Pandora Hearts is a supernatural adventure show set in a medieval European-inspired magical world, first aired in 2009. It faithfully adapts a manga of the same name pretty much panel-by-panel and tells a story that contains many recognisable tropes from other shounen coming-of-age stories.
Pandora Hearts is enjoyable watch as the charming characters, the commendable soundtrack and the occasional heartstring-tugging scenes make for an oftentimes engaging experience through the show’s 26 episode run. Although, Alas, Oz and Alice’s journey would have been more memorable if it did not suffer from the show’s inconsistency in storytelling and presentation.
If journeys in a magical world, budding relationships between a likeable cast and coming-of-age stories are to your liking, here are six other anime that you might also enjoy.
Similar Anime to Pandora Hearts
1. Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2014 - December 2014
Magically-charged battles are a hallmark in the anime medium and few shows do them better than the 2015 visual novel adaptation of Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works. Shirou Emiya, the unwitting seventh and final participant (dubbed as a ‘Master’) in a battle royale for a wish-granting device known as the Holy Grail, is nearly killed one night when he wanders into a battle between two Servants, heroic spirits derived from real-world mythology who are summoned by each Master as their ultimate weapon.
The Fate/stay night universe comprises an entire encyclopedia of facts and trivia where every magical concept and each hero have a unique story to support their existence. More importantly, everything that appears on screen looks unbelievably beautiful thanks to the efforts of Studio ufotable, who in recent years have yet to make a show that is not comparable to the most well-produced theatrical films in anime.
If Pandora Hearts is appealing because of its combination of a coming-of-age story with pretty flashes of magic, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works takes those two aspects and puts as much effort as humanly possible to perfect them. If you have already watched Pandora Hearts, you might just find yourself hearing Alice’s voice in this show.
TV Anime Fate/stay night PV 3
2. Kyoukai no Kanata (Beyond the Boundary)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2013 - December 2013
Although watching a character grow up from a journey through their world is a tried-and-true storytelling structure in anime, it also demands a significant amount of time that some viewers simply do not have. Thankfully, many anime series of the last two or three years brings similar degrees of character development in smaller packages. Among them is Kyoukai no Kanata, a 12 episode series first released in 2014 produced by the immensely popular Kyoto Animation as their first foray into a supernatural battle series after years of only making slice-of-life shows.
The show is set in an alternate universe where modern Japan is infested with magical creatures and monsters of all kinds, revolving mostly around a high school that Akihito Kanbara and Mirai Kuriyama, our two main lead characters, attend. The show’s main appeal lies in seeing the dichotomy of the characters’ responsibilities as participants in the business of a magical realm while also trying to lead lives as normal high school students, leading to a story that is as funny as it is tragic.
This struggle to retain one’s sense of normality is familiar to viewers of Pandora Hearts because of the time limit and physical changes imposed upon humans contracted to Chains, forcing them to deal with the fact that they are forever changed from being normal human beings. Both series pose the question of how happiness can be attained and see each of their main leads provide their own answer.
Kyoukai no Kanata does not center the plot development around the male lead, making the storytelling perspective slightly different than that of Pandora Hearts. On the other hand, this lets the show focus on Akihito’s budding relationship with Mirai, which becomes stronger precisely because they are special to each other. If a short but sweet show is more to your favour, Kyoukai no Kanata is your best choice.
Did I mention that Pandora Hearts’ soundtrack was composed by Yuki Kajiura? If you have watched Kara no Kyoukai or Puella Magi Madoka Magica before, you might recognise her choral-inspired soundtrack in Pandora Hearts. Regrettably, no particular track in Pandora Hearts stand out as particularly memorable, making the soundtrack among Kajiura’s weaker works.
TV Anime Kyoukai no Kanata PV 1
3. Tsubasa Chronicle
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 2005 - October 2005
Tsubasa Chronicle is an adaptation of the Clamp manga Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE produced by Bee Train in 2005 and features one of Kajiura’s most awe-inspiring set of background music tracks and insert song compositions. While it is difficult to describe the show as a technical marvel with the really pretty looking shows coming out in recent anime seasons, there is a kind of beauty in how Tsubasa Chronicle’s production team is able to formulate moments of emotional impact during the protagonist, Syaoran’s journey to collect the lost memories for his childhood love, Sakura. Syaoran’s travels brings him through many different universes that references many of Clamp’s past works with some very special easter eggs to viewers who are familiar with them, making it a must watch for any Clamp fans.
Tsubasa Chronicle is, in essence, the show in this list that feels the most like Pandora Hearts when you are watching it because of the similar tools used to establish tone and atmosphere, but does so with a plot that is much more immediately impressive. It is not a show that is likely to be claimed by many as the best at anything but its ability to convey emotion at the right times through its meaningful, dramatic writing and the technical execution backed by truly talented artistic minds make it a hidden gem worthy to be discovered.
Any Animes Like Pandora Hearts ?
4. Ao no Exorcist (Blue Exorcist)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 2011 - October 2011
One thing that striked me as a bit disappointing in Pandora Hearts is the lack of drama relating to the fact that the show takes place in a magical world. Even though the plot revolves around supernatural phenomenon, the events that do lead to drama are essentially the result of human decisions and have little to do with the circumstances of the setting.
Ao no Exorcist is a show that presents a dual world of both humans and demonic beings adds its own twist by having the main character, Rin Okumura, be the son of this anime’s version of Satan. Rin’s struggle to prove his loyalty to humanity despite inheriting some of the strongest powers in the demonic world, especially when mirrored by his human brother Yukio’s unyielding faith in him even after his chaotic awakening, is no less dramatic and engaging than any of the other shows on this list. In order to do this, Rin seeks to become an Exorcist, a qualified fighter who protect humans from threatening monsters, and to find his own place in a world that does not want anything to do with him. Unlike Pandora Hearts, the drama in Ao no Exorcist centers around the fact that Rin is definitely not human and his efforts to prove otherwise makes the show intriguing.
Ao no Exorcist is the closest in the list to being a pure shounen anime series that focuses almost entirely on the development of Rin as a character and provides a consistent stream of battles through many episodic story arcs. The show sports a colourful cast of characters with many dynamics in their relationships that make the show’s depiction of their everyday interactions fun to watch, not unlike Pandora Hearts. The primary focus of the plot is also clearly centered around Rin, who is established from early on to be an integral person within the show’s setting just as Oz is for Pandora Hearts universe, making both shows’ drama hinge upon the decisions and growth of their respective protagonists. For viewers who are looking for a more immersive setting that puts more emphasis on the uniqueness of the main characters as magical beings, Ao no Exorcist might be what you are looking for.
5. Zero no Tsukaima (The Familiar of Zero)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2006 - September 2006
The Familiar of Zero is the closest thing to an anime version of Harry Potter, except that the main character, Saito, quite literally falls into the magical academy pure chance and spends most of his time being fawned over or beaten up by the pretty ladies (the latter often by Louise, the pink-haired female lead) instead of furthering his skill in wizardry. He also ends up wielding a sword, but at least most other characters can blow things up with their wands.
The Familiar of Zero is the quintessential fish-out-of-water anime that Pandora Hearts in some ways kind of is, but is way more interesting because we can easily understand that Saito, for all intents and purposes, is a normal Japanese high schooler who has no idea what he is doing most of the time. Pandora Hearts misses a very important opportunity of establishing the differences between the world that Oz is familiar with and the world he emerges into because we are given so little information about both. On the flipside, because we have our own lives to go by when we see Saito having to sleep in a stack of hay and try to fight against magical golems, it makes every action he takes in the show a fun and engaging viewing experience.
The Familiar of Zero is a much easier watch than Pandora Hearts with their main similarities being the magical battles and dynamics between their pairs of lead characters that are comprised of many adorable moments. Both shows make use of plot devices that link the successes of their male and female leads to the strength of their relationship. As a light-hearted light novel adaptation, The Familiar of Zero is definitely not as dark as Pandora Hearts often is. It is, however, a great watch for the newer anime fans who wants to learn more about the defining aspects of today’s anime or for viewers who just want to have a good time.
Familiar of Zero Trailer
6. Hagane no Renkinjutsushi (Fullmetal Alchemist)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2006 - September 2006
No, not the 2009 version. Bones’ first adaptation of the popular shounen manga Fullmetal Alchemist of the same name in 2004 is groundbreaking, but ultimately forgotten about by dedicated fans of the new adaptation, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which adapts the story more faithfully. This is a shame because there are a lot that the 2004 adaptation accomplishes in its storytelling that cannot be rivalled not only by Brotherhood, but also by most anime series in general.
Edward and Alphonse Elric are two brothers who lost their mother at a young age and, through the powers of alchemy, attempts to resurrect her to life despite knowing that it is taboo to transmute human beings. Their efforts end in disaster as the transmutation process backfires and Edward loses his right arm and left leg while Alphonse loses his entire body and has his soul trapped within a suit of armor, no longer capable of feeling or sleep. A few years pass and they are discovered by Roy Mustang, a state alchemist, who convinces them to also become state alchemists and make use of their authority to find a way to restore their former bodies.
Assuming that you are unfamiliar with both shows, Brotherhood features improved animation (which really comes to the forefront during the fight scenes) and faithfully adapts the ending of the manga as the 2004 adaptation reached the end of its broadcast mid-way through the manga’s serialisation. Whereas Brotherhood is within the boundaries of the shounen genre, the 2004 adaptation takes the direction of being a grim coming-of-age story where the Elric brothers are forced to face the dark realities of their unforgiving world. It is unfair to make the judgement of which is better than the other as they are really two different anime that have defined their respective strengths.
With Pandora Hearts being the frame of reference, the 2004 adaptation is the more similar anime and actually improves upon much of what Pandora Hearts tries to accomplish. The setting and character designs are so eerily similar to those of Fullmetal Alchemist that one might just think that the story of Pandora Hearts can fit in the Fullmetal Alchemist universe. Even the plot, where the shows’ respective main characters start off making regrettable decisions and resolve to redeem themselves almost mirrors one another. Also, the strained relationship that Edward has with his absent father resembles that of Oz’s, both of which becomes an important plot point later into the series. If you have yet to see the first Fullmetal Alchemist adaptation and really enjoyed Pandora Hearts, it is the best next step you can take.
The anime hobby often falls into a the droll of watching one mediocre series after another. However, by breaking down a series and figuring out what made it enjoyable, you can use that to find a show that is really to your liking. This can differ for every viewer, whose personalities and preferences lead to them being impressed by different things even when watching the same show.
Pandora Hearts’ plot is a combination of many storytelling elements but fails in fully immersing the viewer, making it a useful signpost for you to figure out what aspects are interesting to you and what kind of shows you want to look into. Hopefully, you can find something to your liking among the six shows in the list.
If there is anything you would like to add or contest, please feel welcome to do so in the comment below.