Like many of the other manga mentioned so far, I started reading Pandora Hearts after I saw a summary of the show, pre-airing, and thought it looked interesting and I was hooked in pretty quickly. There weren't many chapters scanlated by the time the anime started which actually made it even more exciting, there were even scenes in the opening sequence that the scanlations hadn't gotten to yet and I remember that the scanlators were cranking out chapters at an amazing pace to stay ahead (these days the releases are often several days after other GFantasy stories have been released and it's also been licensed by Yen Press). So this review is going to cover up to where the scanlations are now (just vaugely, currently there are 15 or 16 volumes out in Japan and seven in the US) so, even though I don't plan on giving away any huge spoilers, just be careful if you're a spoilerphobe.
Pandora Hearts by Jun Mochizuki
Oz Vessalius wasn't planning on having an exiting coming-of-age ceremony but it took a turn for the unexpected when a group of people called the Baskervilles, believed to be responsible for when the capital city Sablier vanished off the face of the planet a century earlier, intervene and cast Oz into the Abyss, a broken toybox of nightmares he didn't even believe was real. When there he comes across a chain, the monsters that inhabit the Abyss and who are forever trying to break out into the real world, who looks like a young girl named Alice and forms a contract with her to escape. Once back in the real world he discovers that apparently he, and Alice, are at the center of many people's attention because of their connection to the Tragedy of Sablier and set out to find Alice's missing memories and find out what really happened that day 100 years ago.
Whew, that's the basic set-up for the series, which takes about three or four chapters, and it's gotten slightly more complex since then, it turns out that two-thirds of the cast also has a connection to the tragedy and the characters now know exactly what happened that day, or so we thought until a recent chapter brought up a huge plot twist. I've seen the series compared, never in any great depth though, to Tsubasa: Resevior Chronicles for the number of twists in the story which isn't the most comforting comparison to make but I really do feel like the manga-ka knows what she's doing and has a solid ending for the series in mind. She's willing to kill off characters (there's been on major character death so far and I'm expecting more), the plot is advancing and the mysteries are being explained so, even though I feel like the story will continue for at least another two years, I'm not too worried about the ending yet. I wish the anime would continue but unfortuantly it ended in such a way that a continuation would be impossible*, although given some of the stupid decisions made about the DVDs** maybe that's all for the best.
*in both versions the characters went to Sablier to look for some answers, in the anime they ended up destroying the ruins, in the manga it was the first of the big answer revealing arcs so the city really needs to be around for that.
**someone in Japan decided to add in grain to the DVD release to make it "more artsy," even though that would completely defeat the purpose of using film vs digital imaging, and then someone in the US decided to lighten up the images which made the grain even more visible and quite ugly.