|Aired:||07/07/05 – 01/05/06|
Shuffle! initially appears to be your standard harem anime series, though with a little twist. You have the main male character, Rin Tsuchimi, which is actually an above-average male lead for a harem series due to the fact that, despite still being indecisive, he appears to be normal and otherwise someone you could actually see the female characters falling for normally.
Rin is surrounded by 4 girls(well, technically 5, but effectively his choice is between 4 of them): 2 from the human world, 1 from the world of the gods, and 1 from the world of the demons. The two human girls are his close childhood friend Kaede and his tomboyish sempai Asa. Then there is Sia, a goddess princess, and Nerine, a demon princess. They all compete, at some level, and in different ways, for Rin’s attention throughout the series.
The first thing I should warn possible viewers about is that this series is very fan-service laden. So much so that Funimation has decided to give it a TV-MA rating.
The first 11 episodes or so of the series is very much like a slice of life series. Most of the show’s entertainment is being driven by the comedy caused from the girls all trying to get Rin’s attention and spend more time with him. Some of this comedy is also derived from the fact that most of the other boys in the school are angry that Rin is spending too much time with either Kaede, Sia, or Nerine, and are routinely disrupting his life because of it.
Once the series enters it’s second half, it starts getting into the main character’s backgrounds, resulting in a darker and more serious turn in the series. I find this half of the show to be the more interesting half, since we start dealing with actual issues and problems with the characters instead of just happily going around flashing panties, which is what mostly happens in the first half of the series. The girl that Rin starts leaning towards becomes increasingly obvious as the 2nd half progresses, though the end result is still at least relatively in doubt until the end.
Overall, I thought the humorous first half of the show had enough humor to at least make it a decent watch, though if that was all that made up the show, the excessive fan service might have been too much for me. As I noted before, what I think really carried the show was the darker, more dramatic second half. Sure, there was still some comedy thrown in, but no where near as much as the first half of the series.
To some extent, once you’ve seen one harem show you’ve seen them all, but that’s true of many sub-genre’s as well. I think there were several aspects that made Shuffle! unique, especially in it’s second half. Again, I would rate Rin as an above-average male lead for a typical harem show because he seems like your average joe, and not necessarily a loser or a jerk, which is often the case of male lead in similar shows. Also, while the characters are, just by the nature of the show, probably going to be a bit excessively enthusiastic about the male lead, I don’t think it was overdone.
The one big minus I have for this show is, once again, the fan service. There is a good reason it was rated TV-MA, and much of the fan-service is pretty much needless and gratuitous. I’m not sure what reason there was for it, other than to cater for a specific audiences. Other shows have been made from ero-games without stooping to the level of fan-service that appears in Shuffle!.
On the technical aspects of the show, the animation is excellently done, I thought. The music is good, though isn’t anything really to call home about. One of the pleasant surprises in Funimatin’s release of the show, however, is the dub, with everyone’s dub (except perhaps Primula’s) being very well done. I actually thought it was one of the better dubbed shows out there.
Overall, if you just don’t like harem shows, I’m not sure there is enough in Shuffle! to really make this show be an exception for you. However, if you like harems, or at least don’t mind them, I think Shuffle! presents itself as one of the better examples out of that sub-genre, and it might be worth giving it a watch. You might want to give it some time, though, since the better stuff is in the second half of the series. I think I’ll give this show an overall rating of 4 stars. The “story” rating is probably more like 3 1/2 stars, but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and round up to 4 stars.