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Shuffle! (シャッフル!) Review

July 12, 2009
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Shufflegroup(Source)

And people wonder why male Anime fans are such chauvinist pigs.


Synopsis: In an alternate universe, humans have fully integrated with otherworldly beings known as gods and devils. Unlike the colloquial understanding of gods and devils, these extraterrestrials bear a striking resemblance to human beings but with pointier ears and magical powers. Rin Tsuchimi is a high school student who lives with his childhood friend, Kaede Fuyou. One day, Rin is confronted by two new female transfer students of the other worlds. With the approval of their fathers, the two girls ask for Rin’s hand in marriage.

Review:

It should go without saying that poorly-contrived adult visual novels invariably don’t translate into decent Anime adaptations. Especially when these productions leave all of the outrageous pitfalls intact.

One such production is Shuffle!, an eroge-based Anime that outstrips itself in sheer stupidity. A few episodes in and you might be squirming in your seat, asking yourself why it wasn’t just made into a hentai series.

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Shuffle!‘s indelible legacy makes it hard to ignore in the otaku subspace. The visual novel as well as the various manga, Anime, and light novel incarnations have helped to launch amateur studio Navel out of relative obscurity. Surely Shuffle! should be used as a model for competing adult game developers. But not in the sense that they should strive for an Anime adaptation, but rather for them not to do so, so that animation studios can better allocate their time to something more worthwhile. Like actual hentai.

While not having a linear plot, Shuffle! makes revolutions on each girl as it plays out what is presumably their route contained in the visual novel. Each girl fulfills a certain archetype, as per usual for any harem series. Kaede Fuyou is the caring childhood friend who inexplicably has these deep-seated compulsions that make her cater to Rin’s every desire, including dinner, laundry, and any other household chore that demands a woman’s touch; Asa Shigure is the effervescent upperclassman who outwardly states that she isn’t interested in dating him, and yet still feels the need to playfully flirt with him in front of her peers, even pressing her bare breasts against him for fun (read: slut); Sia is the God princess who is always cheerful, and that’s it; Nerine is the shy-moé Devil princess who is easily embarrassed and likes to cry at inappropriate moments; Primula is the obligatory loli with a deadpan and stoic demeanor, and ironically enough the only interesting character on the show.

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If a harem series is meant to be defined by the diversity of the female cast, then Shuffle! excels in its fresh character designs. You’d think from the above descriptions that the personality of said characters would be safe bets when played out in the Anime itself. But it’s when the characters open their mouths that you’ll wince and forcefully turn off your monitor in disgust. Perhaps the Anime made some directorial changes to the behavioral aspects of the girls in comparison to the visual novel, but through an odd stroke of casting luck, all of the characters are extremely annoying, males and side characters inclusive. It’s hard not to cringe when you wish some of the more reticent characters to do something uncharacteristic and actually grow a backbone, while some of the more obnoxious characters would just shut up with their awful jokes and shrill voices. Although male leads aren’t meant to be the main focus in a harem series, Rin is nevertheless a painfully forgettable character.

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Advertised as a romantic “comedy,” Shuffle! is anything but. The same gag about Rin being hunted down by legions of angry fanboys gets tired fast. The writing is also gag-inducingly cheesy: “Oh, Rin. Is it OK for me to fall more in love with you?” followed by unnecessary crying and a sappy classical score. You also have your fair share of episodes about shopping for panties, forgetting to wear your panties, having your panties washed away by a riptide, and so on. Oh, and there’s also this little kid who’s probably going to grow up to be a rapist because of his exhibitionistic fetish involving upskirting women in public places.

Quite honestly, you could skip episodes 2 to 23 and still get the gist of the lackluster storyline. The first 10 or so episodes are devoid of any plot and are filled to the brim with pantyshot humor. After making a full revolution with each of the girls, it does so again but with a dramatic twist for each girl. While careening into drama is something that a lot of directors do with masterful precision, for Shuffle!, the execution couldn’t have been more off course. The resolution for each of the girls is highly anticlimactic.

The OP song, You, is suprisingly well-directed and animated, almost shamefully so. As if to raise your spirits even higher so that your expectations can be thoroughly crushed within the next 20 minutes. The ED song, Innocence, is a mellow and hum-worthy ballad that acts as an aural stress ball so that you don’t experience a violent impulse to strangle someone after watching this garbage.

If fanservice and upskirt camera angles are your idea of fun, then you might derive some humor out of Shuffle! Otherwise, you’d be advised to just ignore this pathetic excuse for an ecchi comedy. The only justice is that it was licensed for distribution in North America by Funimation.

Art/Animation: C
Story: D
Music/Soundtrack: B-

Overall: D

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