Mania Grade: B+
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- Story and Art: Fumi Yoshinaga
- Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing
- Rating: Young Adults (16+)
"Antique Bakery: Vol. 1"
By Janet Houck
November 01, 2006
Antique Bakery: Vol. 1
© Digital Manga Publishing
I want to like Digital Manga Publishing’s products; I really do. They produce some of the best alternative titles and resource books that you know wouldn’t be touched by a ten-foot pole by other publishers, and their books are always aesthetically pleasing and usually with extra details that make the slightly higher price acceptable. But there’s always some sort of flaw. Whether it’s grammar errors or the binding coming loose, something always seems to crop up to disrupt what would otherwise be a perfect experience.
ANTIQUE BAKERY had been on my manga shopping list for a while, and I finally cracked this month. Shrinkwrapped, the book is larger than the usual paperback manga size, at the size of a sheet of legal paper, folded in half. The cover (an actual, separate paper cover) features an enticement that I’ve never seen before on a manga: scratch and sniff. Yes, you can smell the strawberry and blueberry cream dessert on the cover that the three central characters are obsessing over.
As you can guess from the title, the manga is set in a bakery where an antique shop used to be, and the café part of the bakery uses antique china for its service. The bakery is owned by Tachibana, who is admittedly only in this business for the overwhelmingly female clientele, although he also gets a buzz from making the sale to clients. Yusuke Ono is the pastry chef. Seemingly shy and quiet, Ono is actually quite well known at the local gay bar, and it is his “demonic gay charm” that has gotten him fired at all of the restaurants he’s worked at until now.
As it turns out, Tachibana and Ono have a history together. Back in school, Ono told Tachibana about his feelings for him, only to be brutally rejected. However, there are no hard feelings between the men, and Ono is actually quite happy to work for Tachibana, as he believes that Tachibana is the only man safe from his charm.
Rounding out the cast is Eiji Kanda, a fiery former champion boxer/dessert fanatic who comes to the bakery, looking for a job, as he’s taken too much damage in the ring to continue there. Ono takes him on as his apprentice, and the central cast is set. The chapters (“recipes”) revolve around the lives of the bakery’s customers, as well as on the three men themselves (only makes sense, as Yoshinaga needs to create the setting). However, the order of the chapters is where one of the flaws of this volume can be found.
I can best describe the reading experience as that of taking a plane: bumpy in the beginning, smooth during the middle, then very choppy in the end. The volume opens with flashbacks to Ono and Tachibana in high school, Eiji in the ring and hearing the bad news, and to a pair of girls in high school. Then we are thrown into the present with the story of the two girls-now-women meeting again and going to the bakery. The pacing from here begins to smooth out, until we reach the fifth chapter, which suddenly tells the story of how Tachibana and Ono opened up the bakery and how Eiji came to work for them. It feels as if these chapters could have been better organized, perhaps placing the fifth chapter after the first one. In any case, I found this to be very jarring in my reading experience, having to stop and look back to match up names with faces.
However, I really enjoyed the artwork. It’s very clean, with little background, making the panels run smoothly. It was very easy for me to read this book in one sitting.
I do have one other complaint, and that is the age rating. Now, I know going into this book that Digital Manga Publishing has a rather lax system. I know that shrinkwrap equals adult material. But your average parents (or teenager, for that matter) doesn’t. They might think that the plastic wrap is to keep the scratch and sniff portion of the cover intact. However, be aware, ANTIQUE BAKERY does contain a homosexual sex scene (not graphically shown), and a rather promiscuous gay man. It also contains casual mention of abortion. Twice. I really think that they should have released this at a higher rating, even if it was “17 and up.” At least that would alert people that this is not the same level of maturity as your average teenage manga set at a school.
In any case, this was a decent read and I’d recommend it to college-aged people, as I don’t feel that it has a place among the high school crowd, senior or younger. I will probably end up picking up the next volume, although there wasn’t a hook at the end of this volume to drive me onto the next.