“We’re connected not by light, but by shadow”
Listen closely. Whispering ever so softly, can you hear it?
From a small golden pocket watch comes the most beautiful, most sorrowful melody to grace human ears. In its notes it sings of a happiness once found and a tragedy soon befallen. Just as time continuously moves forward with each note of the song, so too does its story. To piece together its fragments is but one option…and an option that will not be easily carried out at that.
This small watch is but the first key moment of many that soon encompass a young boy’s life and that of those around him.
On the day of his coming of age ceremony, young master Oz Bezarius, his friend and servant Gilbert and his little sister Ada stumble into a hole with but one lone unmarked gravestone and a small watch wound around a side of it. Picking it up, Oz hears the beautiful notes resound and carries it with him as they depart.
Little did he know that his life was about to change forever. After all, no one ever anticipates the moment that they will lose everything they know and love in one swift, fatalistic blow.
That evening as Oz walks into the old cathedral and towards clock frozen in time, he recites the verses he dutifully memorized and receives honor from his uncle. Ascending the stairs he kneels in front of the stopped clock. As the first word leaves his mouth, the grand clock bellows to life in twelve massive rings. The destined one has awakened and at that very moment all hell breaks loose.
Out of nowhere, a large black-scythe-and-chain wielding rabbit emerges and begins to fight the cloaked intruders threatening Oz’s life. Lightning flashes and in a moment of haste, Oz picks up the holy sword at his feet and swings towards one of the lead intruders…only to find himself slashing down his closest and best friend, Gil. Torn by sorrow and grief he is captured and given judgement for his sins. His punishment: to be cast into the abyss for all eternity; and then everything goes black.
The abyss, however, is not simply an endless black hole; but rather a culmination of deadly madness that few ever truly escape from. It is there that Oz first encounters beings of the abyss called “chains” and one chain in particular, named Alice, whom he forms a contract with in order to escape.
Upon their escape, they run into a group of individuals from an organization called Pandora: a group that seeks something called The Will of the Abyss. With the aid of both new and old friends, Alice and Oz seek numerous answers for which they know nothing of. Recovering Alice’s fragmented memories is only the beginning as warring households and dukes as well as opposing organizations all fight towards the same objective. The Will of the Abyss, the century old tragedy of Sabrie, illegal contractors and their chains and even mysteries within their own trusted group allow danger and mistrust to blossom along every step of their journey. Towards what goal, even they remain unsure, but they will move forward no matter what the cost.
Pandora Hearts is a series that has long caught my attention due to its dark, twisted nature and tendrils of magic drawn from Alice in Wonderland. The story, music, visuals and characters all immerse you into its depths with little effort and hold you there throughout its entirety.
The main cast and the larger chains all hold such unique qualities and quirks it is hard to not adore them. An aspect that I found clever was how they directly linked characters from Alice in Wonderland to those within this series – as chains. The most powerful and influential chains encompass not only names of similar nature but also some unique traits as to their overall significance (to include: B-Rabbit (attributed as the March Hare as well as Alice’s embodiment), the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire Cat).
The story, as mentioned previously, is gripping and remarkable of its own accord. Searching for lost fragments of Alice’s memories, defeating rampant chains strewn throughout the city, discovering the secrets each character is carefully trying to mask, finding inner relationships and ties between the cast, a hint of time being tampered with and a link to a tragedy that dragged everyone into their current position. The only complaint I truly had with this anime was the quick tie-up it pulled together to find closing at 25 episodes. The story progressed fine, but ended up leaving more questions unanswered as it diverted up a quick trail to write “the end”. Luckily, as I had heard previously and will now be finding out for myself, the manga is (as often the case) much more in depth and is still ongoing.
I had heard for quite some time that the written version was much better, but even still, I am glad to have watched the anime. Seeing characters come to life through voice and action is always surreal and the music, much of it written by Yuki Kajiura, is simply stunning and would be left incomplete without. Overall, it is an anime that I would easily recommend but with warning that it will leave you returning to its manga roots by its finish.
As time unravels to one of heroes and bloodshed, the softly spoken melody carries on through years to come…through unanswered questions, tears and smiles.
“Every time you kissed me
My heart was in such pain
Gathering the roses
We sang of the grief
Your very voice is in my heart beat
Sweeter than despair
We were there, in everlasting bloom”