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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Manga Review: Pandora Hearts GN 20

Pandora Hearts volume 20
Author: Jun Mochizuki
Yen Press
208 pages
The pathetic farce that has unfolded in earnest is no more than an absurd yarn spun by the man who caused the Tragedy of Sablier by following his heart's desires. The players in his tale begin dancing with abandon, their emotions bottled up inside, as though they are marionettes manipulated by a master puppeteer . . . (Source: Yen Press)
Spoiler alert: Spoilers for the Pandora Hearts series up to volume 20 are in this review.
This month in the world of Pandora Hearts: an escape, a series of revelations, a loss, a death, a return. At twenty volumes and onwards, Jun Mochizuki seems to have yet fully invoked the true depth of the world of the Abyss and the secrets of Pandora that color the lives of her characters. This volume is heavy on character developments from small to big, and it is the final act of this one that will have long time readers cursing out Mochizuki louder than ever.

First things first: there is one scene involving Xerxes Break, so apologies to his many fans. I'm sure we'll see more of him later, unless the Baskervilles just decided to leave him in his jail cell, which seems unlikely. On the bright side, there are so many Oz and Gil shenanigans, it makes up for the lack of Break. And of course, there is Glen, who continues to scheme and embark upon bad doings, much to the consternation of pretty much everyone else - even his own lackeys are put off by his taste for blood and short internal fuse.
The star of this volume, however, is actually Oz's uncle Oscar, whose smiling visage graces the cover art - cover art which heavily features fracturing chains, which is usually not a good sign in this manga. Mochizuki loves her some visual 'red flags', and there are flags all over these chapters.
Pandora Hearts has always done well by its older cast of characters, giving them as much development as the younger crowd, and Oscar is no exception. He is heartbreakingly full in color during this book and his words to Oz end up being the words the young man need to hear in order to break out of his body's prison, imposed upon him by Jack Vessalius.
And then there is Gil, poor Gil, who is lacking an arm and is now further bound to the Abyss thanks to his new contract with the Raven. But Gil right now is Oz's saving grace. He is the one who saves Oz and helps Oz realize that his life is important, fake or not, and what he's lived is not a lie. Plus, as the mini comics prove, Gil may have grown up considerably in recent volumes but he's still the adorable boy prone to pouting from the start of the series. Just look at that cute pout of his!
This latest installment of Pandora Hearts, to reiterate an above point, will break your heart. If you have formed any emotional connection to those characters, you will most likely laugh and cry like it's your family on the page. If you like Oz and Gil and Alice, this volume's ending will please you. If Uncle Oscar is your fictional husband, pour out a drink for him before you start reading because you'll need it. If your yen is Glen and Xerxes covered in blood, I hope your body is ready for this one.

This book is not nice, is not forgiving, and it ends with characters stumbling from one problem into another. But it is immensely enjoyable in a way only Pandora Hearts can be. The only thing more painful that it will be waiting for the next book - wait, July?