Anime Review: Shuffle!

“With so many girls it is hard to choose just one”

Note: This review is based off the original release singles of the series and not the current release.

Plot Synopsis:

When two doors are discovered in an ancient ruin, the gateways to shinkai, the realm of the shinzoku (Gods) and makai, the realm of the mazoku (Demons) are irreversably opened. The races of human, shinzoku, and mazoku come together in the mortal world and nothing will ever be the same. One day, two new families move next door to a boy who had previously been living a very peaceful life. In one house lived the family of the King of the Gods, and in the other lived the family of the King of the Demons. Both families had one daughter whose single wish to live next to the boy they had fallen in love with years ago has just been fulfilled. Also living with the boy is his childhood friend. With these three girls vying for his affections, the boy finds that his new life filled with despair, jealousy, and just a little hope is beginning.

Plot:

Harem shows usually fall into one of two groups with anime fans, they either like them or they dislike them.  There is no grey area with harem shows it is black or white.  Most of the time you can say that most harem shows all follow a similar formula and do not do much to deviate from the standard formula.  However there are a few those that do change things up a bit and make it a standout in the genre.  Shuffle! is just one of those shows that does change things up and be one of the better shows in the genre.

Well, let me rephrase this in a different way.  If Shuffle! was just twelve or thirteen episode series instead of twenty-four episodes I could be safe to say that Shuffle! would just be another show in the genre that does nothing to separate itself from the pace.  Why is that you ask?  This has to do with the first half of the series which follows a lot of aspects that we see in other shows of the genre.  The first few episodes set up the world that our cast lives in and introduces us to cast members including the girls of the harem and the side characters.  Right after these introduction episodes we have several episodes that focus mostly on each of the girls in the harem and if you have seen any harem anime before you would be able to recognize these episodes as they do nothing to set them apart from other shows.  One weak point with these introduction episodes is that the world of Shuffle! is never fully explained.  We understand that the portals to the worlds to the gods and demons were opened, but how did they get opened?  How did the initial meeting between humans the demons, and gods go?  Or more specifically why did both groups decide to come to the human realm and not stay in their own perspective worlds?  I understand that this is a harem show so the girls are the focus of the series, but some information about the world the cast lives in would have been great.

However to think that the whole series will stay with the goofiness and comedy forever would be a mistake on the viewer.  Starting with episode twelve we start to get more drama and less comedy with each episode.  These twelve episodes start to explain more about each of the girls and gives most of the girls much more background information and makes them more well-rounded characters instead of just the standard tropes seen in harem anime.  There are still a few upbeat episodes in the last half of the series but these take a backseat as the drama starts to become greater and greater as the series moves towards the end.  We also get some development for Rin the male lead and he becomes less and less of a typical male lead.

Art and Animation:

While the background art is pretty and nice to look at, the character designs are to say the last not quite the same in terms of quality.  While at times the character designs look alright, other times it looks as though some short cuts were made and the characters look off model.  The design for the cast is another disappointment.  If it was not for the different ears to show the difference races and the hair colors the girls and most of the other cast members would all look the same.

It would not be a harem show if there was any fanserivce during the series and Shuffle! is no exception in the fanservice department.  Shuffle! starts off light in the fanservice realm mainly with panty shots occurring maybe once or twice an episode and eventually this changes early on as more panty shots occur more often each episodes and starting six we start to see some nipples and then moving up to full bare breasts and more frequent uses of panty shots.  Most of the panty shots can be attributed due to the camera being set lower than it needs to be but that does not always mean it is a bad thing.

Music and Audio:

While the OP and ED are the strongest parts of the music for the series, the rest cannot be said for the music that appears in the episodes themselves.  This music can best be described as h-game type music, generic, and completely forgettable.  The music is also recycled throughout the series which makes it that much less enjoyable.

Funimation created an English dub for Shuffle! and to be respectful to the Japanese VA’s better in most aspects than the original Japanese dub specifically with the girls in the harem.  The English dub has a variety of VA’s that you would normally hear in either a Funimation or Section 23 dub such Brittney Karbowski, Caitlin Glass, Monica Rial, and LuciChristian.  What makes the girls better in English than the Japanese is that the girls in English are given more personality in their voices instead of a generic dial a bishojuo voice that you hear in the Japanese.  The only standouts in the Japanese track would are Tomokazu Sugita who voices Rin (no offense to Jerry Jewell who gives Rin his voice in English dub but who is not as good as his Japanese counterpoint), Hideki Ogihara who gives Itsuki his voice in Japanese, Juurouta Kosugi and Toshiyuki Morikawa who give the King of the gods, and King of the devils their voices.  The English script stays close to the Japanese script most of the time but there are a few rewrites that were made to fit some of the jokes in the English and truth be told actually work.  Some of the rewrites are not joke based but also fit into the English translation.

Final Thoughts

Shuffle! is not going to please all anime fans.  Those who have issues with fanservice or even harem shows in general will dislike this show.  Those looking for a lot of drama in their shows will be disappointed to find that there is not enough drama overall.  However, those looking for a standout in the harem seas will find Shuffle! to be just that standout.  With a mix of comedy, drama and plenty of fanservice to see harem fans will find Shuffle! fun and enjoyable to watch.

Score: 3/5

Pros: The second half of the series, the fanserivce, the English Dub
Cons:
the first half of the series, the music, character designs and animation at times.

Shuffle! is available from RightStuf

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