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Shining Hearts Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Shining Hearts Blu-raySometimes all you can do is bake bread and give meaning to the world from there.

What They Say:
Over the years, many strange things have washed up on the shores of Windaria, a mysterious island where humans, elves and other beings all live in harmony. Rick, a former swordsman who runs the Le Coeur Bakery with his three beautiful coworkers Neris, Amil, and Airy, knows this all too well, having been found on the beach with a profound case of amnesia himself. Perhaps that’s why Rick takes a quick interest in Kaguya, a girl who arrives in Windaria in a similar fashion.

Whatever the reason, it soon becomes apparent that his skills with a sword may be required to protect the lovely castaway. Dark forces are on the move, the red moon is on the rise, and a deathly wind is blowing into Windaria in the form of pirates, brigands and other strangers, all of whom seem to be seeking Kaguya! Or is it the mysterious pendant that she wears that they’re after? The one thing that’s sure is that there will be no time for loafing around the bakery now, because everything’s about to come out of the oven and go into the fire!

Contains episodes 1-12.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is solid as we get the original Japanese language track along with a new English language dub, both of which are encoded with the lossless DTS-HD MA codec in stereo. The series is one that is for the most part very much a dialogue driven piece, and that has a center channel design about it where there isn’t a lot to really draw on for most scenes to allow it to stand out. When the series shifts to the action side of things, it does ramp it up a bit in most of the episodes, but it’s not something that’s consistently in each episode nor does it really go in a big way for a lot of it. It’s only in the final episodes where it just goes really big that it gets a chance to shine and it handles things well there with a larger and richer feeling to it, but one that’s still a bit muted overall. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2012, the transfer for this twelve episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs with nine episodes on the first and three on the second, which is also where all the extras are. With animation by Production IG, the series has a good sense of color and design about it with a very bright and natural color palette that’s very appealing as it uses a lot of greens, blues and light colors. THe character designs are all pretty well detailed and avoid simplistic fantasy designs so there’s a lot to like there and the details that can be found throughout. Generally, it has a solid feel with good colors, but there’s a fair bit of gradients that are visible in places as well as some noise in darker scenes and some of the more earthy colors. It’s not hugely distracting, but once you see it, it stands out more. There’s a lot to like with the look of the show overall but it’s not a strong looking release in some areas.

Presented in a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds both discs against the interior walls, the front cover artwork is pretty much spot on here as we get the three main girls in their normal and very detailed outfits surrounded by loaves of bread and other baked goods. It’s bright, colorful and very appealing in a cute and simple way as it has them all smiling and happy with not a single schoolgirl outfit in sight. The logo along the top is kept simple and in theme with the cute hearts attached to it and it lays out the episode count well. The back cover goes for some cute red and white check material and an array of character images and a few shots from the show as well as a decent premise section that covers the basics without trying to spoil too much. The discs extras are clearly listed and the technical grid covers everything cleanly and accurately. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for this release is pretty cute though it utilizes material from a single episode and just a small part of it at that. The layout has a simple look to it with a bland background and a decent rundown of the episodes by number and title along the left, which is clean, clear and very easy to read making for easy navigation through this, the language setup and the extras on the second disc. The bulk of the menu is given over to the character artwork which has the three girls in skimpy swimsuits that show off lots of skin. It’s cute, definitely nicely designed and and certainly appealing, but with it being such a tiny part of the show, it’s just so overt. But sometimes that’s what works. Submenus load quickly and easily and we had no problems navigating and getting around.

The release has a good selection of extras that will definitely please fans of the show since they’re almost all about the fun. We get the standards in the clean opening and closings, which are welcome, but we also get the Le Coeur Travelogue, which is a series of six shorts that run a couple of minutes each and gives the cast a chance to get in chibi mode and just be silly. The other is a series of six short picture dramas for most of the main cast which also runs a couple of minutes each and adds a bit more fun and character material to the show.

Shining Hearts
Shining Hearts

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the PSP game of the same name from 2010, Shining Hearts is a twelve episode series in a sort of fantasy setting animated by PRoduction IG. There’s been a few Shining Hearts genre games out there before this but it’s never anything that’s appealed to me, so I’ve gotten to go into the show pretty much with no preconceptions about it, other than numerous people making bread jokes as I indicated I was about to start watching it. Fantasy shows are pretty mild for the most part these days and this one is no exception, instead being more of a slice of life kind of show than anything else, though it’s one that goes for some big action towards the end and with a few nods along the way.

The show revolves around the primary cast of Rick, a Drifter who had washed ashore some time ago on the island of Windaria. He lost most of his memories when he had woken up – something that seems to have happened to many others who washed ashore and are Drifters as well – but he lucked out in being found by a trio of girls named Neris, Amil and Airy. The trio of girls have been working a bakery called Le Couer and doing decently and Rick ended up working there as well, learning to do a lot of the baking and getting an education from an older woman named Madera who takes care of many of the Drifters who come to Windaria in some form. Rick found a real calling when it came to baking bread and has truly excelled at it, though there’s been some questions about his past since he washed ashore wearing armor and having a sword. It’s like he’s gotten a second shot at life, but the question of what the first shot was lingers in the air.

Much of the show is about the bakery and the connections these four have to many other people through it. While Rick isn’t at Madera’s level with what he can create, he’s definitely very popular and between the people that come in to get stuff and the many deliveries they do throughout the island, the bakery is always busy and all four of them contribute in positive ways. Because of how the bakery works, we get exposed to a lot of other characters, from visiting pirates to bar owners and to an antiques dealer catgirl named Xiamo who is also a bit of a cat burglar that has been thieving at the castle in order to acquire things she doesn’t believe truly belongs to them. Add in a dwarf named Hank that works as a solid construction person in a number of ways, another Drifter named Kaguya that slowly wakes up on the island and a mysterious Automaton that Hank has discovered and is keeping under wraps and you get a sense of a lot of mysteries going on.

Under the right hands, it could all have a very Twin Peaks kind of appeal about it with the layering and quirky characters, but because of what it actually is, it’s pretty simple and easy to suss out as it progresses. A good chunk of the show is just about the basic interactions and expanding our knowledge of the characters. Sometimes there are threats along the way – a storm arrives and we see how those who work in the bakery manage to warn everyone else first and that saves a lot of hassle and trouble for others – but mostly it’s just harmless for a lot of it. The threat of pirates is dealt with in an interesting way and eventually it all goes very big as some of the nature of the world is revealed with its connected nature to other worlds, and the kind of threat that comes to retrieve Kaguya and the Automaton since they most assuredly do not belong there. But even with these larger threats that we do get exposed to, most of the show really is just about the bread, the business and the simple character interactions.

And the interactions are fun, though they’re not exactly deep. A good part of the focus is on Rick as he has to choose which life he really wants once he gets exposed to his warrior side once again and that bleeds into his baking life in unwelcome ways. We also get the slow mystery of Kaguya to deal with and that builds into the finale as it ties with what Hank has in his shed. But there’s just so much that’s left unexplored and not even given a cursory look when you get down to it. The three girls Rick is with don’t get much depth and little as to who they were before they ended up together and even Hank has little to him when you get down to it. It’s all just very superficial for so much of the cast that all you can really latch onto are the leads and the general enjoyment of the animation and, well, the bread.

In Summary:
I had no idea what to expect going into Shining Hearts, but really, I didn’t expect this much bread. So much bread. Bread everywhere. And it’s such a focus at times too, permeating the lives of the characters throughout and offering ways to draw so many things together. It does work in its own way, going back to the way small communities operate and the interconnected nature of it, so it’s logical and it does work well in that regard as we see some basic social and economic aspects at work here. There’s a larger story that takes shape over the course of it and it has some fun moments to be sure, but there’s not enough there throughout to really draw you in, and it feels like we get a lot of false leads as well with some of the characters introduced. In some ways, I’m not really sure what to make of the show. It has some interesting things to it, and I like the characters and the general idea, but it felt a little too loose and free for my tastes, too unfocused.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Le Coeur Travelogue, I Received Your Heart ~ Shining Hearts Picture Dramas, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: August 13th, 2013
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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