A Review of “Shuffle!” – Scattered Spiritual Stories

The Main Female Cast of "Shuffle!"To kick off our Harem month here on “The Cajun Samurai”, I’m pulling a show off the shelf that I bought some time ago, but never got around to finishing. This show PROMISED to be a unique tale of love, loss, devotion, betrayal…and then that promise was shattered…then put in a blender and pureed them…then burned in the flame of damnation. Strange when you consider that it’s one of a few blessed shows to earn the Konata Izumi stamp of approval. However, that alone will not save this show from the much deserved wrath of THIS Louisiana Otaku. Prepare yourselves; I’m Cajun Samurai, and we’re about to scuffle with “Shuffle!”

Series Warnings and Other Objectionable Content – Oh, boy… “Shuffle!” is a laundry list of stuff that some viewers might be a little hesitant over. Lemme put it this way; the nudity level on this show makes “Highschool of the Dead” looks tame. Right from the jump, there’s nudity, mostly on the females, and on occasion on girls that look to be younger than 14…and that’s just the opening credits. All bits below the waist are just barely covered, thankfully, but it is unsettling. The eye catches for a lot of the more dramatic episodes feature all our female leads completely nude, their arms covering vital bits. [Why, I don’t know…perhaps to show innocence or vulnerability…] The plot of “Shuffle!” also has some religious aspects involved; I.E Gods and Demons. In fact, the leaders of the kingdom of Gods and Demons are seen to be quite good friends. This might rub some of you more sensitive souls [Nyuk, nyuk…] the wrong way but, as usual, your mileage may vary. In short, for those who are looking for a show that is wholesome family fun…this ain’t it, and don’t let anyone tell you any different.

Series Availability – Once upon a time, “Shuffle!” was available in a six-volume DVD set released by Funimation Entertainment. Nowadays, you can find “Shuffle!” in it’s entirety in the popular Funimation S.A.V.E complete collection in many retailers both online and in brick and mortar stores. Online streaming is also available for those who like their anime digitized.

Story Premise – “Shuffle!” is a twenty-four episode series based off a manga created by a company called Navel. The story centers on our male lead, Rin Tsuchimi and the multiple women in his life. Because both of his parents are deceased, Rin has taken up residence with his doting childhood friend Kaede Fuyou, a pretty high school girl who lost her mother in an automobile

The girls of Shuffle!: Asa (top-left), Kaede (...
The girls of Shuffle!: Asa (top-left), Kaede (top-right), Lisianthus (bottom-left), Primula (bottom-center), and Nerine (bottom-right). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

accident. One day during class, Rin soon finds out that he has been selected either become King of the Gods or King of the Demons by marrying either Lisianthus, the daughter of the King of Gods, or Nerine, the daughter of the King of Demons. Conveniently enough, both girls live with their fathers on opposite sides of Kaede’s house and go to the same school with him and both happen to be good friends. In addition, Rin also must deal with the feelings of his Childhood Friend, Asa Shigure, a tomboy-esque girl who has been harboring feelings for our male lead since they were little. And so the story goes on, showing Rin interacting with each girl, learning more about them, all while trying to come to grips with his own feelings. “Shuffle!” was a real let down for me. It’s a show that tried to do too much, and it fell on its face…hard. It tried to do comedy, and it came off sounding forced; it tried to do drama, and it came off as over-the-top and melodramatic. It’s like the creators didn’t know exactly what they wanted to do, and it shows. “Shuffle!” suffers from something I’m dubbing “Student Driver Story Telling”. This means that the story telling has the habit of being kind of jerky and random. One minute it’s going along fine and dandy, then the next minute, the brakes are slammed on the happy and we’re thrown into the world of overly done melodrama. I’m all for plot twisting and shocking revelations in anime; in fact, when it’s done right, it can turn what looks like a stereotypical and boring anime into something outstanding. “Shuffle!” however, is rather clumsy with it, giving the entire series a weird, over the top vibe that I really didn’t enjoy. Another thing that really rubs me the wrong way about the plot is that parts of it feels like it was written by some sort of perverted fan fiction writer who has been hanging around some of the more sketchy parts of Deviant Art. For example…there’s a whole episode where Sia plans her date out with Rin. NO problem right? She wants to get the man of her dreams. But, after reading a magazine article, she determines that to swing the chances in her favor, she decides to wear [and I’m not kidding…] lucky panties. The whole episode focuses around Sia’s reliance on lucky panties to get her through her date. And so you know what that means. RIIIIGHT! That means panty/crotch shots aplenty! Stripes, polka-dots, stars, you name it. We see it all whether we like it or not. Another thing that annoyed me; it’s never fully explained exactly why Rin is the lucky guy who gets the “honor” of picking whether he wants to rule over Gods or Demons. I mean, one WOULD think that this would be explained at some point…maybe I missed it, but I sure as heck didn’t see it. The ending…well…it sucks. That’s all I can really say. I got no kind of satisfaction over how this show ends, only the fact that it ended gave me any kind of pleasure. If the show had ended after Episode 21, I would’ve been content….more than content. So content in fact, I would’ve given it a few extra points. So, yeah… while I give “Shuffle!” props for TRYING to be something more than just your typical harem…it tried a little too hard with its “Student Driver Story” and blew out the enjoyment transmission. [14.7/25]

Favorite Scene – Oddly enough, I have to say that the last episode was my favorite for two reasons: one because we get to see Primula acting all cute, and two, because I realized that I was finally done with this anime.

Characters – [Hey, I’m going to try something a little different for the Character section. Lemme know what you guys think!]

Rin Tsuchimi Rin is our male lead. Yep. That’s about it. He’s just your average anime high school teenager. He’s a “Plot Convince Orphan”: that is, he lost both his parents just so that he can live with our Childhood Friend character, Kaede whose mother died in the same accident with Rin’s parents, and whose father is always out on “business trips”. Rin is an OKAY male lead, but his ability not to make any kind of a decision until the 2nd to last episode really annoyed me.
Kaede Fuyou Harem Member #1 and Rin’s doting childhood friend. She lost her mother due to an accident which she unfairly Rin, causing her to let out frustrations on him abusing him in all sorts of different, twisted ways. After Kaede uncovers the truth regarding her mother’s death, she then devotes her entire life to serving and pleasing Rin. Seriously, she goes all out for this boy, working herself to the bone, even to the point of sickness to keep him happy and make atonements for what she’s done. I just don’t get Kaede, truth be told. Okay, so you lose your mom and you jump to the conclusion that Rin was somehow responsible…So what do you do? You torment him. MAYBE I can understand that. But then, when it finally comes out that Rin was NOT responsible, not only do you apologize, but you COMPLETELY and UTTERLY humble yourself to him and wait on him pretty much hand and foot. You make yourself a lesser person to try and make amends for something HE’S ALREADY FORGIVEN YOU FOR! And don’t get me started with what happens when anyone else DARES to try and show any kind of affection towards him towards the latter episodes…she gets CRAZY.
Lisianthus [AKA “Sia”] Harem Member #2 is the daughter of the King of the Gods. She’s pretty fiery and more ambitious than her friend Nerine, yet she still possesses insecurities when it comes to dealing with her feelings for Rin. Overall, Sia is an okay character, but I would’ve loved to have explored her backstory a bit more. I mean, we only get a few little bits here and there in an episode, and even then, that information is always overshadowed in some way by other characters,
Nerine Harem Member #3 is the daughter of the King of the Demons, though you wouldn’t know it looking at her because she’s so demure and shy; Think along the lines of Hinata from “Naruto”. She’s extremely sweet and nice, wanting everyone to get along all while trying to work her way into Rin’s heart [And no doubt his pants…] I didn’t have too much of a problem with Nerine, aside from the fact that, like Sia, she didn’t have too much depth to her character. I mean, I wanted to know a little more about her, and she looks like she had a lot of potential to be a really good character…but she didn’t quite live up to that potential.
Primula Harem Member #3.5. Primula isn’t interested in Rin as a lover, but more like an older brother whom she can cling to. Her story is by far the most interesting of all the other characters, and if the show was focused simply around the issues she had to deal with, then maybe it wouldn’t be as bad. Out of all the characters, I have to say, Primula is my favorite because she has the most growth in the series, and she’s nowhere near as annoying as the other full-fledged harem member’s.
Asa Shigure Harem Member #4 and our resident tomboy. My second favorite character, aside from Primula. I like her because she’s probably the most normal of the group. I found myself rooting for her more than anyone else in this dawg gone series. Her backstory is, by far the most interesting, and I was more interested in her than just about anyone else.

So, overall, the characters of “Shuffle!” are a combination of stereotype harem standards, mixed with some mysticism and magical powers that don’t really lend themselves to the overall development of the story. While some characters had potential to make this whole anime believable and even enjoyable, the fact remains that the cast of “Shuffle!” didn’t do the story any favors. [14/25]

Animation – When I saw “Shuffle!” for the first time in 2008 on a NewType USA DVD, I found myself thinking “Wow, this show is VERY bright and well-drawn.” Five years later, and I have the same opinion, just slightly modified. Now my opinion on the animation of “Shuffle!” is “Wow, this show is The Moral Bear Seal of DisapprovalVERY bright and wel-dra—geeze, another panty shot?!” Lemme explain. The animation itself is really good; the colors are very well done and character designs are some of the best I’ve seen. It’s a really beautiful anime to watch with loads of detail to keep me interested. I also have to say that I really like the design of the school uniforms, especially the winter ones. Overall, the show is a joy to look at animation wise and it would earn full marks from me…were it not for the ridiculous fan service shots and fan service scenes throughout. I already covered the infamous “Panty Date” Episode, but there are plenty more examples throughout the series. This show is NOT shy about showing the female form in various stages of undress and, while I typically don’t have a problem with that, I do have a problem with watching an anime and all of a sudden pair of breasts flash up on the screen or an unexplained upshot of a skirt or a superfluous shower scene where little to nothing is left to the imagination. It’s all just too much and it gets wearing after a while. I know this show was based off of a light novel and an adult video game, but really, tone it down a bit! Seriously, this show shows more breasts than Burbon Street during Mardi Gras! [5/12.5]

The Full Cast of "Shuffle!"

Music – Ugh… The music in this one leaves much to be desired. The only thing this show has going for it music wise is its opening and closing themes. “YOU” by YURIA is all kinds of awesome. It’s upbeat, catchy, and more than worthy of being blasted from a car stereo. [Please don’t ask…] The opening animation paired with it is just as fast paced and colorful…save for the brief 2 second shot of two little girls with no shirts on. Can you say “Awkward”? Or worse, can you say “Pedobear”? The ending theme, “Innocence” is mellow and comforting, playing over a subtle episodic recap scene rather nice. Where “Shuffle!” falls on its face once again is its incidental music. It’s horrible to the highest degree. While it could be argued that the music was the creators attempt to bring the feeling of the original video game into the anime, the effect was lost on me. The music took me out of the scenes completely and I just couldn’t take it seriously even during the serious moments. [5.5/12.5]

Performances and Production – “Shuffle!” was created by Studio Asread with director Naoto Hosoda at the helm. Hosoda-san has had his hand in quite a few projects including “Aria: The Natural”, “Moribito – Guardian of the Spirit” and “Bamboo Blade”. Here in the US, the project was taken up by anime licensing warlords Funimation Entertainment with Carrie Savage directing episodes 1-4, Leah Clark taking up episodes 5-8 and Todd Habberkorn batting clean-up with episodes 9-24. Here’s how the main cast breaks down:   

Characters

Japanese Voice Actor/Actress

English Voice Actor/Actress)

Rin Tsuchimi

Tomokazu Sugita

Jerry Jewell

Kaede Fuyou

Yuko Goto

Carrie Savage

Lisianthus

Sayaka Aoki

Brittney Karbowski

Nerine

Haruka Nagami

Caitlin Glass

Primula

Hitomi

Cherami Leigh

Asa Shigure

Monica Rial

Miki Ito

Eustoma

Jurota Kosugi

Travis Willingham

Forbesii

Toshiyuki Morikawa

Vic Mignogna

As you can see, “Shuffle!” is made up of an all-star cast of actors in both languages. Everyone does an outstanding job considering the odd pacing of the story, and the dialogue is very well written. That’s one thing you can always say about the staff at Funimation; regardless of the show, the writers and actors will do their absolute best to remain true to the original while making it accessible to its western audience. [25/25]

Scoring Summary:

Story Breakdown – 14.7/25
Characters – 14/25
Animation – 5/12.5
Music – 5.5/12.5
Performance and Production – 25/25 

Final Score – 64.2/100 = 64.2% – (F)

Lagniappe (A Little Something Extra):

  • In the commentary track for Episode 26 of “Mushi-Shi”, Travis Willingham mentioned that he was working on “Shuffle!” at the time the recording was made.
  • Ironically, Vic Mignogna, the actor who plays Forbesii, the king of the demons, is a full-fledged Christian. [Typecasting? You’re doing it wrong…though, I don’t know…reading all the stuff written about him on some of the “Star Trek” forums, you would think he were the devil incarnate…]
  • In the anime “Lucky Star”, several “Shuffle!” characters are seen on promotional materials throughout the series. Konata is also an avid fan of the “Shuffle!” manga.

So where does that leave us? Simple: I can’t in any good conscience, recommend “Shuffle!” to anyone, even if a certain blue haired, knee sock wearing otaku thinks it’s the best thing since maid girls. [And no, I’m NOT talking about Otaku Andrain; I’m talking about HER…]. The story is jerky, the characters are un-relatable, the animation is perverted and leaves you feeling dirty, and the music, save for the opening theme, is comical. The only things that this show has going for it is the beautiful animation [when it’s NOT making the viewer feel like a pedo for watching it…] and the excellent acting and writing work done by the crew at Funimation. While it does have its high points, they were few and far between and clearly not enough to have “Shuffle!” earn a passing grade.

Dang…you know, this has not been the most auspicious of starts to the year 2013 in terms of reviewed anime. “Shuffle!” makes the second show that’s scored less than passing this year Wow. Looks like I might have to rethink my position on the number 13 being bad luck after all. Hopefully this next show will pull up our overall average. It’s a show that I’ve wanted to since I saw it on CrunchyRoll, and now it looks like I might just get my chance! So, continuing on with our “I Love Him! NO! I Love Him! NO I LOVE HIM MORE!!!” Harem month, I ask that you stop by again for my review of…

The Main Cast of "A Bridge to the Starry Skies"

Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi [“A Bridge to the Starry Skies”]

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5 thoughts on “A Review of “Shuffle!” – Scattered Spiritual Stories

  1. Yeah, as I mentioned before, I couldn’t make it past episode one. I commend you for getting all the way through. 😛

    I like the tables – especially the last one with the VAs!

    1. Heh, thanks a bunch! My job gave me an EPIC discount on Microsoft Office 2013, so I decided to go ahead and get it. I was playing around with features when I noticed that I could post straight from word to my blog! So I decided to try a few new things with this post to see what works, what doesn’t and just have some fun…heck, after watching THIS anime, I needed some amusement. 😛

  2. Honestly the show isn’t nearly as bad as this review says it is. (Granted I’m probably bias over the visual novel because I love that game.) There are a lot of worse shows out there as far as fanservice. When it comes to shows like Highschool of the Dead the fanservice gets in the way of the show as a whole and it’s plot. This show is a straight up harem and the ecchi is more or less the point of the show. A lot of harems work this way. I don’t feel as if this reveiwer judged this show correctly. I feel as if his expectations were set up for a different kind of show. Of course it is his opinion and he has a right to it. Just like I have my right to this opinion. I just don’t want anyone to be turned away from one review.

    1. Hey, thanks for the feedback. I do have to mention that while the Fanservice in this show was a major factor for it’s low score, it was not the only factor. I gave it a low score because I felt that this show was trying to tack on too much to the core harem story and it toppled over. In my opinion, “Shuffle!” started up with a core harem theme…then they decide to tack on the “world of Gods and Demons” trope. That was okay. It made it interesting. But then you add in the whole story with Primula…then the melodrama with Kaede’s back-story, then Asa’s mysterious powers and illness, then you have the feeble attempts of comedy dispersed at awkward intervals. The whole thing toppled over like a Christmas Tree overloaded with decorations on one side. And all that was before the fanservice. In my earlier review of “Highschool of the Dead”, I took them to task for the same thing, but “HOTD” did not have as much baggage as “Shuffle!” did, and that’s why it got 4.3 points more in the “Story” section.

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