And goddamn is it a good one, both in the visual novel and its anime.
This may end up being a Top 10 down the line, so ahead of time, I would see the Shuffle! anime and visual novel being up there as one of the best in terms of having a full cast of beautiful and interesting characters. Generally speaking, the majority of anime are at best a 66/33 ratio of girls I have at the very least a slight interest in. With Shuffle!, I’m pretty sure that number is at 100% and that goes for not just the main cast, but a lot of the side girls like Kareha, Mayumi and characters even deeper in the Shuffle! universe with related visual novels like Tick! Tack! and Really! Really! with girls like Tsubomi and Ai. In terms of personality, granted there’s more gaps in between the girls, but in terms of overall looks, the majority of them are so close, they’re smooshed together in a big (sexy) group hug.
They all have something to offer too, there’s really something for everyone (who’s attracted to girls) in this group. You want a great wife who’s going to cook and clean for you without an issue (she might snap once in a while, but whatever!), you’ve got Kaede. You want an energetic green-haired tomboy who’ll cling to you from behind while she’s topless, you’ve got Asa. You want a super-happy, outgoing God who’ll bash her father with a chair like she’s a pro wrestler, you’ve got Lisianthus. You want a proper, modest Devil with probably the most beautiful singing voice in the entire world, you’ve got Nerine. You want a cute, yet artificially created younger girl (though if she’s underage…just don’t) that’s relatively quiet, but loves cats, you’ve got Primula. You want a super-hot blonde God who is the cliche daydreamer and has her head constantly in the clouds, you’ve got Kareha. You want a heterochromia, flat-chested beauty who will spend every day until the day she dies defending her same-chested group until the very end, you’ve got Mayumi. Hell, you want the youngest, hottest MILF that will ever existed (that may be because of genetic experiments that have caused her body to stop aging), you even have Ama, who’s Asa’s mother. There’s a massive choice of girls and I’ve still left out plenty.
The show itself for the most part stays very close to the visual novel whether through key plot points, or the little details about the various characters, take for example Kareha being constantly lost in her own thoughts whenever something she perceives as romantic happens in front of her. The show does a great job of translating the insanity of the visual novel, while simultaneously managing to cut out the sex scenes and still retaining the pure sexiness of the series. The show could have really calmed down on the ecchi moments like some visual novel based anime ends up being, but other than not showing nipples and genitalia, there’s really no calming down. Hell, my favourite moment from the visual novel makes its return in anime form, Asa losing her swim top and having to press her chest against Rin’s back to hide her breasts from everyone else.
***MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD FROM HERE ON OUT!!!***
Which brings us to the part of the show that surprised me the most. If you haven’t read my Character Spotlight on Asa Shigure the day before this article goes up, in the visual novel you have many, many choices of girls to go with and end the game with. The anime had to do one of two things, pick one girl or end on a vague note like most harem anime does. Not only did they choose the one girl approach, they chose the one girl I thought there was no chance in hell they’d pick: Asa. I would’ve bet every dollar I had that they’d pick Kaede in the end, she’s the archetypical wife and Japan does love having their waifu. But no, they went with Asa, which includes her crazy, holy shit serious ending. For those unfamiliar with Asa, she’s half-human in a world with Gods and Devils living amongst humans. Her mother is a Devil who married a human male. Like other Devils, Asa does have magic powers, though she chooses not to use them. After being hospitalized near the end of the series, her refusal to use her magic becomes a major hindrance to her own life, which of course upsets Rin to no end, being in love with her and all. It gets to the “WHAT THE FUCK?!” point in the last episode where in order to force Asa to use her magic, Rin actually slits his wrist with a pair of boxcutters, telling her he refused to live without her. A bit extreme if you ask me and it certainly caught me off guard.
That’s something this series does quite a bit, especially in the second half. The first half is very cheerful, a lot of fun, sexy fun at that. But once we pass the halfway mark of this 24-episode beauty, things start to get a little twisted, a little dark and a little uncomfortable. Kaede is the other half really of the twisted sections of Shuffle! as she’s portrayed as the likely candidate for Rin’s affection. She’s been taking care of him since they were kids after an accident that claimed the lives of her mother and Rin’s parents. When Rin initially starting getting close with Asa, she suddenly turned very violent (and I mean VERY VIOLENT!), the already trouble mind of a girl who lost her mother and was starting to lose really the closest thing she had left in terms of family activating and turning the volume up to 11. Well…more like turning up the crazy to 11. It’s those events that are the reason for her perfect wife portrayal around Rin, it’s the way she tried to atone for her actions. Though she still gets a little crazy when all the new girls start showing up as well.
Kaede and Asa’s story arcs are two extremes, one I did not anticipate when watching this anime. I really did go into this thinking it would just be a fun ecchi harem anime, but man was I wrong! At a time, Kaede exudes the “yandere” characterization that is uncommon in most anime, least the ones I’ve watched. Yandere essentially describes a character who while showing affection to their respective love interest, is also a psychotic and extremely violent person. Thankfully she doesn’t fully snap and manages to catch herself before seriously injuring or even killing someone in the process. And believe me, if she killed Asa Shigure, I’d be spending the rest of my life trying to figure out how to make anime characters real. Asa’s situation on the other hand was just irritating to me. The whole slitting Rin’s wrist thing was extremely unnecessary, I thought. There had to be a better way to accomplish what they set out to do. They didn’t need to tread on ground that I reserve solely for School Days, an anime I would never impose on someone, even if I hated them.
Taking away just the ending of the series (I didn’t mind Kaede’s yandere stuff, mainly cause nothing serious happened), I still enjoyed a lot of Shuffle!, though if I was to suggest it to people to stop around Episode 20 or so, avoiding the final episode at all costs, I really got super uncomfortable at the end, though I’m not big on blood and gore, especially self-inflicted so it could just be me here. But in terms of a good comedic harem anime, Shuffle! certainly does the job, it’s funny, there’s a ton of girls for the viewer to choose from and is just overall a very entertaining show.
I’m just gonna pretend the anime chose to go the vague path and everyone’s still chasing Rin at the end. And that’s actually not because I want Asa all to myself, I just don’t want to put up with the violent drama. I was enjoying the sexy fun, Shuffle! Why’d you have to kill my buzz, man?!