Local Chinese cat-girl Xiao Mei enlists the help of Rick and Neris in the salvage of a large underwater treasure trove. Neris’ attempt to hook the huge crate to a rope almost gets her drowned, and they require one of Hank’s machines to haul the crate out of the sea, destroying their rented ship and losing the machine in the process. Hank finds something related to the mechanical doll in his workshop, but before they can take stock of what they’ve salvaged, palace troops arrive and carry it all off.
Um, yeah, this series has some serious problems. The pacing is pretty slow, and the motivations of the characters is a bit wishy-washy, and the events of this particular episode make no physical sense. We’re made to believe a wimpy pulley on a small wooden boat and a thin hemp rope are enough to haul a crate that weighs at least a few tons out of the water. When the pulley inevitably breaks, the rope eats through the decking, but doesn’t break, even though pulling it by hand did. Neris can hold her breath way too long, there’s no explanation for how Hank gets a huge machine down the mountain and onto the ship, or how they get the crate onto land.
Beyond all the ignorance of the laws of physics, nobody considers the fact “the palace” will simply show up and snatch whatever they’ve found, in accordance with the island’s traditions, which forbid taking anything out of the sea that’s “not for eating” so as not to create conflicts amongst the villagers. But what the hell is up with this palace? Who put them in charge? Why didn’t Hank just “eat” the thing he wanted for his android? And why the heck is the mysterious girl still not recovered? There’s just way too much stuff that doesn’t make sense here. It’s a friggin’ mess.
Rick and Amil find a strange girl washed up on the shore with a stranger pendant that glows eerily. After leaving her in a doctor’s care, they prepare for another day of baking, but the chimney is blocked by a fallen branch, and the pressure destroys the oven. The gang pays a visit to Hank in the Dwarven mountains, who demands steep upfront payment. That night the military orders a townwide curfew and blackout, as a fleet of pirate ships approaches the island. The girl wakes up, knowing little but her name – Kaguya. The light of her pendant attracts angry soldiers. The ship fires a devastating blow near the town, but an automaton Hank has in his shop returns fire, destroying the ship.
Finally, this series starts to show a little excitement! Sure, none of it makes any damn sense, but still. Where to begin? The doctor seems like a quack. Rick, the girls, and Hank have a very odd, tense negotiation over furnace repairs that ends with no deal. Perhaps Hank is curt beause he doesn’t want his sexy invention (?) discovered by some meddling kids, but until further notice, Rick & Co. can’t bake any bread, which means they can’t make any money. This is a problem, but it’s not the most pressing one.
Just like Rick, this girl washes up, in strange garb, with no apparent memories but her name. The girls took Rick under their wing and taught him how to bake in lieu of his old life which he didn’t remember anyway. But this Kaguya girl might remember something, if only she could stay awake for more than a few moments. As for her pendant, it just screamed “Laputa.” We weren’t quite sure about the connection between the pendant and Hank’s “doll” weapon, or about what a bunch of guys with swords expect to do against a fleet of what look like advanced dreadnoughts. Like we said; not a lot of sense in play.
Rana warns Madera, who warns Rick and the baker girls that a powerful storm is coming. As they get up early to prepare and throughout the bread-selling day, they warn everyone they can. Airy helps a lonely girl whose mother is off shielding the orchards from the impending wind. When the storm hits, the weather is too rough, so Rick spends the night at the bakery. The next day the clouds disappear and Rick and the girls give Rana and her brother bread as thanks. A mysterious girl has washed up on the shore.
One thing this series has down is that it makes running a bakery seem like the most enjoyable, rewarding, noble profession one can have. If you make bread and you make it well, you’re going to make lots of money and friends. Especially friends, if you give the bread away, which they do a lot (the little kid gets free bread three times!) That said, it’s hard work and requires a vigorous schedule; Rick (voiced by a very chipper Mr. Despair) and the ladies are typically up before dawn and working until sundown. But it would seem to be worth it; their bakery is the talk of the town, all the more impressive considering Rick is relatively new to the trade.
One thing that irked us somewhat was how there was this constant dread of the coming storm hanging over the island – which we liked, especially as the skies got darker and drearier – but the storm itself really doesn’t seem like that big a deal. The rain and wind just look like a typical summer rainstorm to us, and there certainly wasn’t any damage done. It just feels like the storm hand was overplayed, and didn’t turn out to be the unprecedented calamity Rana warned about. However, it did do one thing: deposit a young lady on the beach who will undoubtedly shake things up next week.
Rick is a baker who works with his three friends Airy, Neris and Emil. His bread is the best in town and people come from all over to buy it up. When on an errand to buy ingredients, the group hews close to the border with the forboding Elven forest. After helping an injured selph, an elf admonishes them and rejects their offer of bread, angering Emil. Another, friendlier elf named Rana bids them forgive her icy brother, and gladly takes the bread. A red moon that hangs over the night sky portends a big storm ahead.
We’ll get this out of the way: we only broke open Shining Hearts on a whim. Before yesterday we’d never heard of the Shining franchise, or the PSP game upon which this series is based. We do know director Kawasaki Itsuro from one of his previous works: Chrome Shelled Regios, a manic series best described as dumb but entertaining. We definitely noticed some stylistic similarities. Unlike Regios, which started with a bang, Shining Hearts takes the quiet, deliberate, slice-of-life route to introduce us to the characters and setting, both of which came off as, well, a bit bland. The delicious-looking bread steals the show, as Rick (or Rikku) kind of just goes about his business.
His somewhat ridiculous harem conveniently consists of a blonde (also a nun), a brunette, and a redhead; unsurprisingly, the redhead is the fiery one. Rick lives on a beached ship, which is kinda cool. Their land is placid and green, not unlike Ireland, and the fantasy elements introduced include your standard elves (one affable, one aloof), a weird creature called a selph, and that portentious red moon. You could also count the bread, which may also have some kind of magical power (unless it’s just drugs). Neither an awful nor inspiring start – this is what 2.5 ratings were made for!