Friday, July 13, 2007

Shuffle! (2005-2006)

Note: This review was originally posted on Myspace. I am reposting it here for archival purposes. It has been backdated to the date of its original posting.

Warning! This review may contain some vague spoilers.

I was shuffling through some elf pics one day, and I came across a character I was able to identify as Kareha from Shuffle!, an anime series based on an eroge. Naturally, I decided to check out the series. Turns out Kareha is actually a god, not an elf, but the difference is negligible. Unfortunately, she's also a secondary character. But, being a sexy senpai with beautiful green eyes, who likes frilly underwear and works at a costume café, what's not to like?

As for the series, I'd say it's something of a cross between To Heart and Evangelion. Heh. It starts out like your basic shounen-series-based-on-a-dating-sim, except it takes place in a world that has connections to both the Realm of the Gods and the Realm of the Demons.

We have your main character, Tsuchimi Rin, a basic all-around nice guy; the required female childhood friend, Kaede, who lives with and cares for Rin (there was an ugly accident in the past that killed off both of Rin's parents as well as Kaede's mother); and the genki dama senpai (Shigure Asa) who harbors a long-standing and repressed crush on Rin. As if those two weren't enough for Rin to choose between, both the daughters of the Lord of the Gods and of the Lord of the Demons - Sia and Nerine (the latter is conveniently nicknamed Rin...) - transfer into Rin's class, and it turns out they both want to be Rin's wife. Oh, and there's also a mysterious lolita donning the Ruri-hairstyle (Primula, nicknamed Rim...) who ends up moving in with Rin and Kaede.

The characters are all cute and lovable, and the first half of the series is pretty light and happy. The second half takes a dark turn, though, starting with the revelation of Primula's true nature. The series begins to delve into the psychological states of the main characters, including Nerine's relationship with her clone, and Sia's relationship with her unborn twin. And then there's the truth behind Rin and Kaede's history together. Truly awesome. I really loved how these girls' worlds started falling apart when Rin finally chose one of them. You just know, with this many girls in love with one guy, that when he finally picks one, there's gonna be a mess. That having been said, I was kind of disappointed that the final ending was rather happy, with each of the girls coming to terms with her position in the eyes of her beloved.

Still, it was a good series. I thought they could have taken more advantage of the gods/demons angle, since the way it turns out, the only real difference between humans, gods, and demons is the shape of their ears, and some magic power that's used only sparingly throughout the series. Also, I thought the whole idol club/groupie thing was pretty awkward/silly. But, the bottom line for a series like this is whether you can fall for the characters, and Shuffle's characters are not only lovely, but psychologically intriguing as well. I recommend it.

"You're always concerned about people who are suffering. Maybe I should suffer more?"

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