Kaede is a devoted high school student who lives with her adopted brother Rin. She holds a quiet confidence that one day, when Rin finally starts showing interest in sex, he will make the obvious choice and turn to his loving sister. But what Kaede wasn’t counting on was the lords of heaven and hell coming to Earth, wanting Rin to mate with their nubile daughters! Rin, like any teenager would, takes full advantage of his newly acquired harem; but how long can he keep up his carefree, boxed-lunches-on-the-rooftop lifestyle, as the horde of girls on his tail grows?
StoryHarem anime shows are frequently like Marmite – you either love or hate them; there is no middle ground. The lingering bitter aftertaste of DearS and Ichigo 100% had sufficiently raised my skepticism of the harem genre, giving expectations that Shuffle! would be another droll fap-fest for the ecchi loving sheeple. I was taken gently by the hand to witness an alluring love pentagle unfold before my eyes. Featuring a plethora of panty shots and packed to the rafters with romantic drama, the series ultimately offers 24 episodes of illicit pleasure. “It’s based on an eroge”, thinks I. “It’s going to be mindless bimbos throwing themselves at an otaku loser”. Setting the scene in the first episode, Shuffle! certainly follows the tried and tested recipe of the typical harem; introducing Rin as the inevitable lucky boy that the girls worship, his one woman devotee soon accrues company. Things become a little stranger as Nerine and Sia are brought in as the princesses of the demon and god realms – and they are both intent on marrying the clueless boy. Sadly, this otherworldly aspect is used as a rather convoluted plotline that didn’t sit comfortably in the overall high school romance. However the show pulls itself back together by focusing on each female and gathering momentum via small arcs that succinctly explain the motives and reasoning for their undying feelings towards Rin. But what is this? The human side of these people giving emotional attachment to characters in an ecchi show? Unheard of! My initial gripe with the show was that the girls appeared strangely cool about all sharing the same guy. My complaint is swiftly addressed in the second half as jealousy takes hold of one female, and the shock fallout as she goes postal certainly makes the viewer sit up to pay attention. What makes Shuffle! so different to other shows in the same genre is the fearless use of realistic and dark feelings; if we’re honest here, females are fearsome creatures that can unleash their hellcat side when faced with competition. Ecchi anime rarely comes with a convincing storyline, and Shuffle! sits on the fence in the matter. On one hand, the romance, personalities and reactions are believable and watchable; on the other, the demonic Yggdrasil project is a little bit silly and permeates into too much of the story. There are other, more creative ways, to write a backstory and give a girl a mystery illness without resorting to wishy-washy fantasy. Ignoring the minor craziness, the score would have been much higher, and the stark contrast between the first and second halves of the show done seamlessly. The brief moments of fan service fit well into the overall ambiance, raising naughty smirks as virgin crotches "accidentally" press themselves against Rin's face for the umpteenth time. It never intends to be a high brow, intellectual series, but Shuffle! certainly manages to surprise those viewers only out for a bit of fun.AnimationWith the artists seeming to work on a shift pattern, the standout moments of animated brilliance are tarnished by those built on pure ugliness. The first few episodes feature poorly proportioned characters with misshapen faces loosely tacked on to drab, lifeless backdrops. This is in stark contrast to the allure of lovingly sketched faces during emotional scenes, and the glistening presence of spectacular ample breasts. And not just boobs – Shuffle! breaks the censorship mould and tops the mammary mountains with perfect pink nipples. Then again, most eroge fans look for the visual quality of the fan-service, and the panties and underwear featured in the lingerie shopping episode is certainly varied and tantalisingly sexy.SoundAccompanying the opening credits, the typically romantic tune will stay with you long after watching. As someone who usually dislikes this kind of audio assault, I surprisingly found myself humming along with the melody each time. Although the closing track isn’t as memorable or impressive, the emotional lullaby fits the tone of Shuffle! very well. DO NOT WATCH THIS SHOW DUBBED. Now that we have the formalities out of the way, the Japanese voice acting is excellent. Rin’s rich, syrupy tones will have any right-minded female turn weak at the knees, as the vocal talents of Haruhi Suzumiya’s Kyon are put to use once more. High pitched girlyness suits Kaede and Sia, whilst loli-idol Primula's performance is much more reserved, verging on comically robotic, which fits her character perfectly. Even buxom Beni-sensei delivers a deep feminine growl that will set most groins a stirring.CharactersPacked to the rafters with cliché female love interests, the show even provides colour coordinated hair to make your favourite buxom babe easier to identify. Although initially lacking in depth, there is something to the diverse group of females that gives them a magnetic attraction and appeal to most panty-hungry perverts. From the lolicon’s dream to the cleavage-tastic teacher, Shuffle! also manages to cover the shy “childhood friend” and "back slapping tsundere" fetishes. Playing the part of the typical harem, the female cast step it up a gear as jealousy, anger and dark histories creep into the fray and each character develops through their own mini-arc. Cute girlishness is tossed by the wayside as the show unleashes a no-holds barred bitch-fight. But wait, not only do we have seven stereotyped females to choose from, but act now, and you’ll also receive the clueless male protagonist for half price! My dislike of harem shows usually stem from a feckless guy who wouldn’t have a chance of bedding one female in the real world, let alone six or seven. Breaking the mould, Rin Tsuchimi is a genuinely nice guy who easily deserves the company of girls who would drop their panties for him. With a sensitive and understanding side, his unassuming attitude is often exploited by Asa-sempai as she whips out her boobs to take perverse pleasure in grossly embarrassing the object of her affections.OverallPersonally rating the show a little higher, I have taken into consideration that many people may be turned off by the fearless leap this little harem show takes into darker waters. Even though certain aspects of the plot are spread a little thinly in places, the characters and drama more than make up for the failings. Definitely one of the best ecchi-romance shows available at the moment, it is nice to see a relationship actually blossom, instead of the usual eroge cop-outs that concludes with an unsatisfactory slump. Now, if only there was a real life Rin to fawn over, my life would be complete.
Premise: Rin Tsuchimi together with Kaede Fuyou live together on their own, with Kaede taking care of Rin while they go about their normal routine. Their lives start to get interesting when the Angel Sia and Devil Nerine come from their respective worlds and say they want to marry Rin. From here Rin will have to make a choice, whether to mate with an Angel, Devil, or even another human. Story(8/10): The story follows Rin as he interacts with Sia, Nerine, and other characters as they go about school. Despite the fact that there are fantasy elements in this anime with Angels and Demons and the magic they can use, this anime still feels more like a Slice of Life as it focuses on hardships of relationships and life in general. The Story at 1st sounds like your generic Harem setup with several girls in love with the main character for no real reason, and the main character's best friend who is an open pervert. If those are your thoughts for the 1st several episodes, you can be forgiven, but Shuffle is a different type of harem. One that is done very well. When the girls (Sia and Nerine) 1st introduce themselves to Rin, it is strange that they seem to know about him and want to marry him. They slowly reveal that they interacted with Rin when they were much younger and made a promise which they still are trying to carry out to this day. The other characters (Kaede and Asa) also have a history with Rin and all have their reasons for being with Rin which are slowly revealed throughout the anime. The characters have all had a rough past, mainly dealing wtih loss and factors beyond their control, Rin was there for many of the characters at the time and helped them through it, which explains the devotion the characters have for Rin. As said earlier, there are several fantasy elements present in the anime (magic, split personalities, artificial bodies, Angel and Devil Worlds), but it still feels like a slice of life throughout since the magic plays a small part in it. It is slightly diappointing how the characters don't travel to the mentioned Angel or Devil Worlds a little more, to explore more of what the society of all 3 worlds are (They travel to the Devil World only one time to help an important character). There could've been more background and details to how other characters and the other worlds worked, but the interactions and relationship the characters have with Rin give enough to the story to make it a fun story. Animation(10/10): The animation had a very good flow to it. This anime was made in 2005 and still holds up very well today. It has the style that could be compared to .Hack//Sign, Noir which I was reminded of while watching the anime. There are no fighting scenes (aside from comedic situations) in this anime since its focus is on harem, relationships, and slice of life. The eyes of characters are very good at reflecting their feelings similar to how Higurashi eyes tell a big story about the character. Sound(10/10): Opening and Ending are very good, I watched the opening for almost every episode, and the overall piano focused soundtrack fit the mood and atmosphere of the characters very well at the times it needed to, really intensifying the situations Characters(9/10): Each of the characters brings interesting personalities to the show. Rin has the qualities of what you would expect of the main character. Being nice to the girls and doing what he can to help, as well as being respectful. Kaede has a calm front put on with taking care of Rin and is also nice. Sia is full of spirit and spreads her passion to everyone in the group, while Nerine is polite and tries to better herself by conquering her weaknesses. The main character's best friend Itsuki has the "perverted" factor that many characters similar to him have, but he is funny without being annoying which is very important to make all the characters relevant. The characters and their interactions flow together very nicely. Sia and Nerine's fathers are kind caring fathers and at the same time are total goofballs which makes the scenes with them very exciting. Some of the other side characters get a fair bit of attention as well, which helps expand the relationships of all the main characters. Other Notes: This anime is based on a Visual Novel of the same name, and I haven't read the Visual Novel for it yet so there is no mention of what may be in the VN when I mention the few criticisms I have for this anime. Overall(9/10): The story has a good start and flow, but it feels like there are elements missing that could've expanded more on the world (worlds) of this series. Animation has a good classic feel and flow to it that brings the characters life. The soundtrack is very well done with the piano reflecting every situation perfectly. The blend of characters and personalities that interact with the main character make this a harem done right. Even if you don't like harem as a genre I would still recommend watching this. The characters feel very realistic and face forms of hardship that are very common, but are rarely explored in other types of harem. If you decided to watch this show for the fantasy elements, I would recommend not watching it as the fantasy elements are very small, there's no Lord of the Rings or Berserk present in this show at all if you were expecting it to be similar. It would be classified as "Low Fantasy or Mid Fantasy" I believe. For elements like the romance and characters, I would certainly recommend watching this.
Shuffle! is one of those animes that I can't really pinpoint why I didn't rate it higher, but for some reason I also can't get myself to change my score.Positives: A really easy to watch show with a whole lot of upside. The premise is perhaps nothing all that original or even that interesting, but somehow it comes together nicely and feels if not somewhat original at least not old and stale.I don't remember that many laugh out loud moments with Shuffle!, but I was always enjoying the show and I didn't find myself wishing to return to another arc or character because all of them are interesting and unique in their own ways.I was also nice to see that the "one" wasn't clear from the get go. Early on you get a full episode which explores each of the relationships with the protagonist and you can clearly see how each has merit and is both believable and something you could root for. When you finally find out his choice it's almost a surprise but the show doesn't just die there which is a great relief.The art in Shuffle! is also really well done and the pacing seems to carry things from scene to scene well. I'm always appreciative of an anime that doesn't make me wish I could skip the current episode.Negatives: So what's the main issue with Shuffle! I guess the only real gripe I have is that when it's all said and done I didn't really feel sad to let it go. Sure I wish there was more time to dig deeper into things, but you really feel that the show is more or less finished and there's no need to explore the relationships any more.Now if there was a second season would I watch it? Sure, but unlike some anime I didn't feel any real sense of loss knowing that things had come to a close. That's probably not a good thing.My second complaint with Shuffle! would be the excessive fan service that drips from it. It's so over the top that at times it's more distracting than anything. Now I'm a guy so I can understand why men like their ecchi and all, but when it feels like a game to see how many panty shots you can fit into an episode everything else seems to take a back seat. Perhaps that was the goal, but it just seemed to detract from the series as a whole. I'm sure there's someone doing the math on just how much of this and that works best given your target audience, but I can't think of many anime that were this full of such things.Anyhow, a fun show, good characters, and I enjoyed it all. Hopefully if there's more on the horizon a few revisions have been made and we'll see a few changes in emphasis.
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