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Danielle Leigh’s Reading Diary — Pandora Hearts vol 1

Jun Mochizuki takes fairy tale symbols and logic and puts them through some kind of psychedelic wash in Pandora Hearts.  The results are fairly confusing, if surprisingly compelling.


Pandora Hearts isn’t a re-telling of Alice in Wonderland so much as it explodes the premise from the inside out as “Wonderland” is re-imagined as a black, terrible abyss while the “real world” isn’t the comforting refuge for sanity that it should be.  The story opens on a young noble, Oz Vessalius, (what a name, right?) as he is about to be inducted into adulthood through a coming of age ceremony.  Instead, his very being is deemed a “sin” by sinister and powerful men in black robes and he’s thrown into the “abyss,” or rather an alternative universe prison, which essentially functions as a kind of madhouse of eternal night.

Oz’s “adventures” in the abyss aren’t half as charming as the original Alice’s. Creepy sentient dolls, vicious black bunnies and skeletons are after him, although he is saved from them when he meets a rather manipulative girl who just happens to be named Alice.  Oz and Alice team up to “break out” of prison, but there isn’t really a coherent logic that explains the connection between the “real” world (which is a fictional world that bears no relation to ours) and the prison world Oz and Alice escape from.  Oz’s world — no matter which one he finds himself in — is filled with nightmares, dreams, strange flights of the soul and odd slices of both recovered and repressed memories.  In other words, it is if the entire manga has taken on the ethos of Wonderland and unapologetically refuses to walk in a straight, or even a wavy but discernible, line.

Upon their return to the “real” world, Oz and Alice are taken in a group called “Pandora Hearts” and a mission is manufactured for both — Alice to recover her memories, Oz to figure out why is very existence is a “sin.”  This gives the manga an excuse for serialization even if I’m not sure the story will ever develop a coherent narrative logic.  While the story cheerfully zigs and zags,  the art acts as an excellent unifying force and often makes up for a story that is a little too exuberant for its own good.   Mochizuki evokes the Victorian ostentatiousness of the original Alice in Wonderland with some goth embellishments, allowing for both the dark and light aspects of the tale to shine through.

Review copy provided by Yen Press.


Hm…. Sounds interesting, despite its flaws.

When I reviewed Jun Mochizuki’s Crimson Shell I noted that her stuff is very overwhelming, rather than underwhelming (a good sign, I just think she needs to reign in some of her storytelling excesses).

This isn’t the video game with Mickey Mouse, then?

(And, honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever read an Alice in Wonderland re-hash that was 10% as good as the original. You’re not re-imagining Wonderland by making it creepy – It’s already creepy! You’re just sucking the subtlety out.)

Nope, not the video game! I think this creator has a real affinity for playing around with fairy tale imagery, she just needs to simplify things a bit.

[…] (Manga Maniac Cafe) Connie on vol. 25 of One Piece (Slightly Biased Manga) Danielle Leigh on vol. 1 of Pandora Hearts (Comics Should Be Good) Travers C on vol. 6 of Sundome (TaCK’s Pop Culture) Julie on vol. 1 […]

Thanks for the info. pandora jewelry I found it really useful.

Hi! Would you mind telling me how the names of Pandora members were translated? :) I’ve heard some horror stories about the translation, so I’d like to know what to expect before I make a purchase. :)

As for the manga itself, the first few chapters were rather confusing and somewhat… detached for me. The pace and plot really pick up in third volume, that’s where I got hooked. I also didn’t like the whole “Alice in Wonderland” theme, but fortunately it doesn’t seem to be a retelling, it just borrows a few concepts and proceeds with original plot.



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