Thursday, January 26, 2006


Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Parental Guidance Recommended
2005 Naoto Hosoda, WOWOW, SHUFFLE! Media Partners, NAVEL

Shuffle! DVDs
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Everything Shuffle! Product Description:
Ten years ago, the gateway to the Realm of the Gods and the Realm of the Demons was opened. Soon afterwards, the gods and the demons began migrating to our world. Now there are places where gods, demons and humans all study together… Such as our school, Verbena Academy.

Meet Rin, a normal high school guy who is the envy of every other man in town. You see, he’s lucky enough to live with and be pampered by the sweet, beautiful Kaede. It’s just a day like any other when two new transfer students show up in class: Sia, Princess of the Gods and Nerine, Princess of the Demons. Now Rin’s luck is about to change, for he has been chosen to take one of their hands in marriage! Talk about envy! Whether down the hall, next door or from another realm, girls seem to be everywhere… And they all want Rin for themselves! Which girl would you choose?

(24 Episodes)

A harem show that is a cut above the rest. >>> by lensman
I only watched this because a friend recommended it. After watching a number of mediocre, at best, harem stories over the years, I honestly got tired of the genre. Sure, watching attractive girls getting their panties in a twist for some loser is fun to watch for a while, but after the plotline gets recycled over and over, with the girls being the same old anime stereotypes and the protagonist being the same old sissy, you get to the point where you are ready to gag.

I thought this show would be bad. I really did. The plotline sounded a bit like this: “In a world where Gods and Demons are able to communicate with the world of humans via a portal, Tsumichi Rin lives with his childhood friend Kaede and tries to live a normal life. One day, the lords of the God and the Demon world move next to him, appears on his doorstep, and announces that he is betrothed to their two beautiful daughters Sia and Nerine, and that he is supposed to choose one of them as his wife.” Yawn!

Even the girls sounded like the typical stereotypes we see in Japanimation. We get the “Shy Home Girl”, the “Outgoing Girl”, the “Innocent Girl”, the “Powerful Girl” and the “Smart Underage Girl”. So, I prepped myself to watch another harem anime expecting it to suck…

…And I was wrong... BOY, I was wrong! Shuffle! not only exceeded my (low) expectations, it literally blew me out of proportion and kept me edged to my seat! Not only is it one of the best — if not THE best — harem anime ever made, it is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, period. And I’ve been watching Japanese animation for 10 years!

The main reason why I liked it was mainly because of the characters. The girls, while sounding stereotypical at first, end up being far more complicated and three-dimensional. We get to see and understand each one’s past and we get to care deeply for them. Their stories are very dark and disturbing at times, providing the series with some high-quality drama.

Yes, you read correctly. Drama. Shuffle! isn’t afraid to take a dark path and provide some very touching moments. While there are lots of humor and laugh-out-loud moments, the series also provides some great moments of angst, anxiety, realism and pathos that are not quite what you expect to see in a harem title. Gee, I never thought I’d use the words “realism” and “harem” in the same sentence. Anyway, these moments are the highlights of the series.

Something that really impressed me in the series is that there are almost no catfights. The girls share a very deep friendship and understanding with each other. I was really expecting Shuffle! to devolve into another Tenchi Muyo with the girls throwing fireballs at each other, but thankfully it never happens. There IS a moment when a girl uses violence against another, but it is not the typical violent outburst that you see — meaning that it’s not there for humor purposes. It’s quite realistic, and it most of it has to do with one of the girl’s psyche.

The central character Rin, is far from being the typical protagonist that we see. He is kind and thoughtful, as the girls note several times over the course of the series. Ironically, his kindness is both his greatest asset and his biggest flaw, as it makes him indecisive. But when it counts not only does he give his heart to the girl he loves, he proves that he loves her by doing one of the most touching things I have seen in anime over the years.

Yes, Shuffle! has a definitive ending that is both touching and satisfying. Unlike most harem themes, The finale provides a good sense of closure and gives you a nice warm feeling inside.

Well, I have raved enough about the plot and the characters, but what about everything else?

Graphics and animation are usually the “make or break” point of this genre. After all, if the characters, especially the female ones, don’t look good, then what are you supposed to do with it? I am glad to say that Shuffle! delivers in this department, and it delivers in spades. The girls are not only beautifully drawn but their character designs show quite a bit of personality and sexuality. Even the protagonist looks good.

By the way, this is rated for people 15+ so expect to see some nudity and quite a bit of fan-service.

The music is great. From the opening, to the various character themes, and the touching ending theme, the music never fails to complement the show. The voice actors did well, providing some great lines and performances. They also have great chemistry with each other.

All in all, Shuffle! breathed some much needed life and freshness into a really tired genre. It illustrates how great harem themes should be made. And it’s a series that’s not to be missed!

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 9; Story 9; Characters 10; Sounds 9

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