"Quod Subigo Farinam" - Terry Pratchett (Feet of Clay, 1996)
Once upon a time Sega were a powerhouse of the videogames world, but these days they appear to have lost much of their former glory - mainly because their most visible releases are little more than revisions of Sonic the Hedgehog. Fortunately the blue rodent isn't the only weapon in Sega's arsenal, and the company have a plethora of titles just waiting to be rereleased or resurrected (Phantasy Star, Rolling Thunder, Kid Chameleon, Strider, Afterburner, Space Harrier, Daytona, Panzer Dragoon, Sakura Taisen, Wonder Boy, Alex Kidd, and many others). There are even a few rare ones that fans would love to see completed (Dear Sega, Please finish Shenmue. Thanking you in advance).
In addition to their massive back catalogue of games, Sega also own a role-playing franchise that is quite possibly the largest and most diverse in the genre - the Shining series (and before all the fans have a collective apoplexy, according to Nintendo there are only eighteen official Zelda titles).
The first game - Shining in the Darkness - was a straightforward dungeon crawler that appeared on the Megadrive/Genesis back in 1991. Subsequent additions to the franchise ventured into the realms of turn-based strategy, tactical role-playing, third-person action/adventure, and even first-person RPG - and repeatedly demonstrated Sega's desire to experiment with the fantasy genre. Since that time the series has proven to be extremely popular in various parts of the world, and the release of the 30th title - Shining Blade on the Playstation Portable - only serves to highlight the strength of the franchise.
With such a history behind it, what could possibly go wrong with an anime adaptation of the 29th game - Shining Hearts: Shiawase no Pan.
Set on the quaint little island of Wyndaria, the story follows the deeds of Rick - a handsome amnesiac castaway who now works at the island's bakery alongside the three young ladies who appear to own the business - Airy Ardet, Neris Filiam and Amil Manaflare. Everything is peaceful as Rick learns how to heroically knead the dough in order to bake loaves of manliness, croissants of courage, baguettes of bravery, and other such things on his journey to make the titular "Bread of Happiness".
Unfortunately the arrival of another castaway called Kaguya throws his world into the mixing bowl and forgets to add any sort of raising agent.
There are many varieties of bread in the world, and some of them are quite tasty in their own right. Shining Hearts is, unfortunately, nothing more than a mass-produced white loaf that's in dire need of a little bit of cheese or some kind of filling in order to make it palatable. The formulaic plot is made up of basic storytelling ingredients that appear to have been added using a shovel as a measuring cup, and the resulting narrative tends to fall apart - even though the writers have struggled to mix everything together before getting baked.
The first half of the series is little more than a glorified meet-and-greet as Rick and his female companions find themselves in the middle of several rather placid adventures that all seem to be resolved using bread - and no, they don't hit each other with baguettes (more's the pity). The storyline does show some improvements during the latter half of the show, but by that point there's simply not enough broadcast time to offer the answers to some important questions (i.e. Who is Rick? What is the Island of Wyndaria? Why am I watching a fantasy adventure about bread? etc). This results in a string of important storyline events occurring one after another as the show tries to cram as much as possible into the narrative in order to tie up various loose ends.
Shining Hearts is filled with all manner of quaint buildings and pastoral scenes that highlight the rural nature of the island, but while everything looks pleasant enough, there's a distinct lack of imagination on display. The problem lies in the fact that this is an adaptation of a fantasy JRPG - and in many cases these games will feature towns and villages that have a certain ... continental flavour to them. No-one seems to fully understand why, but for some reason there's a tendency amongst developers to assume that all fantasy adventure games take place somewhere in Europe (e.g. Sword Art Online, Tears to Tiara, .Hack//, Ragnarok, Druaga no Tou, etc).
When it comes to animation things are a little more muddled as there's a surprising blandness that permeates a number of scenes - even though the quality is generally pretty decent for the majority of the show. Part of the reason for this is the character animation and the tendency to rely on stereotypical behaviour patterns in order to make specific female roles more appealing to a certain audience. This mentality lies at the heart of the character design as well, and aside from a few minor modifications, everyone looks much the same as they do in the game - but that's nothing to be proud of as pointy chins and almond-shaped faces are the order of the day.
Which brings up an interesting point about the aims of the producers - but more on that in a bit.
The opening sequence features a track called "Jisei-kai ~Toki Sekai~" sung by Aizawa Mai (Neris), Itou Kanae (Amil), and Mikami Shiori (Airy) - alongside some tourist-friendly images of Wyndaria and the seas around it, scenes where the lead characters run in a group or gaze heroically off into the distance, birds flying, and the obligatory bread shots. It's a fairly typical beginning that ticks many of the boxes in the "How to Make an Anime OP" handbook, and the ending is no better. The closing sequence features lots of background bread in different shapes and sizes, and the three lead actresses perform "Fuwafuwa no Mahou" while their respective characters pose and dance in a manner that is designed to pander to fans with a tendency to shout "kawaii!" and "moe!" at anything female, humanoid and vaguely attractive.
Shining Hearts features some diverse and well-crafted audio effects, but their usage is hampered by repeated issues with timing, choreography and intensity. The background music - a mixture of light-hearted fluff pieces, medieval-inspired ditties and dramatic/serious melodies - is more subtle than one might expect, but several scenes can have an odd feeling to them because of the style and composition of the tracks on offer. In addition to this the script is fairly bland and doesn't appear to have taxed any of the voice actors - which has resulted in the dialogue being delivered in a rather banal style that is typical of many shounen anime where action scenes involve lots of shouting and pouting.
Sadly this workaday attitude extends to the characters themselves - many of whom are little more than eye-candy that moves around and does ... stuff. The reason for this is the lack of any real conviction where relationships are concerned - which is basically what happens when someone decides to remove a major familial bond without thinking it through or replacing it with something equally important. In addition to this the speed of the narrative appears to have caused the producers to ignore or forget the purpose of supporting characters, and because of this the lead roles are severely under-developed for a show of this type.
Which brings us back to the aims of the producers - a factor that is closely tied into the design of the characters.
In a very real sense any visual media is similar to food in that the first bite is with the eye, and many people will make a snap-judgement about something based solely on how it looks. This is the reason why games developers are often quick to capitalise on popular trends - especially those that are rooted in otaku or geek culture - and the most common is to utilise the talents of well-known artists - some of whom have made their names in hentai or eroge. Unfortunately this approach does not guarantee success as titles that rely on the marketability of the lead designer are often aimed at specific audiences - and even though there may be lucrative merchandising opportunities, the lack of publicity will severely affect the popularity of a game.
In the case of Sega's primary RPG franchise, Shining Hearts is the third of four titles that feature the talents of popular eroge artist Tony Taka - and therein lies the problem with the anime.
Like many adaptations the producers have simply regurgitated the character designs from the source material, but in this case that means that the lead female roles consist of a buxom tavern maid, a busty milk maid and a sexy nun - all of whom apparently work as bakers. Add to that a supporting cast of female characters who are little more than walking merchandising opportunities and it becomes obvious that this is simply an attempt to capitalise on the popularity of the franchise, and to a lesser degree the artist.
The sad thing is that even though the story that lacked the depth of other food-based shows (Yakitate Japan! for example - and that's saying something), Shining Hearts still had potential if the adaptation had run for longer and been more true to the game. Unfortunately the titular "Bread of Happiness is nowhere to be found, and viewers are left with nothing but a bitter selection of inane details that would be right at home in any middle-class anime fan's conversation book.
Bread isn't famous for its peacemaking abilities. Cake would have been an understandable alternative (unless the show is about the French Revolution).
Or Parfait. Everybody loves parfait.
Wow, just oh my god this sucked I truly regret watching this, my stomach actually feels queasy right now. I am so upset that I’m smiling I did not know I could be this disappointed in fact I’m past disappointed I’m past angry I’m am truly happy that I will never have to see this again. I feel giddy as I start this review never have I ever been more happy to utterly destroy a show with my review than I am right now. Let’s get started shall we. There will be spoilers because you should not watch this anyway.
Story- The story started out boring and only got worse. It was like the writes decide to just throw any random plot line and add a popular character type and say there’s a story arc. What’s worse they just dangled interesting thing in front of your face and yanked it away as soon as you stared giving a crap about it.
First thing they do is introduce our main cast to a community of elves who apparently live in a magic forest and when I say community I mean two because we are introduced to the idea that there is a whole tribe of elves living there but we literally only ever see two of them where are the rest of the tribe? Who knows, and when I say magic forest I mean one tree that’s all you see of this magic "forest" and what’s the conflict? One of the two elves does not like humans, why? Who knows, but you know how to solve all your problems? by giving people bread and all of a sudden they like you, screw talking about your differences and resolving issues just give people bread and that will solve everything.
The next big event in the show is that a girl washes up on the shore of the island just like the protagonist and they do nothing with that till the last four episodes.
Last story before the shit really hits the fan is of a little flying demon blob thing coming in to by sweets every day for an unknown reason. After an unspecified number of days go by the three main girls decide to tail the little thing and end up in a big creepy mansion behind a grave yard where they find out the demon thing is really the familiar of this gothic loli tsundere, I laughed as soon as this character was introduced because I knew no matter what bullshit story they came up with for this character I would hate it and I was right. Now you would think based on her appearance and the fact that she has a familiar she was into some kind of magic but she is not she makes ready for this...ice-cream where the hell did that plot come from a gothic loli tsundere who makes ice-cream apparently she had been sending Saito oops I mean her familiar to get pastries so she could make sweeter ice cream based off it. Guess how her problem gets resolved... that’s right bread YAAAAY.
I’m gonna stop here because honestly I could keep going on and on about what was screwed up with this amines story, but don’t worry I just covered about eight episodes of this god awful show and those where the good parts the really sucky stuff comes after this and you would be better off rubbing sand paper in your eyes than read about or watch that part.
Animation- No problems here.
Sound- Mostly fine some tracks don’t fit the scenes they are played over and many of the characters voices get really annoying but compared to the rest of this show this is very minor.
Characters- I have one main gripe with these characters who the fuck acts like this almost all of them where washed up on this island with amnesia and not a single one cares about regaining there lost memories it’s just oh well I’m here now let’s forget about what my life was before. Any responsibilities I may have or family that might miss me can go fuck themselves cause I’m staying here without a single thought about any of the people I may be hurting with my complete apathy. That, in a nut shell, is the attitude of almost all of the island inhabitants with any Importance except the protagonist, he is like that initially but then gains some common sense which all the other characters want him to give up on having which he does. That brings up another problem who is the protagonist, who is he? What did he do before coming to the island?? That is never clarified and in the last two episode he grows wings and starts firing lasers out of his sword what the fuck. Moving on the character look like everyone was designed to be in a hentai excluding the prop people and two old people. It’s just big boobs on almost all female characters and the ones that don’t have them are lolis, there are only three male characters in this show that are not props one of them doesn't appear till the end and the other is an old dwarf.
Overall- Don’t watch this it is not worth your time you are better off watching sword art online which is not great but it is a better fantasy than this will ever be.
Right, it's confession time for me. If you have been reading my reviews than you may have noticed that I tend to rip the anime a new one. There is a reason for this though and it has to do with the fact that I can't turn my brain off when watching anime. I can't ignore the stupid shown in the anime and this is a problem as most anime are very stupid indeed.
In this case I'm not talking about a 90 pound girl catching a multi-ton cruise missile and throwing it back. Yes, it is stupid but it is a stupid that I'll allow. It's anime. Things like this are normal here and I'm pretty much fine with it. It annoys me to be sure but I will not rant about it.
So, having explained this lets rip into this anime shall we? Just a heads up: There will most probably be spoilers. The more I hate an anime the more spoilers there will be.
ART: No complaints from me, the anime looks fine. Of course with todays' techniques this is very hard to screw up.
SOUND: Again no complaints from me. I can no longer remember any of the music used but this is how I prefer it. Voice acting were decent even if they get to do the same thing over and over.
CHARACTERS: Main character is the Rick. He has no memories of his time before coming to the island. All he wants to do is become a baker.
Neris, Airy and Amil are 3 sisters that have taken in Rick and work with him in their bakery.
STORY: Rick is a drifter, he washed up one day on the island Windaria with no memories of his past. He gets taken in by Neris, Airy and Amil who have him work at their bakery. His missing memories keep haunting him though.
RANT: Holt shit is this anime slooooooooooowww. The pacing is glacial and it is more exciting to watch grass grow. There are so many epsiodes that have no point that you could easily cut the anime down to 90 minutes and it would work a lot better.
If someone out there is willing to edit this series down to feature length then go for that.
EDIT: Sorry but when I posted this I had just finished watching and I literally had no idea what to say. Let me correct this.
This anime is 12 episodes long and it baffles me as to why this is. As mentioned this could easily be cut to feature length and I believe they should have done this from the start.
NOTHING happens in the first 2 episodes except you see them bake bread and EVERYONE loves their bread. There are Elves in the first episode but they don't make another appearance and have no bearing on the overall plot. Their inclusion in pointless.
In the second episode there is a massive storm incoming. A young mother works at the apple orchard and rushes over in the night, leaving her young child alone at home. Out main characters bake bread and bring it over to lonely child so that she feels better. Nothing else happens and the characters don't return in later episodes. This was another wasted episode.
In episode 3 something happens! A girl washes on shore and is taken to the doctor. She will remain there unconsious untill she finally wakes up in episode 8! Untill that time all she does is wake up from time to time because they shove freshly baked bread under her nose which briefle wakes her up.
It is also here that we meet the Dwarf, Hank. He has a robot girl hanging from his rafters. Where did she come from and how did Hank get her? Who cares! We have bread to make!
By the way do not worry about missing anything important as it will be shown through flashback several times in the anime. I like to think the director just there screaming: HEY! YOU REMEMBER THIS BIT? IT WAS IMPORTANT! REMEMBER!!!
Meanwhile I will go like this: Yes, I remember. It was the only thing worth remembering about the last hour I watched. It also happened 5 minutes ago. I was hoping you would pick up the pace but I see that they are back to baking bread.
Episode 4 has the reason they sought out Hank. They need him to recover some treasure from the ocean floor. Our heroes are there because they need money to repair their oven so treasure sounds good. Hank agrees due to the events of the storm when the robot activated and started seeking something out in the ocean. They find and recover it only to have it confiscated by soldiers from the Castle.
Episode 5 introduces Melty, a young girl trying to create the perfect icecream. That is it. She makes icecream, it is good and she is never mentioned again.
Episode 6 introduces our characters to the people living in the castle. They have a problem in that they keep getting robbed by a thief who calles herself the Black Tail. Since we have been introduced to a whopping 2 cat people I leave it to your imagination as to which one is the thief (Hint: IT'S THE ONE WITH THE BLACK TAIL!).
Rick discovers that he is good with a sword in this one. I mean he washed up with one and picked one up in episode 3 where he looked doen at it wonderingly and he practiced a bit in this one too. Anyway this is an important point so multiple characters think back about it and worry over it.
I also believe that this is the point of the story that you learn that the sisters are also drifters. I would have liked to know this but appearently baking bread is more important than character development.
Episode 7 turns Rick into a massive emo as he wonders about the past that he can't remember and what it means for him. He likes to make bread but he is clearly trained to fight. We also follow up on the Black Thief whos identity was revealed to nobodies surprise.
Episode 8 sees a return of the main plot. I was kind of wondering where it had gone. Anyway things start to happen with the arrival of several powerful warships. By arrival I mean that they are around and may or may not get to the island eventually. Rick learns about this fleet and feels that he should turn the emo bit up to eleven. Also the girl who washed up on shore decides to wake up for realsies this time and gets up.
Episode 9 has the director realising that he has to do something with that robot girl he has us watching on a regular basis and decides to do something about it. This means that they have to steal back the critical companent from the castle, which they do.
Episode 10 has the robot woken up and she left. Hank and the thief have been arrested and the girls go on a picknick with sleepy girl. This is for character development which we didn't get for sleepy girl yet. Not that there is much difference as she looks asleep even when awake.
Episode 11 and 12 are the finale with the fight against the evil fleet. You learn nothing about their motivations though so don't bother looking for any. They want sleepy girl and her pendant for the power that they represent or some bullshit. It is not explained further than that so I kind of zoned out by then.
As you can see you can cut quite a few episodes without losing anything of importance. I'm actually fine with slow moving anime provided the pace adds something to the overall plot. Rick liking to bake bread is not something you needed so much time for. Rick is about the only character who gets any background or development. A large number of characters are simply there and that is it.
Oh, and about the baking of bread? You actually learn NOTHING about the process of baking. If over 50% of your anime is about this at least give me some actual recipies. How much of this, how much of that, how long in the oven at what temperature. Anything to break the tedium.
Okay, at the beginning I really thought that this might actually have some promise and I started to wonder why it deserved such a poor score. I enjoyed the concept of the Drifters. However, this is a classic example of an anime explaining a core concept too late (and not well enough). There are so many questions that are left in my head after watching this. Mainly, "Who the heck is the main character?". That's NOT a good question to have after finishing an anime. Also, the whole mechanic of how the worlds combined wasn't even really explained. Here are some more questions that I have:
This anime left me feeling really confused as the entire premise revolves around something that was hurriedly explained within the last two episodes. I feel like this could have been done a lot better.
Okay, I must say though, the animation was well done. Everything was drawn well and I overall liked it. The soundtrack wasn't bad and I felt like it suited the animation. These two things are what's keeping me from giving this anime a 1/5.
I watched them make bread for 12 eps. 😂 I was so angry after finishing this anime, That I stopped and had to question my own life of what am I actually doing.