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September 8, 2010

Bento Bako Lite: Pandora Hearts 1, Soul Eater 1

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Written by: Kristin
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Welcome to another double feature!  Today I’ll be looking at two Yen Press titles, Pandora Hearts volume 1 and Soul Eater volume 1.  First up, twisted fairy tale Pandora Hearts.

Title: Pandora Hearts
Author: Jun Mochizuki
Volume: Volume 1 (ongoing, currently 12 in Japan), $10.99
Vintage: 2006 by Square Enix in Japan, 2009 by Yen Press
Genre: Fantasy, action, comedy, mystery

What if your greatest sin was your very existence?  This is the mystery that Oz Vessalius finds himself wrapped up in.  Fifteen-year-old Oz’s coming-of-age ceremony is interrupted when a group of men in black robes suddenly appears to take him away to the Abyss.  The Baskervilles visit those with great sins and send them to the prison known as the Abyss, from which they never return.  But what sin could this young man possibly have committed to warrant such a sentence?  Oz is whisked away from his family and friends without a clear answer.  In the Abyss he is joined by a strange girl named Alice, a Chain known as the Black Rabbit.  Alice wants out of the Abyss, and she needs Oz to help her.  To open a path so that they can escape, Oz must make a contract with Alice that will unlock Alice’s inhibitors, allowing her to access her full power.  As he watches Alice defend him from a vicious Chain that is close to destroying her, Oz decides to make the contract.  Alice takes over Oz’s body and opens up a path, which lands them in a mansion belonging to the Rainsworth family, where the young girl Sharon Rainsworth and her servants Break and another who starts out unnamed (who all work for an organization called Pandora) are residing, attempting to release Oz from the Abyss for their own purposes.  Alice, whose immense power is tearing Oz’s body apart, is knocked out of the boy’s body, and the two are given little choice but to join Sharon’s group, which will hopefully lead them to the answers they also seek – Alice’s missing memories, and Oz’s mysterious sin.

This twisted dark fairy tale story draws much from Lewis Carrol’s Wonderland books.  However, there’s just not a lot to talk about.  It doesn’t go very deep, at least not yet.  There are plenty of mysteries already swirling, though.  What does Pandora want with Oz?  What is Oz’s mysterious sin?  Why are Alice’s memories missing?  What is the connection between Alice, Oz, and the pocket watch that Oz found on his family’s estate?  Who is the man that Oz’s servant Gilbert recognized when the Baskervilles came to take Oz away?  It’s entertaining enough, which is what’s important.  I enjoyed the character designs, especially the clothing, which has some clear Victorian influences.  There’s also an anime, which has been licensed by NIS America.

Title: Soul Eater
Author: Atsushi Ohkubo
Volume 1 (ongoing, currently 17 in Japan), $10.99
Vintage: 2004 by Gangan Comics in Japan, 2009 by Yen Press
Genre: Action, comedy, supernatural

The first volume of Soul Eater serves as an introduction to the main characters of the city.  Each of the major weapon meisters gets their own chapter – Maka, Black Star, and Death the Kid.  Maka and Soul Eater have 99 souls and are attempting to gather the final soul, that of the witch Blair.  Shinigami-sama and his weapon (and Maka’s father) Death Scythe keep a close eye on them, but somehow Maka and Soul Eater manage to prevail.  Unfortunately Blair isn’t quite what they thought her to be.  Black Star is master of the Demon Shadow Weapon Tsubaki, a double ended chain scythe.  Black Star is a huge show-off, and spends more time on theatricalities and speeches than successfully hunting souls.  Still, he and Tsubaki are not to be underestimated when they get down to business.  Death the Kid (Shinigami-sama’s son) wields the Demon Twin Guns: The Thompson Sisters, Patty and Liz.  Death the Kid is super obsessed with perfection and symmetry, to the point where it interrupts his soul hunting.  Fortunately the sisters make an excellent team on their own.  After some introductions, it’s time for a team up between Maka and Black Star.

Wow, talk about fan service.  Girls with pants/shorts so tight, that when viewed from behind (and a tad underneath)…well, let’s just say it leaves very little to the imagination.  Lots of boobs popping out everywhere, plenty of nude bath scenes, clothes coming off for no reason, short skirts, all the hallmarks of over-the-top fan service.  The mythology is a tad confusing.  In this first volume, it’s just totally nonsensical.  It seems that the weapon meisters wield the scythes not for themselves, but are simply leveling them up for use by the death gods.  After 99 human souls plus one witch soul, they reach full power…but apparently if that’s screwed up somehow (like the final soul being a cat’s soul instead of a human soul), they have to start all over again.  So I guess it has to be pretty exact.  What really confuses me is just what exactly the scythes and weapon meisters are.  Maka’s father is a Death Scythe, one that I’m assuming Maka’s mother made, but what does that make Maka?  And is there more than one Shinigami, or does Shinigami-sama simply use multiple Death Scythes?  Hopefully this will all be explained in future volumes, though I get the feeling it’s mean to be on the ridiculous side.  The art is pretty crazy too, but it fits with the silly nature of the story.  The translation gets a little weird from time to time, using slang words here and there; I’d like to compare it to the original.  Lots of yos and ‘sups.  Thanks to Yen Press for some extensive translation notes in the back of the book.  The Soul Eater anime is available from FUNimation, and streams on FUNimation’s website.




  1. It seems as if the Wonderland influence is pretty stong with Pandora Hearts just from reading your synopsis. I guess that’s why there’s an “Alice” in the story. Is the influence of the Wonderland books too distracting from the Pandora Hearts story to where you think that it’s just another version of the tale?

    And Soul Eater sounds pretty good but if it’s just a bunch of silliness then that might throw me off. I’ll check out the anime link!

    Nice one yet again Kris!

  2. Jade

    I really liked the art in Soul Eater a lot, but boy, what a big poopy mess otherwise. I like ridiculous and goofy as much as the next person, but the book just thought everything about itself was so stylish and cool that I couldn’t write it off as silly fun. It was all just pandering random nonsense so grating that I thought ‘yo’ and ”sup’ were actually perfectly fitting within the overall obnoxious context.

  3. Kristin

    It’s there, but it’s not overwhelming or distracting. Some character names are pulled from there (there’s also a Tweedledee/Tweedledum reference), some symbolism (like the pocket watch), and a through-the-looking-glass feel as Oz is transported to a bizarre other dimension (then catapulted 10 years into the future). There will probably be other things in later volumes as well. But it stands on its own.

    it’s the fan service that really threw me off the title. He might as well be writing a hentai doujin and just go all the way. There’s so much ridiculous nudity and boobs are shoved around everywhere. Even a little bondage (complete with torn clothes and dangling panties). It’s easy to get hung up on that kind of nonsense and ignore the really great dynamic between Maka and Soul (I find him fairly interesting, actually). It does pander quite a bit.

  4. Jade

    Hmmm…I have to disagee about the dynamic between Maka and Soul; it’s a really interesting set-up for a relationship and they’re interesting on their own, but they were both too self-absorbed to make them an enjoyable read as a pair. It didn’t feel like fun bickering banter between two opposites attracting, it felt like watching a seriously dysfunctional couple argue in front of you in a theater about why they both like the movie.

    The main reason everyone bugged me so much though, was because they were dosed to the gills in totally extreme ‘tude in an obviously accurate translation. Every ounce of the book is pandering, not just the panties and boobs. It’s like reading a manga written by Poochie from the Simpsons. I was really upset that such great art was wrapped around such a nasty core.

  5. Kristin

    Ah, I see what you’re saying. I wasn’t thinking too deeply about it, I just thought they were kind of cute together. I didn’t think it was meant to be taken too seriously, so I took the whole thing pretty lightly. Er, except, I guess, the outrageous fan service, since I pointed it out.

  6. […] Pandora Hearts volume 4, by Jun Mochizuki. From Amazon: “As Oz Vessalius and his valet, Gilbert, are reunited with their dear Uncle Oscar, they fail to notice an alienated Alice lost in thought stumbling right into the lurking Xerxes Break. Before Alice can take heed of Break’s warning of a trap set by the Cheshire Cat – a powerful, extraordinary chain – she and Break are spirited away to Cheshire’s lair, where both danger and fragments of Alice’s past reside. With Sharon’s help, Oz and Gil find a way to enter the sealed dimension of memories, but not only do their allies await them there, so too does the man from Alice’s earlier memory! Does he hold the key to the truth about Oz’s ‘sin’?” January 2011, $11.99. […]

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