Shuffle! DVD 1 Review

To be honest, I was quite worried about watching Shuffle! again for the first time in almost three years. If you’re not already aware, I have something of an adamant fanaticism towards the franchise, but since the show’s conclusion back in early 2006, my passion for it has been kept alive through buying merch of questionable taste, playing the games with little knowledge of Japanese, and generally fanboying over it. Shuffle! Memories, a short recap of the show which aired in 2007 brought it all back to me in digest form, but I actually stopped watching that because I wasn’t a fan of how it was cut together. That, and I also called into question whether or not I still liked the series. Thankfully, upon completing this first disc, I can gladly say this show is just as wonderful as a I remember it being.

Story is, Rin Tsuchimi is the object of many a girl’s affection. His adoring childhood friend Kaede pampers him daily; his senior Asa teases him lovingly at every turn; the princesses of the World of Gods and World of Demons, Sia and Nerine, want to be his bride and a certain deadpan loli called Primula is inexplicably attached to him. In other words, he has quite the harem on his hands. These early episodes focus on introducing the cast, the world in which they inhabit and then they get started on fleshing out each girl one-by-one come episode three. It’s pretty standard harem/bishoujo game adaptation fare, but its beauty lies in the execution.

I have nothing against the harem formula, but at the same time I don’t really seek it out as a means of entertainment. In fact, what grabbed me about Shuffle! initially was the character designs. Luckily there was far more to it than that. The show simply hits me in all the right places. I like it when things are over-the-top and celebrate what they are almost shamelessly. In the same way that Giant Robo loves being a crazy, overdone, epic adventure story, Shuffle! loves being a moe moe harem show. All the girls are adorable and well dressed, they all have cute voices, and they are ALL deredere to some extent. But beyond that, the show delivers entertainment in the form of decently done character interaction and heaping helpings of quirky humour. What will really help you get into this show is if you find a character to latch onto, since in these early episodes, each of the girls gets roughly equal amounts of screentime. Kaede’s my personal preference.

The animation for Shuffle! is handled by newcomer studio asread, who had only previously done various inbetweening jobs for a number of a studios. Their work here is extremely well done, but in a few cuts you can see that they’re green behind the ears. There’s also something of a consistency issue between episodes, but for the most part the show looks good. All the girls’ designs are converted from the game’s two art styles to anime’s singular style very well and they all look extremely beautiful. The soundtrack is typical eroge-sounding stuff which does the job, and the opening and ending songs along with their respective animations are some of my favourites. The voice cast is brilliant, with some notables being Yuuko Gotou as Kaede, Sayaka Aoki as Sia and hitomi as Primula. Gotou especially just does a wonderful job at sounding like a loving and caring young girl that I simply melt into goo. GOO! Didn’t watch the dub.

FUNimation’s DVD release is mostly competent, with some minor issues here and there. The biggest mistake in this release was having KyoAni’s name show up in the opening logos for the DVD, since they did nothing at all. The sequence of logos seemed similar to that of the Haruhi DVDs, so I suspect Kadokawa sent them that and neglected to remove the KyoAni logo. That little snafu aside, the subs on this DVD seem mostly okay, but there was a noticeable number of instances where phrases like “it is” and “they are” could have been contracted for the sake of flow, but besides that I found nothing wrong. The video quality seems good enough, though it sadly only feels like a slight step up from the TV raws I watched, but I suppose that’s more an issue with the animation than anything else. The menus are well designed and easy to navigate, and the extras are pretty sparse– textless opening and ending plus a small fold-out poster.

Shuffle! is not for everyone. It’s a harem show, pure and simple, but one that’s extremely well done and caters more towards guys with a deredere leaning. To me it’s actually something of a healing show, at least in these opening episodes– watching it just feels so calming and relaxing. So basically it’s like Aria for men even lonelier than the men watching Aria! At least at the moment, things’ll heat up come DVD number 4!

This review has been crossposted to Culture Junkies