Not so long ago I watched the two seasons of Infinity Stratos. Needless to say if you’ve seen any of my posts, I really didn’t enjoy the show. It was trying to be an action show when in fact it would have done much better as a full harem show with some mechas. In terms of the harem genre though it was my first experience; you might wonder why I’d come back so soon to a genre that didn’t really sit well with me, but I did. So, Shuffle!, a harem show that doesn’t try to be something it isn’t, and before we start let me tell you, that it is definite plus point. For this review I’m going to ignore the plot and give you a run through of each of the girls finishing up with our end result.
Shuffle! is set in a world where the gateway to the realm of the Gods and the realm of the Demons has been opened and the three races (that would include humans), live together in peace. Rin, a human, is your typical high school guy, going about his life as you might expect such a person would. His one quirk, if that’s what we’re going to call it, is that both of his parents tragically died in a car crash so he lives with his childhood friend Kaede and her father, who is often on long business trips. As a result, Kaede behaves essentially as Rin’s slave for almost (no not that) everything. Rin’s relatively normal life gets turned upside down upon on arriving at school one day two new girls arrive claiming that they are both going to vying for his love and hand in marriage. Oh and did I mention that they are the daughter’s of the King of God’s and King of Demon’s respectively. This is all stems from the fact that once they met him in the past and he played with them for a day to keep them happy. Anyway, lets just get onto what they’re all about.
Rin takes on the role of generic harem male. Throughout the course of the show 4 or 5 (depends how you look at it) girls are trying to get his love. All of them have something a little bit unique about them. Let’s run through each of their interactions with Rin and that all important unique selling point:
I’m going to get the proverbial elephant out of the room first. Primula turns up as a friend of one of the other girls a few episodes in but is at the very least two years younger (though it is implied that she is younger than that). She was artificially created in the world of the demons for experimentation for advanced healing magic. Her inability to control the huge amount of magic within her leaves her largely incapable of emotions and at times very ill. Throughout much of the second half of the show time is put in to the story of Rin saving her from losing her emotions altogether. All of that aside I’m reluctant to really call her a love interest because she is just too young, and if she isn’t the writers have made her seem otherwise.
As the daughter of the King of Demons, Nerine takes up a lot of time in the early parts of the show. Personally, of the five here I found her to be the least interesting. However, she does have a huge amount of magical power that results in the blowing up of part of the school. When she was younger she had a terrible illness that was likely to kill her, only to be saved by the sacrifice of her cloned sister Lycoris. As a result of the sacrifice Nerine took on all of Lycoris’ memories and emotions which is why she was in fact in love with Rin. That is until she decided she was in love with him herself. The memories of her sister leave her when she saves the group from Primula’s magic at the end of the arc I talked about above.
Sia is the daughter of King of the Gods and like Nerine she takes up a lot of time in the early part of the show. Unlike Nerine, she is quite involved until the very final mini-arc and happens to also be my favourite of the five. Outgoing and excitable she is the polar opposite to the two previous girls. She is the most proactive in trying to gain Rin’s affection for much of the show (for better or for worse it has to be said). For much of the series you would have said that Sia was the most normal of the lot. However, just when you decide you’ve been imagining seeing different eyes lines and face expressions her quirk appears. She was conceived as a twin, but unfortunately there were complication and Sia’s twin died before birth. To save what there was of her, Sia absorbed what she could while she was in the womb of her sister (! I know, least plausible of the lot, right?). While Sia, as proactive as she is, holds back in her admission of love for Rin, her sister, Kikyou, when she decides to make her appearance, is forward beyond the point of awkwardness.
Rin had to choose someone, and in a refreshing turn of events it wasn’t the one I was expecting it to be. Asa is a senior at the same school as Rin and like Sia she seems to be completely normal for the most part. For the most part, it would seem her only point is that she occasionally falls ill. That doesn’t cover the severity of the situation however, after being chosen by Rin it becomes apparent that Asa is more than just a bit unwell. As a result of a complication, a large amount of magic is pent up in her human body from her demon mother (no pun intended, she’s actually one of the kindest anime mother’s I’ve seen). It all becomes a bit complicated, but from what I can gather she refuses to use magic because she is adamant about her humanity (humans can’t use magic), unfortunately if she doesn’t use her magic she will die. Rest assured, she doesn’t: the way they got around it was disturbing at best and I’ll come onto it a bit later.
Now. Kaede was the black horse of the show. But precisely because of that there was no point where she was entirely trustworthy. She’s lived with Rin for most of her life and is conflicted between loving him and wanting to repay him for the way she treated him after the death of her mother. As all of the other girls get full episodes focusing on why they love Rin so much we sat in wait for Kaede to get involved but it never happened. Not until Rin decided Asa was the girl for him that is. As Rin is out of the house more and more, Kaede gets more and more upset to the point where it changed to anger and we have a full fledged Yandere on our hands. No really, I mean it. Quiet girl goes berserk. Attacking Asa and leaving her unconscious and having to be restrained by Rin. For a while it’s touch and go as to whether everyone is going to survive. Her development really added something to what could have been a fairly standard show.
Early on I said I’d explain as how they got around Asa refusing to use magic. Bear in mind that Rin has for the whole of the show been typical and oblivious to any deeper emotions. So when I tell you that the way he ends up getting his girlfriend to use magic is by severing his own wrists with his modelling knife you should be shocked. Not just because no one saw it coming from Rin’s character but also because it just sends out completely the wrong message. He commits an action of self harm knowing that it will get him what he wants. THAT ISN’T HOW THE WORLD WORKS. There are people out there that this happens to because they are seriously ill, showing it off as a way to get something is not only unrealistic but also irresponsible, if even it is with the best of intentions.
I can’t say it ruined the anime, but it really didn’t sit comfortably with me.
Sound, Artwork and Animation
The sound in Shuffle! isn’t particularly exciting. For the most part it’s a series of unimaginative sounds and backing tracks that could be transposed into a lot of shows. The artwork isn’t spectacular, even if it isn’t awful. You can pretty much say the same for the animation as well. For the art and animation though it’s worth remembering that this is a show from 2006, so it’s not going to be exactly like what’s being released right now.
Episode 19: Unforgettable Sentiments
This is the episode that really changes the show from being average to pretty decent. Kaede who has sat in the shadows for much of the show, is revealed to have a nasty, scary even, yandere personality that she takes out on Asa after Rin spends a lot of time away from the house. The internalisation of her anger and jealousy is all released at once and it really left me unsure as to what would happen in the final few episodes.
Favourite piece of music
This wasn’t a show that particularly stood out for it’s musical score. I can’t really think of a time when the music really took precedence in a scene. The opening (You- Yuria) wasn’t bad though, so it deserves it’s place here:
In most aspects that a reviewer might consider there isn’t really that much that is exceptional about Shuffle!. The harem genre is really difficult to make original and it would be pushing it to say that this is really original. Given that it’s magic based, it’s not far fetched and there’s enough slice of life to make it relatable if that’s what you’re looking for. The interesting points of each of the main characters vary in success, but overall I’d say they’ve done a reasonable job with the girls. Rin is unimaginative and largely typical for a male in a harem show, but it’s difficult to be truly critical of that. It’s also worth saying that the voice acting (of the dub at least), is very good across the board. Shuffle! wasn’t particularly ground breaking, but it was enjoyable and it provided enough twists towards the end with some good characters including one of the best yanderes I’ve come across so far which makes it worthy of my recommendation.