Pandora Hearts, vol. 4: a review (and MyPaint)

This is possibly the strangest thing I think I’ve announced here, but I’ve downloaded MyPaint. Now that I’ve designed some covers, I’m delusional enough to wonder what I can do with something specifically for drawing. (This is assuming, of course, that I have time to play with it. I’m still primarily a writer.)

Another older review, but I couldn’t have one with Break on the cover without adding Sharon pretty darn quick.

Pandora Hearts, Vol. 4Pandora Hearts, Vol. 4 by Jun Mochizuki

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s rare to get a manga series this coherent. I hope it lasts.

If volume #4 was all about family, then volume #5 is about alienation from family, by focusing on the isolation Alice feels. It also hints that memories can be distorted, twisted, and can’t always be trusted.

There is so much depth in this series, I really feel inadequate in writing anything about it. Whole essays can be written about the interactions, and I’m not understating that. So much of it is subtle. It kind of reminds me of the anime Revolutionary Girl Utena, which wasn’t quite as firmly based in the fantasy genre as PH, but still had a surreal, This Is Just The Tip of the Iceberg kind of feel to it.

Another thing I love about this series is in the economy of Mochizuki’s delivery. For example, in the beginning of this volume, Gil is looking for his hat (the one he loaned Oz in the previous volume and that just kind of disappeared in all the action). After Oz suggests that he just get another, Gil storms off, yelling that he really likes that hat. When Alice complains, Oz says that “It might not look like much…but to him…it’s nothing short of a treasure”. At the same time he’s explaining this, we see two frames. One is of the photograph that was precious to Phillipe (a character from the previous volume), and the other is of Phillipe with a big grin on his face, holding the photograph.

Alice, who seems to be insensitive to everything except Oz’s feelings, crouches down next to him and asks if he’s still down. When we see his face, we know he is. It’s clear. And yet, he’s smiling through the pain. And lies. He tells her he’s not depressed.

He IS depressed!!!! But his ability to not let it get him entirely down is a large part of his charm for me.

Oh, and while Alice is talking to him, she’s holding a rat she was about to eat, one that’s looking scared out of its mind.

Comedy, pathos, and plot, all in two pages. Brilliant. And two pages is all you get of that emotional moment because Gil finds his hat and the plot moves on right into a cute arm-wrestling scene where Uncle Oscar makes another appearance.

In other manga I’ve read, this would be an adorable, heartwarming scene that wouldn’t really matter, except to satisfy fans. Filler. But here, it provides a reason for Alice to walk away from the main group. She stumbles into Break who’s been waiting for her…because he’s using her as bait for the Cheshire Cat.

Speaking of Break, we finally get to see his chain in this volume. And I tell you, it is one of the best drawn of all the chains in the series so far. It also has the most amazing ability ever. It explains why Break never seems to get truly freaked out by chains.

We are also introduced to a character whose presence has been known since, gosh, the first volume? Jack Vessalius. A man who looks very much like an older version of Oz. (hmmmm)

In some ways, Jack seems to be a direct contrast to Xerxes Break (I know that should be Vincent but I get the feeling there’s a lot of similarities between them and that’s why they hate each other so much). Whereas Break appears crazy but is actually a lot more together than it appears, Jack is too calm and collected. In the context of this manga, I’m guessing that means either he’s more crazy than all of the characters put together, or he knows more than all of them put together. One of the two. Maybe, both.

He’s also the most handsome of the lot. I mean, seriously, I don’t usually say that about manga characters. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever said that about any manga character.* But it’s true.

Highlights from this volume:

* Break dropping candy on the stairs. Very well drawn and it even served a purpose.

* Break actually showing some concern when Alice was freaked out. Methinks he has more of a heart than he lets on.

* Oz describing what Alice means to him.

* Finding out that Cheshire’s eye looks an awful lot like Break’s.

* Anything to do with Jack.

* Finding out why Cheshire was afraid of Break.

This volume ends on a cliffhanger, with Oz heading off to rescue Alice. Meanwhile, Gil and Jack wait in the garden, and Break and Cheshire face off. It’s set-up that doesn’t feel like set-up.

Next, volume #5.

*Edited to add that I do get small crushes on manga characters and do think some of them are hot. But not like this. This is the first time I’ve fallen completely in love with one, simply because of how he’s drawn. I swear, I have never been this infatuated with a bishie after just one look. More on that when I review volume #7.

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