published in Empire No.86, Sydney
Many Japanese legends work from the ancient notion of there being three worlds, inhabited separately by Humans, Demons and Gods. Numerous variations exist in anime, and Shuffle is a tame version of this premise. High schooler Rin is mysteriously targeted as being betrothed to two princesses – one from the Demon realm and one from the Gods realm. Each has shifted into houses either side of Rin – with their fathers. But the King of Gods and the King of Demons are less omnipotent beings and more doting fathers concerned about their daughter’s success in winning the heart of Rin.
Absurd? Undoubtedly – but this teen comedy anime fulfils what is required of its form, and Shuffle’s first collection is peppered with horny gags, teen angst and erotic frissons. But what makes Shuffle most interesting is its manifestation of ‘moe’. It’s a hard concept to articulate, but it relates to a post-otaku condition of men (not teens anymore) who long for domestic maidens to clean up after them and be sexual in a strangely distanced way. Rin’s domestic life with live-in maid Raede is a snapshot of this uniquely Japanese fixation, making Shuffle an anthropological curio as well as competent teen fare.