the total price of the series, food, and sleep. The last couple arcs almost killed me with all the FEELS.
Finally I saw… A world so bright I almost wanted to cry… It was then, that my consciousness was engulfed in darkness.
I actually had to put the book down a few times and walk away in an attempt to take it all in, especially since I was usually still trying to deal with the aftermath of a few events/feels in previous arcs. Wait, my bad, I’m ranting again lol. Okay…
The Story -A well-deserved 9.5/10: So if you don’t already know (it’s a pretty popular series for good reason), Pandora Hearts centers around a young Lord named Oz, his valet named Gil, and the chain (a demon-like creature) named Alice the B-Rabbit from The Abyss (an alternate world). After Oz is sentenced to the Abyss on his coming of age ceremony for the “sin of existing” by a group called the Baskervilles, he meets Alice the B-Rabbit and makes a contract with her in order to return to his world, taking Alice (who wishes to retrieve her lost memories) with him. You’ll have to read it to find out more, but the story has an Alice in Wonderland type thing going on and explores pretty complex themes, primarily identity and existence and how things like the presence/absence of memory, human (or otherwise) bonds/connections, and the past can shape one’s identity and sense of self.
Although I’m weak and full of flaws, I will never stop moving forward. No matter who I am, no one other than myself will create my own existence. No matter what others may think or feel, I will still move forward as myself.
The story is riddled with mysteries that Mochizuki skillfully reveals bits of in each arc like puzzle pieces that don’t become a clear, coherent picture until the last arc. Only after completing the series did I understand that there was actual meaning behind some of the seemingly unimportant details I glanced over volumes ago. This is honestly one of those stories that you could re-read multiple times before being able to take in how carefully put together the story is. I even really enjoyed the side stories at the end of most chapters/volumes that I admittedly tend to skip over the first time I read a manga series.
The Characters (9/10): Most of the main characters are made up of the typical shonen (young male) anime/manga archetypes which made me think of them as shallow at first, but they all have quite a bit of their own depth. Through their ventures they experience past and present grief, love, despair, and even deep emotional/ psychological challenges. Character development is a thing almost all the characters go through, even a lot of minor characters.
…I came to understand how cruel and despicable people can be. But that also allowed me to appreciate true beauty. All you have to do is appreciate things from a different perspective. Once I realized the things we take for granted are really miracles, I came to see everything in it’s precious, ephemeral beauty… I love this world.
The only issue I had was with Alice. Despite being such a central figure I was left feeling like she had much less depth and development, especially when compared to Oz, Gil, and even a few less central characters like Xerxes. Even so, none of the other characters felt like cookie cutter versions straight out of other works (even the minor ones), and I loved, or at least liked, pretty much all of them.
And, though I’m no expert, The Art-8.5/10: It’s clean, easy to follow, and Mochizuki draws the expressions of characters in a way that conveys a wide and complex range of emotions, from emotional agony (she’s pretty good at this one), surprise, downright insanity, joy, anger, and everything in-between. You can tell she put a lot of work and detail into each panel including the backgrounds. I personally really like Mochizuki’s style (the darker, creepy scenes are done and arranged very well) though, at least from what I read so far, it’s a pretty typical one.
Anyone looking for a good fantasy, and/or mystery, should definitely give this one a shot.
Overall: 9/10 Unicorn Horns!
Someone once said it was a dark place that swallowed everything up. Even if that were true, an enveloping darkness like that…in this world that holds every color possible…also contains the light of hope.