I don’t usually watch bread anime (the only one I’ve seen before this was Yakitate!! Japan), but with so-called “slice-of-life” anime *cough* Ano Hana *cough* turning out to be more drama than slice-of-life, I wanted something that could induce at least some yawning. That’s when I heard about Shining Hearts – Shiawase no Pan (Shining Hearts - Bread of Happiness).
Written by Itsuro Kawasaki (Wild Arms: Twilight Venom, Tsubasa Chronicle: Tori Kago no Kuni no Himegimi), Shining Hearts is a dating-sim-turned-anime published by Sega in 2010 and is well-known for its horrific storyline and scenes so cute and sweet that they make your stomach churn. Being a dating sim, it does have some XXX scenes which are essential to the story and if you want to see them, you can watch the uncensored story on Youtube.
The story centers around Rick Elwood, a swordsman that recently lost his family in a fatal storm. He would not have made it either if it weren’t for an experimental baking technique that was performed for him. Unfortunately, the surgery left an unintended side-effect: Rick’s senses are now so warped that people appear to him like cute busty girls dressed in revealing clothing. Buildings, trees, mountains, and even the clouds seem like they might have cute girls hiding amongst them. In this hellish world, Rick’s only ray of hope is the bread he bakes every morning.
Shining Hearts entertains some philosophical questions; what is bread? is baking affected by the ingredients? and can every girl truly have double D’s? If you are the only one that can bake, does that make you a baker, or is the world a baker? Can someone love bread if they’re a male non-lead character that no one can stand? Are pretty elves the evil ones, or should we look within ourselves to find true evil? The answers to these questions may be more terrifying than you can imagine.
The major theme in Shining Hearts is that appearances are never as they seem. Bread and other baked goods are highly contrasted, but at the same time the boundary between them is so blurred that you can’t tell the difference. Rick’s disregard for cute girls is so lamentable that it’ll make anyone sick, but it’s driven by his love for bread and is unconditional love not one of the most beautiful things in the world?
My favourite thing about this story is that almost everything can be interpreted with two opposing views. Is Rick really descending into the abyss of insanity, or is he rising towards enlightenment? Is bread a distraction from all of the beautiful girls on the island, or is it a food seeking love and acceptance? Shining Hearts leaves it up to the viewer to decide.
What makes Shining Hearts stand out among the other “let’s bake bread” stories, is that it is very absorbing. Unlike stories that depend on naked black men to shock the audience, Shining Hearts relies on the audience’s tendency to deny an outcome despite obvious hints. Imagine seeing someone collapse on the sidewalk near a bakery from a tall building. The person appears to be starving, but then someone opens the door to the bakery – a baker is coming. You want to help, you shout and bang on the window and hope that someone comes to save the poor souls. No one comes and all you can do is watch as the person devours all of the innocent bread in the bakery. That’s what Shining Hearts makes you feel – a sense of hopelessness, disbelief, and horror.
I highly recommend Shining Hearts to mature readers seeking a story that questions perceptions and defies morals. Depending on your personal beliefs, you may encounter bread of happiness or the happiness of bread.
Note: I’m just testing something with this post. For a real review, check out Saya no Uta – Beautifully Grotesque or Grotesquely Beautiful?
April 29, 2012: After receiving several comments, judging from their tone, I’m going to assume that most people didn’t catch on. In case you didn’t notice, this was a word-for-word copy and paste of my previous post; it’s a parody with a lot of sarcasm. All I did was stick in the word ‘bread’ everywhere, replaced the names, and changed some other words. I even inserted a link to the original post to make it more obvious. Perhaps I should do this more often, it seems to work well.