Now back at Marie's Garden, things look set for the opening of Main Street, the showcase of the shopping district, which was supposed to be under the creative control of Ichigo and friends. But Miya Koshiro, the dementedly obsessed Kashino stalker who also happens to be a spoiled rich girl, has poured in her father's money in order to buy herself a spot on the Main Street with one goal and only one goal in mind: to make Kashino hers. Can Ichigo stop her? I hope so.
What They Say
The grand opening of Main Street is only a few days away, and Team Ichigo hurries back to make the final preparations for their shop, only to find that the Heiress has gotten permission to open her own grand shop on the same street! Furthermore, Johnny goes turncoat and is helping out Miya, since she's giving him all the funding he wants. Miya challenges Ichigo to see whose shop will be more popular, with Kashino's hand in marriage on the line! And even worse, Ichigo promises to date Johnny if she loses! However all hope isn't lost, as the Sweets Princes are gathered back together again...
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the thoroughly enjoyable New York arc, we are unfortunately back to Marie's Garden, the shopping district that Henri Lucas is overseeing in Japan somewhere. The first episodes of this new series started there, with the new Team Ichigo squabbling among themselves. Now we are back here, alas. I say alas since we come back to one of those outrageously contrived challenges that sometimes make their appearance in poorly written shows that have writing staffs who are out of ideas.
In this particular instance, Miya Koshiro, the Heiress to Chateau Seika, a large international sweets conglomerate, and major corporate sponsor of Marie's Garden (and the whole St. Marie's sweets empire as we know from past episodes), has decided to set up her own shop on the Main Street of Marie's Garden, which was supposed to be the province of Ichigo and friends. Her purpose was easy to discern from the get go: yet another attempt to win Makoto Kashino's heart, even though he has shown absolutely no romantic interest in her, and likely never will. But she puts a challenge before Kashino and Ichigo: if her shop sells more than their shop during the opening week, Makoto will have to marry Koshiro. As if things aren't bad enough, since Koshiro has limitless pockets of cash to rely upon, she has also brought over Johnny, the alleged member of Team Ichigo, but who is also Miya's cousin, to her side, with the promise of unfettered funding so that he can create the shop of his dreams. While Johnny is an annoying ass and I'm glad he's gone for the moment, he is also a somewhat talented pastry chef and this only adds to the challenge faced by Team Ichigo. Johnny has his own side wager in play: if Miya wins, Ichigo has to date him.
The cards look like they are definitely stacked against Ichigo and Kashino (Lemon fortunately gets spared any romantic entanglements from the betting). But, of course, help will be coming their way. Hanabusa and Andoh now turn up to lend their help, reuniting the Sweets Princes with Ichigo, reforming the real Team Ichigo. They do not have the vast piles of money that Miya Koshiro has at her disposal, but they have friends and talent. And a strong desire to win. In a brief private chat between the Sweets Princes, Kashino finally says out loud that he has feelings for Ichigo, though he notes that the others do as well. They do, but both say that they willingly put those feelings aside, so long as Kashino remains true to his own feelings.
Despite the help, the obstacle faced by Team Ichigo is quite immense. Chocolat, Vanilla and Mint go over to Miya's shop to spy, but they are stopped by Maize and Marron. Miya, however, does not care if they see it, and even gives the Sweets Spirits a guided tour. Preposterous and extravagant only begin to describe what Johnny and Miya have built. A conveyer-belt sweets room. Chocolate waterfalls. And a butler cafe on top, intended to make patrons feel like they are being treated as the world treats Miya herself (which is why she calls it an "Oujo-sama Cafe"). Marron and Maize, transformed into facsimiles of Miya's two lackeys, give Mint a taste of the service, which makes the young little spirit dazed. Chocolat appears not to be impressed, but once back at Ichigo's shop, she is as glum as the rest. The hurdle is getting higher and harder to surmount.
But Andoh has been working hard on a new sweet, with a taste that will wow the customers. He worked very hard on it, and now is ready to have his friends taste it. Whatever it is (since they don't explain right now what it's made from), it wows Ichigo and friends. Hanabusa has also completed the redesign of the shop, and the Sweets Spirits use their magic to do a quick remodeling. Everything looks set for the battle.
I have to say that I dreaded the return to Marie's Garden, since the last time the show was focused here, it wallowed in a lot of artificially flavored strife and conflict, as well as attempts at lecturing the audience about business plans and sales models. It was boring. The return has been staged as yet another ludicrous contest between Miya and Ichigo, with Makoto Kashino's hand in marriage on the line (not asking the poor boy, of course, what his feelings are about the whole matter). It makes me nostalgic for the first contest between Ichigo and Miya, back in the original, and far superior, first series, where the two simply battled to make the better pudding, with the chairman of the school sitting as the judge. This contest, by contrast, is rather irritating. Of course, it is not very hard to predict the outcome, if the past is any indicator of the future. For every single time Koshiro has trotted out one of these harebrained schemes to force Kashino to be hers, it has never succeeded. Of course, they could very well have her succeed this time, forcing an artificial wedge between Kashino and Ichigo, who, incredibly dense as they are (do the Japanese really like characters who are incapable of recognizing when they are in love? Sheesh), do seem to have genuine feelings for each other. Creating a love square of some sort between Ichigo, Kashino, Miya and Johnny might seem like a good way to build tension and conflict into the cast of characters, but frankly it's such a tired concept at this stage that it falls very flat.
We shall have to see how they plan to proceed. The preview suggests that the battle will only intensify as the two rival shops finally open for business during the busy Christmas retail season.
With the return to Japan and Marie's Garden, my heart sank a little bit, since the show had improved markedly from the dull and ponderous start it had made there in the first several episodes. I was justified in my pessimism by the plot that greeted Team Ichigo upon their return: Miya Koshiro, who went from an interesting rival at the end of the original series to a one-dimensional cardboard cutout of a character in this series, has put together yet another scheme to force Makoto Kashino to be her husband (despite his complete lack of interest in the position). Worse, the challenge she places in front of Team Ichigo, or what is left of it after Johnny turns traitor (showing his true colors, perhaps) and joins his cousin's side, has the potential to create an artificial wedge between Makoto and Ichigo, who genuinely have feelings for each other, even if neither has the ability to be honest with themselves, let alone the other, about their feelings. Trite. Cliched. Contemptible. That sums up the plotting here.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Apple Mac Mini with 1GB RAM, Mac OS 10.5 Leopard