A new take on the tale of Alice with one bloody B-Rabbit
Alice in Wonderland, Disney’s well known version, is fun and entertaining, full of interesting characters and settings. Recent interpretations such as the theatrical Alice with Johnny Depp and Tokyopop’s manga Alice in the Land of Hearts have taken the tale to new heights either rewriting it completely or picking up the tale after the original tale was over. Now anime fans get a taste of a new interpretation, one that’s enjoyable, recognizable and so very, very different. NIS America continues its splendid anime title release with Pandora Hearts volume 1 Premium Collection and the tale of Wonderland will never be the same. Let’s take a look at this new tale of hearts.
Oz Vessalius has it all. A rich privileged life as heir to the Vessalius estate, one of the four great dukedoms. As he turns fifteen, his Coming of Age Ceremony is interrupted by amazing events as he’s drawn into the Abyss, a dark dimension full of chains. Thrust into this new, odd world where these living weapons, chains, wish to devour him, he must make a contract with a special chain named Alice, the Bloody Black Rabbit, or B-Rabbit for short, to survive. Alice assisted in saving Oz at his ceremony from the mysterious group Baskerville. After forging the contract which allows Alice to access more of her full power, both Oz and Alice depart the Abyss and come into contact with the Pandora organization, specifically Sharon and Break. Much time has passed for Oz in the Abyss, what seemed only hours is years in the real world. What happened to Oz family, sister Ada and uncle Oscar? What about his best friend and servant Gilbert? Why was he drawn to the Abyss, what are chains and why are both Baskerville and Pandora looking to control them? Why can’t Alice remember her past, was she horrible to be called Bloody Black Rabbit? Many mysteries abound but Oz seems to take everything in stride as he works to help Alice recover her memories and uncover secrets along the way.
Wow, this is only the tip of the iceberg that is Pandora Hearts. The animation style is solid with an older, noble setting that seems to be in Europe with major houses ruling and dukedoms overseeing all. The character designs are well done with Alice in human and rabbit form being powerful while Oz shows his youthful innocence and dark side (used to torment Gil). The designs almost feel shojou with a pretty boy aspect to just about every character and the use of humorous expressions lightens the at time very dark mood. The settings feel alive with a great amount of detail that seems very much pulled from the pages of history. It’s a beautiful anime and twisted also with the Abyss settings that are, well off. The chains are also pulled from the pages of Wonderland and twisted to fit the story and setting. Pretty, pretty, pretty is the best way to describe this anime.
The story has ties to Wonderland but is wholly unique and new. Alice, B-Rabbit, is not the sole central figure. This falls on Oz who serves as a sort of white rabbit and Alice hybrid. It’s Oz who’s sucked into Abyss and is the target of the various groups in play. Due to his contract with Alice, B-Rabbit, she also becomes central but not sole central. There are many layers to this story, layers of interest from Pandora to the power of the chains and Key of the Abyss. There is a mystery about Gil, his appearance years ago, his relationship with Oz, the watch Oz finds and Alice. Alice is missing her memory and it seems to be key to events 100 years ago, events tied to Abyss and the Dukedoms. Sharon Rainsworth and her agenda is also hidden as she works for Pandora yet seems to do things her own way. Yes much mystery in this series. The fun of this series is seeing how it ties into the original Wonderland tale yet weaves a very unique path.
Listen, what Pandora Hearts offers is great animation with great voice work, albeit in Japanese (yup, English subtitles only). The story is unique and sometimes familiar but there is no denying it’s originality and action. Anyone who loves a new Alice tale will dig Pandora Hearts and anime fans looking for a new and unique purchase really can’t go wrong. The included art book is sexy, I mean really nice quality, hardbound so pretty to read and look at. This is the third title from NIS America and so far they’ve hit on three very unique titles that are all gorgeous and well packaged. Check out Pandora Hearts in what’s a crowded anime market.