Shuffle!

Title: Shuffle!
Genre: Romance/Drama
Company: WOWOW/SHUFFLE! Media Partners
Format: 24 episodes
Dates: 8 Jul 2005 – 6 Jan 2006

Synopsis: Tsuchimi Rin is a fairly normal high school student who has been living with the family of his childhood friend, Fuyou Kaede, after the death of his parents and Kaede’s mother in an accident several years ago. Ten years have passed since the opening of the way-gates connecting the human world with that of gods and that of demons, and human society has grown used to the constant comings and goings of these mystical people as they now live normally among humans. One day, though, Rin finds out that he is the marriage candidate for both the daughter of the king of gods, Sia and the daughter of the king of demons, Nerine, and is forced to decide which girl he will take as his wife.

The Highlights
Premise: Completely ludicrous.
Characters: Flat and ill-developed; clichés to this genre.
Pacing: Inconsequential first half balanced by melodramatic second half.
Plot: Poorly written; driven by characters devoid of common sense.
Animation: Decent.
Ending: Satisfactorily ties up most loose ends.

I won’t argue that melodrama is poor writing. What I will argue is that there are occasions where it can be engrossing and interesting to follow. Similarly there are times where Shuffle! is engrossing and interesting to follow… but these times amount to a mere two episodes. The rest is inane, ridiculous and frustrating. This, unfortunately, is a series that would have benefited from more melodrama, which speaks volumes about how much of a chore the overwhelming majority of this series was to wade through.

Decent art and animation makes things easy on the eyes, as does the cast, consisting of a plethora of attractive girls… all of whom wear striped panties. This fact signifies how frequently the audience is treated to fanservice. The music has its share of pedestrianism, but also has a few decent tunes, including the predictably catchy J-pop OP theme, “YOU” from Yuria. On the whole Shuffle! was aurally tolerable.

Tolerable, though, isn’t a word I’d use to describe Shuffle!’s first two thirds. The premise itself is completely stupid, even for a harem anime. I can’t be the only person who’s completely sick of seeing an entire cast of females fawning over the main lead for reasons that make little to no sense. Sia and Nerine are especially guilty of this; their reasons for harbouring affection for Rin are so mind-boggling that my reaction on hearing them resembled more of a growing fear of them than any sort of respect for them. The first several episodes are inconsequential and tedious in the same way Futakoi’s are but with far more fanservice. When Shuffle! does try to grow a plot, it’s hardly momentous, strictly sticking to the standard dating sim formula of giving each girl unrelated problems and having the main protagonist be the catalyst that solves them. This I could have bared with if the characters and their stories were actually interesting.

One, though, was. Kaede’s arc is much talked about for good reason and is the clear highlight of the show. Sure, it’s melodramatic. But it’s engrossing. It’s tense. It has actual atmosphere. It’s well-executed. And it lasts two episodes.

It’s such an insult that this momentary peak was so short-lived. It wouldn’t have been a classic anime, but had the rest of the series been as intense as these two episodes, it would have actually made for an interesting fare. The finale deserves a bit of credit for tying up most of the loose ends, but there’s something very wrong when almost all of major plot twists are completely devoid of impact. Shuffle!’s biggest flaw is that its lifeless plot is so poorly written. But its unlikable characters and numerous harem clichés don’t help either. Two decent episodes make the rest of this intolerable series difficult to recommend.

The Rating: 3
3/10

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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