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Antique Bakery, vols. 1-4 (Fumi Yoshinaga)

For reasons of his own, Keiichiro Tachibana, the 30-ish scion of a wealthy family, decides to quit his boring job and open a French pastry shop. His family gives him start-up money and find him the best pastry chef available: Yusuke Ono, a seemingly mousy gay man whose "demonic charm" has caused male co-workers (gay or straight) at his previous jobs to fall in love with him, resulting in fights, suicide attempts, and divorces. The shop's workforce soon expands to include pastry apprentice Eiji Kanda, a former straw-weight boxer, and waiter/errand-boy Chikage Kobayakawa, a Tachibana family retainer whose height and good looks are exceeded only by his dimwittedness and naivete.

The action of the manga focusses not only on the stories - past and present - of the four men, but also on those of the people who patronize the shop. To me, it most resembles to film Tampopo, which similarly centered on a noodle shop run by a young widow, but also covered a multitude of other little side stories. The interactions among the four shop workers keep things hopping: Tachibana, a would-be bon vivant and ladies' man, never seems to get anywhere with any of the ladies he pursues. He also seems to have a dark secret gnawing at his psyche. Ono, on the other hand, is all too successful at picking up men - yet he's nothing but a fantastic teacher to young Eiji, who in some ways has the most worldly background of the four, and who turns out to have a surprising talent for pastries. Chikage is all but useless at any task he tries to accomplish - yet his extreme sweetness of character and good looks have a definite effect on those who work with him. And all around them are little soap operas and comedies and mysteries, acted out by those who come to the shop.

This is not a series for someone seeking adventures (although there are a couple of fist fights) or huge dramas or even a lot of romance. It's for the most part a gentle little human comedy with a generous dose of food porn (the descriptions of the pastries and other foods served at the shop are amazing). However, it does have some serious adult themes: in addition to Ono's busy sex life (from which we are shown vignettes - nothing pornographic, but it's obvious what's happening), there's an out-of-wedlock pregnancy and the possibility of an abortion as a solution, a single woman who gets pregnant with no strings attached because she wants a child so badly, a frank but heavily "bleeped" discussion of straight sexual practices, a nine-year-old girl who's a very early bloomer physically (but her situation is discussed from the point of view of child-rearing practices rather than sexuality), and ultimately, child abuse and murder. But overall, I found it rather appealing and a nice change of pace. Unfortunately, these four volumes seem to be all there is.


Antique Bakery, vols. 1-4 (review)

The situation of Ono and Chikage is one of the strangest little ethical dilemmas I've encountered in a long time. Ono, thank God, quickly realizes that he can't treat Chikage like most of the guys who tickle his fancy. And yet eventually mangaka Yoshinaga very rightly throws this back in the reader's face, albeit with gentle humor: Chikage, despite his inability to even care for himself properly beyond the basics, is a sexual being too. I'm wondering whether this is ever going to be explored further: Chikage's looks still turn Ono's crank, and Chikage doesn't seem to be completely averse to the idea. Yet would the fairly sophisticated Ono ever be happy with such a simple lover? It's all terribly interesting and rather sad.

Tachibana's situation is still unresolved at the end of vol. 4. Although he has caused the arrest of one child molester/murderer, it certainly looks like the man who nearly caused him, 25 years ago, to meet the fate of the recent victims is right in the neighborhood - and as yet unrecognized by Tachibana. Yoshinaga seems to be linking the resolution of this situation to Tachibana's love life. His awful Lothario act is a painful contrast to his rather amazing caretaking abilities (as demonstrated with Chikage and Kaedeko) ... will he ever realize that he'd be more successful if women saw that side of him?

Finally, the situation with Sakurako, Kaedeko, and Chikage really plucked at my heartstring - even though I wondered whether a 9-year-old would really still refer to herself in the third person like that. (Maybe this is meant to be just more evidence of her backwardness.) It was also hilariously funny, as we find out that Tachibana can change diapers, and watch Ono nearly pass out when he listens to Sakurako's crude discussion of the facts of feminine puberty. The ending was cute but sad. And I really wish Sakurako would stop smoking ... .

Thanks to rachelmanija for recommending this!


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 28th, 2007 05:07 am (UTC)
I was so disappointed that there are only 4 volumes! I tried watching the Japanese TV drama series to see if it offered more resolution, but they completely changed a lot of the characterisation (like, Ono and Chikage are totally straight!). So I couldn't stand watching it. ^^; There's a Korean film version coming out in 2008 so I wonder how that will be. And I guess nine would be a little old for still using third person in real life, but it's not unusual in manga.
Dec. 28th, 2007 01:39 pm (UTC)
And nine's too young for the burikko sort of deliberate childish affections like referring to oneself as chan, isn't it? I always got the impression that was more of a teenage-to-young-adult sort of scene...

*koffs and hides the massive Sanrio collection*
Dec. 30th, 2007 03:46 am (UTC)

The only Sanrio character that ever found favor in this household was Badtz-Maru! And we didn't end up buying a lot of stuff even with him ... .

Dec. 30th, 2007 03:43 am (UTC)


It seems the manga world really wasn't ready for Ono and his sex life, was it? I was very sad to find out there wasn't any more of it ... I was wondering whether the situation with Chikage would ever be resolved, and whether Ono would ever learn to like himself enough to settle down with one person.

I saw the info on the film when I was trying to find out whether there were any more volumes. The trouble is, with a managm she could leave the ending open, hoping to write more volumes, but films like to wrap things up.

Dec. 30th, 2007 03:52 am (UTC)
I dunno, I guess the manga world could handle pretty much anything... I mean, it ran in Wings magazine, which serialised some very slashable series by artists like Minekura, CLAMP, Yun Kouga and Tsuda Mikiyo... but the TV drama world is incredibly conservative. (I guess it's because a successful live-action drama can score a huge percentage of viewers, while a sucessful anime gets like 5-10%.) And with the attention of a TV show, she might have found it difficult to continue. I guess it's okay to leave some things unresolved because it's a slice-of-life story, but I felt like there was still a lot more to explore!
Dec. 30th, 2007 04:00 am (UTC)

Yeah, you're right, of course there are some incredibly bizarre manga out there. It's too bad - I really liked Kakei and Saiga: I got warm fuzzies whenever I saw them snoogling and I wanted to know more about their story, and how and why they'd become involved with Kazahaya. Not fair!

Dec. 30th, 2007 04:26 am (UTC)
*giggles at your icon*

I wanted more Kakei and Saiga too! Of course, they're recycled CLAMP stereotypes too... x___x;; I just don't understand CLAMP sometimes... they're capable of making things that are just awesome in terms of story and artistry and emotional impact, both the kind of stuff that defines (or redefines) a genre and the stuff that's just fun and cute, but they're bad with follow-through and they seem quite content to put out mediocre work. :-/
Dec. 31st, 2007 04:12 am (UTC)

Hehe! Yes, I'd been meaning to do that Kuro icon for some time ... you can gank it if you like:

I'm wondering if the fact that they're a group might have anything to do with it. A single author might be more attached to his or her work, and better about trying to fight for it to continue.

Dec. 31st, 2007 05:22 am (UTC)
Thanks! I ganked! (and now I can remember that no matter how dreary the job hunt is, at least I didn't major in Buddhism!)

Yeah, it probably has something to do with there being four of them. They've often worked on two or three projects at once. They've probably got a small army of assistants, too, because there's no way they can run two weekly manga series with only Nekoi and Igarashi as assistants.
Dec. 29th, 2007 05:57 am (UTC)
I like the unresolved nature of a lot of the plotlines-- it fits in with the series' loose, scruffy structure. I was pleasantly surprised by the resolution of the Tachibana story, that he does save one child but that doesn't solve all his psychological issues, and he fails to recognize his own kidnapper when he passes him on the street.
Dec. 30th, 2007 03:49 am (UTC)

It's good in a way that things weren't instantly resolved for Tachibana when he managed to get that one guy arrested - that would have been rather silly - but I wish there had been more to the series. They all still had a lot of growing to do. It's ironic that young Kanda seemed to be the furthest along the road, in some ways: he'd learned the sort of thing that made him satisfied and happy, and was pursuing it.

Jan. 4th, 2008 05:31 am (UTC)
Hi! Sorry, I know we don't know each other, but in my wanderings around the internet I stumbled on your post about Cupidity, and then saw this post and thought I could be helpful. Yoshinaga Fumi actually wrote a series of 14 doujinshi, most of which take place after the end of the manga series (the link goes to information about the first one with a list of the whole series in chronological order.) At least seven have been scanlated, although by a mysterious group so they're not readily available for download, but they've been posted over the last few weeks on yaoi_daily. I think you'd be pretty interested in how the story continues, and they definitely do not leave out Ono's sex life.
Jan. 5th, 2008 08:02 pm (UTC)

Oh, thank you so much for letting me know! Do you mind if I repost the info in a separate entry on my LJ? Several of the people who posted here would be interested, and not all of them are monitoring everything that gets posted once a thread isn't new anymore.

That's the second time in as many weeks that someone has pointed out something I'd like on that comm. I guess I'd better join ...   XD

I hope you enjoyed our speculations on "Cupidity." We were wrong abotu a lot, but of course it's great to be (pleasantly) surprised.

(Love the Gorey icon, BTW - I'm a big fan of his!)

Jan. 6th, 2008 09:22 pm (UTC)
Of course I don't mind, please feel free to post the information. I think the doujinshi are fantastic, so more people should read and love them too. Also, yaoi_daily is a great community. You should definitely join! A ton of stuff is posted on it, and much of it is really good if you can find the time. It's sometimes a little difficult to locate older posts, but I think hibem has linked to most of the Antique DJs posted so far. My number 1 other recommendation for what's been posted is pretty much everything by Miyamoto Kano. Her stories can get a little angsty, but the art is beautiful and the stories and characters are very realistic.

Yes, Cupidity did hold a ton of surprises. I was at first entirely blindsided by the fairy plot, and from there very rarely thought I knew what might happen. But of course I loved it, just like I love everything written by louiselux and emungere.

(me too! I was so pleased he used my name that I decided it was like it was made for me. In a not-actually-murderous sort of way...)
Jan. 9th, 2008 04:12 am (UTC)

Yes, those two are among my favorite fanfic authors as well - devikun is another of my favorites. I think my favorite emungere stories are "Clean" and "Home From the Sea, Home From the Hill." For louiselux, "Mutability" and "Burning"; for devikun, the mittens story (which has no title), "Tomorrow and Tomorrow," and "Small Indulgences."

I've asked hibem whether I can link to her posts instead of directly to y_d. You're absolutely right that y_d makes it hard to find things - wish they had a policy about tagging.

I made some Gorey-based icons for Yuletide this year. No one ever does things with my name, boo hoo! I like Neville, who died of ennui. I've known a number of Nevilles ... .

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )


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