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Shining Hearts Complete Collection Anime Blu-ray Review

8 min read
Shining Hearts Blu-ray Complete Collection
Shining Hearts Blu-ray Complete Collection

The character designs are gorgeous, but I hope for Sega’s sake that the game is more exciting than this anime adaptation turned out to be.

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 SHINING HEARTS!

Includes all 12 Episodes on 2 Discs.

The Review:
Audio:
For this viewing, I listened to the 48 kHz 2.1-2.3 Mbps (the rate varied during playback) 2.0 DTS-HS MA English track. The sound is crisp and clear for the most part without any notable dropouts or distortions, though in one episode near the end, a long voiceover with muted music in the background does have a rather sudden transition to the music at much higher volume once the voiceover ended. Otherwise, the sound is well balanced.

Video:
Originally airing in spring 2012, the show is presented in its original aspect ration of 16:9 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The video is really quite beautiful as the colors are bright and rich. Bitrates are all over the map, but the image doesn’t seem to suffer from it at any point, with nine episodes on the first disc and the three last episode, plus all of the extras, on the second.

Packaging:
Standard blu-ray keepcase. The cover features a picture of the three main girls, Amil, Neris, and Airy and in the center the true star of the show: baked goods. Sure, most people will be looking at the cute girls, but the bread is front and center, which is at least truth in advertising. The back of the case artwork shows some fanservice shots of the girls and one of the male lead, Rick, holding a sword, which he does only about 15% of the time.

The disc art uses images two of the other girls in the show, Xiaomei and Kaguya, both of them holding…you guessed it, bread.

Menu:
The menus have a static fanservice image of the three main girls, Amil, Neris, and Airy. There is no music in the background. Load times are quick and the menus are serve their purpose well enough.

Extras:
A good number of extras beyond what should be thought of as the standard inclusion of cleaning opening and ending animations as well as trailers are present, all on the second disc. There is both a six-part omake of shorts, partly done in flash animation, partly done normally called “Le Coeur Travelogue,” and then there is a six-part set of “picture dramas,” though that’s not exactly a good description of what they are. The omake shorts are interestingly fully dubbed and provide c.3-4 minute comedy pieces that are mainly in super-deformed designs. They play off the action in the show that was current for the original volumes they would have been released with in the original Japanese release, but keep to a light tone. The “Expressing My Heart” picture dramas are not like most picture dramas, which often use static images with narration. These ones instead re-use animation from the show, with narration (subbed only) by six of the female characters from the show, giving us a look into their feelings about events, though mainly feeling like nothing more than a repetition of what happened in the main show. So, the omake shorts are definitely worth checking out for the silly gags, but the picture dramas are only for the devoted fans who want to spend some more time with the girls.

Shining Hearts
Shining Hearts

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Shining Hearts–Shiawase no Pan– (the subtitle translates as “the Bread of Happiness”) is the 2012 anime adaption of the 2010 PSP game by Sega Shining Hearts, produced by Production I.G and directed by Itsuro Kawasaki. The game is part of a larger series of games all featuring the word Shining in the title, and the most recent ones, including this one, have had character designs by Tony Taka, an artist well-known for creating very attractive female character designs for games.

But none of that really matters, since this show is about bread. No, seriously, this show is about bread.

We are first introduced to Rick, who lives on a ship that seems to be permanently beached on the island of Windaria. He is woken up every morning by the trio of lovely young women who work with him at the bakery Le Coeur: Amil (who has a rather rustic look with that odd handkerchief-like headdress that the Japanese think European peasants once wore—see Alicia Melchiott of Valkyria Chronicles), Neris (who is also in a peasant girl outfit, but one that is meant to show off her sizable upfront assets), and Airy (who dresses like a nun, but with a miniskirt; I highly doubt any real order of nuns would approve). The first several episodes largely consist of the four of them baking bread, delivering bread, and selling bread. Oh, there is the occasional foray into the island to gather materials (which from what I have read about the game, which I have never played, would appear to be an homage to one of the basic tasks the player must undertake), during which they meet elves…which has basically zero further bearing on the story. Look! There’s elves. … Let’s move on.

I get the feeling that the animation production team did not find the game’s story compelling enough to try to translate to the screen, though this has resulted in there being not much of a story at all. Sure, there is the mystery of Rick’s past (he is a Drifter, someone who washed ashore on Windaria with no memory of his past) and then an even more mysterious Drifter, a woman named Kaguya, washes ashore after a fierce storm that followed the moon turning red. That last bit is a major plot point, so I won’t give away what red moons mean, but those wishing to know will get their wish. Several times. And several times more, as they like to repeat bits of exposition over the course of the show.

Suffice it to say, the mystery of Kaguya connects to the mysterious, lifeless automaton named Queen which Hank the dwarf (oh look! There are dwarves in this world! … Let’s move on) has hidden in his shack, and it all ends in a massive battle with an enemy who appears to have modern weapons technology as opposed to the faux medieval fantasy world that Windaria seems to be.

But none of that, nor cat girls (Xiaomei the antique dealer/burglar), nor fox girls (Rouna, the maid/cook/ninja to Princess Rufina), nor witches (Melty, the ice cream-loving witch), nor mysterious/annoying royals (Prince Ragnus and the aforementioned Rufina) really matters that much, since throughout the show, the real star and focus of attention is bread and baked goods. I like bread. I like baked goods. I enjoyed Yumeiro Pâtissière back when it streamed a few years ago and threw more baked goods at us than one could count. But this was boring. In a game setting, where you have to carry out quests, gather materials, and craft items (including bread), there can be a certain satisfaction involved in the process and especially in seeing the end result. Here, the lack of a strongly envisioned story, noticeable character development, and any kind of hook that could really get a hold of my interest beyond hot female character designs made the bread stick out all the more. It’s not that they spend the entire show baking, selling and delivering bread, but so little else happens for much of the show that it feels that way at times.

Even the final battle that takes up the last few episodes could do little to rouse me from my gluten-induced near-slumber. It doesn’t matter that Production I.G is a veteran company that produces beautiful animation. It doesn’t matter that Tony Taka’s female characters are gorgeous. There was so little in the way of either story or character evolution, it was hard to work up any feelings about how the characters would fare in the final conflict.

It may well be that fans of the game will have a very different take on this, taking great enjoyment from seeing their game characters walk and talk in full animation. For those of us who have not played Shining Hearts, however, it’s not that interesting a ride.

In Summary:
Watch three cute girls and one guy bake bread. Sure, you will also get to see elves, a dwarf, a cat girl, a fox girl, an android and a whole mishmash of both medieval and modern technology, but all of that takes a backseat to making bread, delivering bread and occasionally eating bread. Unless you really love bread that much, or you’re a huge fan of the original source, the game Shining Hearts, I don’t think this is going to be that entertaining a show. It’s not horrible by any means, but it lacks any strong reason to make you want to watch it.

Features: English 2.0 DTS-HD MA, Japanese 2.0 DTS-HD MA, English Subtitles, Le Coeur Travelogue omake, Expressing My Heart – Shining Hearts Picture Dramas, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation, trailers.

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

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: August 13th, 2013
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 16:9

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL-32S5100 32-Inch 1080p LCD HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Sony Bravia DAV-HDX589W 5.1-Channel Theater System connected via digital optical cable.

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