The best RPGs for the Megadrive were Shining Force and Shining Force II. Some of the best, if not the best Game Gear games were Shining Force titles. After a while, the word “Force” was dropped from the game titles and you got such games as Shining Blade, Shining Wisdom and so on. Either way, the Shining franchise has had a lot of high quality games for multiple platforms. So, why am I bringing this up? Well, the franchise also has an anime adaptation. The weird thing about it is that it’s not adapted from one game, but two. Shining Tears and Shining Wind, hence the title Shining Tears x Wind. The adaptation was handled by Studio Deen, which is no stranger to game adaptations having done Star Ocean EX, Fate/Stay Night and Bomberman Jetters prior to this. They’ve also earned my adoration for their work on the brilliant Read or Die and my contempt for the idiotic Kore wa Zombie desu ka. So, how will this adaptation compare to their other works?
The tale opens with several student, Kiriya, Souma, Seena, Kureha, and Saionji discussing recent disappearances in the area. When the others leave, a girl named Hiruda brings Saionji a strange book. The two ominously discuss making it work and they disappear shortly afterward. The other four agree to meet at school to figure out what to do, deciding to bring weapons, because that seems like a plan that couldn’t possibly go wrong. Souma and Kureha arrive first and talk only to be interrupted by a fight between a wolfman and Mao, a cat-eared girl. Mao starts to tell them about herself, only for a gem she’s carrying to be destroyed which causes all of them to be sucked into another world. Souma and Kureha find themselves alone and surrounded by monsters, but they’re saved when Souma pulls a sword from Kureha’s chest, revealing that he’s a soul blader. (I’m not sure whether they’re ripping off Utena or the soul blade thing is based off of some legend I’m unfamiliar with.) Now, Souma and Kureha have to find a way to return home, but first they have to help the peoples of this world deal with an imminent crisis.
If it seems like I just glanced over that information, it’s only because the anime does too. The pacing in this is ridiculously fast. It doesn’t let you acclimate to the real world or main characters before dumping you into the fantasy world. The series basically assumes that you’ve played the games and will know what’s going on so they don’t have to take any time whatsoever to explain anything. To make matters worse, scenes only last for around five minutes before rushing to the next. The narrative never takes time to breathe. The worst part is that they have several important plot points that they never introduce until it’s time to actually use them, which makes them seem like they come out of nowhere. The ending is especially guilty of this, introducing the plot device that’s necessary to end the conflict only after the conflict has started. It doesn’t even get mentioned in passing before that.
In all fairness, the story, though hectic, isn’t bad. It has quite a few interesting aspects. The political machinations are nice. I also like that every group is doing what they think is for the best in order to save the world and they certainly have some good scenes devoted to that. Unfortunately, those scenes are rushed through in order to cram the entirety of Shining Wind’s plot into thirteen episodes. Yes, the story uses Shining Wind‘s plot but with greater emphasis on the Shining Tears characters than they had in that game.
The characters in this aren’t deep or well developed. Since they rush through the narrative so much, they never take time to develop the characters in any significant way. Which may lead you to conclude that the characters are flat if you’ve never played the games that the anime is based on. Even if you have played through the games, you might find yourself annoyed by the character portrayals. The female characters have it especially bad. They get relegated to the background and spend most of the series just kind of standing there, or having swords drawn from them, rather than doing anything. In theory, this is so that the focus can be on the soul bladers, but it comes across as, at the very least, pretty suspect.
The interactions also suffer from the pacing problem. There are moments when characters almost feel like they’re having a normal conversation, but then the scene will end or something will happen because the plot needs it to and the effect will be spoiled. It’s like watching an abridged series where someone thought the character moments were less important than the action sequences. The “romantic” sequences are especially bad, frequently feeling like the characters have no chemistry and are just getting together because… someone wanted to throw in gratuitous romance.
The character designs are pretty well done, exempting some of the costumes (especially the fan-service based ones) but I don’t blame the anime for that since they are using the established costumes from the games. Although I’m not sure why Hiruda has the tri-force on her costume. The action sequences are, mostly, well handled. The fast pace actually does work for the action sequences, giving them a dynamic feel. The problem is that some of them resort to random still shots in place of actually animating anything. The stills look fine, but they’re just lazy.
They got a really good cast for this. It features Ishida Akira, Mizuki Nana, Hoshi Soichirou, Okiayu Ryotaro, and Horie Yui in major roles and that’s not even naming all of the highly skilled actors they got for this project. They are all just fantastic, delivering strong performances. The music is really good as well.
This has no signs of yuri, but it has a bit of yaoi. There’s a scene where one of the guys lovingly sponges another off and it is extremely homo-erotic, oddly enough this is the best romantic scene in the series. There’s also a bit in the end with the previously mentioned plot device that comes out of nowhere but they need to help end the conflict. The ho-yay factor is going to be a 4/10.
Shining Tears X Wind is definitely a series made for fans of the games. If you don’t like the games, you aren’t going to like it either. If you’ve never played the games, you’ll be hopelessly lost and have no idea what’s happening or why. If you’re a fan of the games, you’ll probably enjoy the anime okay, but there are going to be aspects that you find annoying. As for me, I’m going to give it a 6/10. I do think it’s interesting to see the story adapted in anime form and there are some parts of the story I enjoyed, but I hate that the female characters aren’t allowed to do anything and the hectic pace harms it quite a bit. Next week, I’ll take a look at another video game tie-in. Street Fighter II: the movie.