Japanese Title: Shuffle!
Similar: Rosario + Vampire
Watched in: Japanese & English
Length: 24 episodes
- Could be worse.
- Self-insert on A Trekkie’s Tale level.
- The initial setup and harem mean nothing by the end.
- Pathetic drama in the second half.
- Head-to-desk dialogue and relationship dynamics.
Let me see if I understood this. In the first episode, we learn Rin lives with his childhood friend Kaede, who is more his maid and sister than friend, and two new girls join his class, demon princess Nerine and god princess Sia, both wanting to marry him for reasons, followed soon by Loli Primula. And let’s not forget his friend Asa who totally doesn’t want to dunk his meat pickle like the other girls. So how was this greenlit?
Shuffle couldn’t be more of a harem self-insert anime if it tried. This is every harem fan-fic for every universe ever written rolled into one. It has the inexplicable obsession on the dullest guy, a gaggle of girls with the emotional depth of a shot glass, and less effort in its fantasy elements than Timmy’s first drawing. All the supernatural people look like elves, not gods or demons – zero effort.
At first, I didn’t mind Shuffle’s flatness. It was exactly as I expected – a self-insert harem that cycles through each girl, set to weak comedy, mindless and perhaps a tad amusing in parts. But then it tries injecting emotion. Please kill me.
Like the bait and switch masters of garbage Clannad and Kanon, Shuffle starts as pure comedy until halfway, where it drops all for pure drama with a character suddenly terminal. (Someone is always dying in these bait harem, aren’t they?) I didn’t feel for the dying girl, not when wiping out the entire cast would help the plot.
The problem with harems that go emotional is that they’re terrible at emotion, but they’re also terrible in the first place for having no emotion or depth. What to do then? If insistent upon the harem premise, multiple prospective partners is fine, but make each relationship meaningful from the beginning. If two girls are after the same boy, it won’t go smoothly (see: Rumbling Hearts). You want the secret? Make good characters first.
Every character in Shuffle is nice, and considerate, and selfless, and perfect (on a superficial, unrealistic level). No one is interesting. Why is it good sitcoms don’t suffer the harem problem when a character dates multiple people across the story? Well, the characters aren’t flat, for one.
Rin picks a girl rather quickly, which was a surprise. A few tears from another girl later and he changes his mind. Great. Ah, it was the start to the cycle of “romancing” each girl in turn. Even better… The writers try pretending Rin must face consequences in the end for the harem, but it’s so ham-fisted and absurd that I laughed at his misery.
“I want you!”
“I don’t want you anymore.” Expect that relationship conflict.
Or, “Oh, you’re with that girl now!”
“It’s not like that!”
“It’s okay, you only tried to bang her.”
At one point, these girls help further Rin’s relationship with another girl, but then get mopey that he’s with the other girl. What? On top of all this, it still manages a few filler episodes. Don’t know how they managed, but by Beelzebub, they did it.
Everything said, Shuffle at no point reaches the idiocy of Clannad and it still has many years training behind Rosario + Vampire’s wretchedness. The first half is mindless comedy harem while the second half is feeble drama. It’s more predictable than anything.
Art – Low
Low budget, minimal animation, lazy fantasy design, and generic characters plague Shuffle’s art. The art style also changes for some characters between scenes, as if two different artists worked without cross-referencing.
Sound – Low
The forced dialogue is on the nose, exposition heavy, and awkward. Some enthusiastic voice work brings fun to the acting, but most is still dull. The dub is better because it gets more ridiculous with the bad script (their pronunciation of ‘Yggdrassil’ still has my head scratching, however).
Story – Low
A guy is beset by five girls of species ranging from human to goddess and must pick one to be with while completing high school. Shuffle is as self-insert a harem as harems get. He cycles through the girls’ problems, cycles through a romance with each, and picks one in the end (thankfully).
Overall Quality – Low
Recommendation: Don’t bother. Shuffle! is like every other harem out there, yet more self-insert than usual.
Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)