Today we take a look at the second part of Yumeiro Patissiere, covering episodes 14 through 26. In this segment, the show has now finished introducing the characters, so it is time for the plot to kick into gear. Do not expect a resolution by the end of these episodes.
What They Say
According to Ichigo Amano, she doesn't do anything better other than eating cake. She can't find anything she wants to do everyday. However, when she meets a teacher from St. Marie Academy, Henri Lucas, her fate changes. She discovers that she wants to reproduce the flavors that her grandma used to make! So begins the discovery of her dream!
In order to accomplish her dream, Ichigo moves into St. Marie and is visited by a legnedary Sweets Spirit! She is still just a beginner so there are a series of failures but she puts all her passion into making sweets so she can get better one step at a time.
Ichigo's dream has just begun!!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Having introduced the characters and given us some idea of their personalities, it's time to throw out standard shoujo material and become a shounen fighting show! Er... maybe not, but you could not be blamed for thinking just that, judging from the first episode of the second cour (a term used in anime circles in Japan to refer to a "half-season" (13 episodes) segment, which often, in longer running shows, will form a more or less cohesive part of the series). For in Episode 14, we move on to St. Marie Academy's signature event, the Cake Grand Prix. It is a school-wide competition where teams of students enter and battle each other, Iron Chef-style, in cake-making contests judged by the faculty. The winning team will get a special prize: they will be sent to study in Paris at the main branch of the Academy. As Paris really is the capital of desserts (people can argue about this, but truly, it is), this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any group of students. Ichigo Amano, our heroine, is especially fired up by the prospect because it means that she will be able to go and study with Henri Lucas again, the Paris-branch instructor who discovered her special talent and put her on this path.
At this point, however, the episode veers off into shounen fighting-show territory, as we see Ichigo being put through extensive physical, academic, and cooking training by the Sweets Princes, in order to get her ready to compete in the Grand Prix. All this talk of getting better and stronger, the physical activity outside, the hard work and sweat... did I suddenly wander into a fighting tournament show?
This time around the competition is fiercer than usual. An unexpected number of middle school students sign up to participate in the qualifying tournament (usually, only the top middle school team is allowed to enter the Grand Prix itself, which is otherwise composed of teams from the high school division - "thus, middle school teams are not expected to go far, let alone win the competition), which makes it necessary to add yet another layer, an entry quiz that students will have to undertake individually, not as a team. That makes Kashino, Hanabusa, and Andou nervous, as they are not entire sure of Ichigo's abilities. Fortunately for them, she does seem to have remembered most of what they tried to teach her in the weeks before the entry quiz, and Ichigo manages to get them all into the middle school tournament.
Right off the bat, however, Team Ichigo (for some reason, their team is named after their weakest member) is faced with a tough emotional trauma for one of their members. The first contest's theme is a pound cake that you can enjoy with your family, so they try to think of a way to make 4 cakes that will be tied together somehow. Designing the cakes is not their problem, however. The problem is that Hanabusa wishes to make a rose-flavored and scented pound cake using a special bottle of rose essence given to him by his late father. Expect lots of weepy lashing out and stuff. Of course, Ichigo does her best to get everyone together and succeeds. Will this be the pattern for most of the contest?
It might have been, but at this point, the show veers away, even though the contest should really be the main focus of it. The likely reason is that the manga is still being created as the show is airing, and the show has, by the end of this second cour, already started to catch up to where the manga is. Therefore, it is likely that the show found it necessary to start dragging out the manga material a little more.
Thus, we have a series of diversions presented along with the contests of the middle school tournament. We have a detour where Ichigo confronts a classmate who seems on the verge of quitting school. We are introduced to Kashino's family, and learn that he comes from a wealthy family of doctors, who are very disappointed that Makoto has decided not to follow in his father's, mother's, and elder sister's footsteps. Apparently, Makoto admires more his uncle, another black sheep of the family, who became a chocolatier. We also have the reappearance of The Heiress, Miya Koshiro, who is still fixated on making Kashino her own in every way. She challenges Ichigo to a competition to make Valentine's chocolates. Of course, the competition, even though it is heavily weighted towards The Heiress, ends in a tie, since Ichigo's superior concern for the recipient's enjoyment matches the extremely expensive and fancy chocolate that Koshiro brings in for her own use during the contest.
It's only with Episode 20 that we finally get to the second battle, and this time it's against a pint-sized version of Team Ichigo, as they are matched against a team of first years who have three boys who are acclaimed as the New Sweets Princes, and one girl, a French girl named Lemon (with appropriately blond hair... yet she speaks flawless Japanese, how convenient). They put up a strong fight against Team Ichigo, but, of course, the outcome was never in doubt even if it dragged on over two episodes.
We get two more episodes of what could charitably be called filler (even if it is canon; I have not seen the original manga, so I have no idea) before finally returning to the middle school tournament in Episode 24. So, the last three episodes of this cour form a mini-arc, centered on this battle and its aftermath. It's time for Team Ichigo to get serious, because their next opponent is none other than The Heiress, Miya Koshiro, and her two lackeys (who's their fourth member? We'll see...). The theme is a chocolate cake "of love," so while this should be Kashino's strong point, for some reason, likely the theme, he seems irritated and unsure of himself, leaving the choice of cake up to his teammates, while he goes off to sulk by himself. To make matters worse, even though Ichigo thinks up of a good idea for the design of the cake, the design is stolen by Koshiro, working through a classmate of Ichigo's, Youko Ayukawa (the quiet girl who always seems to be taking pictures with her phone, a member of Group B in Ichigo's class, the wannabe "Queen Bees" of their class). To make matters worse, Koshiro brings over from Paris a special tutor for herself, Monsieur Leon, a famous Parisian chocolatier. When put all together, it starts to look clear that Team Ichigo, with a less than confident Kashino and a deck heavily stacked against them, are going to have trouble in this semi-final round of the middle school competition.
As episode 24 ends, The Heiress makes her dramatic, and already triumphant entry into the cooking chamber, with Monsieur Leon in tow (along with her characteristic oujo-sama's laugh). Kashino is unsettled by the appearance of a real chocolate pro, and the outside weather, raining heavily, a standard use of pathetic fallacy, forebodes rough times ahead. Right after the contest starts, none other than Youko Ayukawa walks into the room, late, and is announced as the fourth member of Team Koshiro. So, when it is shown that The Heiress has stolen Ichigo's design for the sachertorte, the source of the theft is clear. Not only that, Ayukawa demonstrates that she is a cold and calculating...well, that popular word that rhymes with witch. For she has sabotaged the heating system in order to make Ichigo's team receive more heat, which upsets the temperature of the chocolate. Chocolate, apparently, is very sensitive to temperature.
Team Ichigo tries their best, but in the end they have too much to overcome, and they lose by one point to Team Cheaters. The upshot, of course, is that before the match, Kashino, overconfident in his own abilities, promised that if he lost, he would join The Heiress' team. After the match, she comes to collect him, and he stays true to his word, even if she cheated.
In the next episode, off Kashino goes to be with The Heiress. Meanwhile, Ichigo is showing what a complete doormat she is, saying hello to Ayukawa in the cooking classroom. Of course, with Kashino now forced onto Team Koshiro, there is little need for Ayukawa to cook anything anymore, and she is demoted to being a substitute member, and told to concentrate on information gathering (a euphemism for spying) for the next round. As things move on, we see Kashino actually trying his best for his new team, regardless of his feelings towards Koshiro. We also see the remaining members of Team Ichigo try to move forward.
Of course, all this time, Andoh and Hanabusa have been quite confident that Kashino would be returning. While Ichigo doubts this, there was no need to doubt (and not just for the obvious story reasons). For when The Heiress tells Kashino to do what he pleases, he decided that what would please him the most is to take over the team for himself. In his new alignment, he uses Koshiro's two lackeys and Ayukawa for his lineup, reducing Koshiro herself to a mere substitute. This, of course, works against The Heiress' pride, and she finally realizes that regardless of her feelings for Kashino, they would never work out together on the same team. She doesn't give up on winning his heart one day, though.
The show starts to move firmly in a direction, starting the Cake Grand Prix, St. Marie Academy's major event, where the students compete in dessert-making contests in order to win a coveted prize: travel to Paris to study at the main branch of the Academy. Ichigo and the Sweets Princes are fired up for the event, Ichigo because she wants to see Henri Lucas again, the Princes for their own reasons. But it will not be an easy matter, since many opponents stand between them and their goal. This part of the show does not end with the climax of the Cake Grand Prix. That is still a long, long way off. It does, however, bring us through to near the end of the first segment of the competition (whew, this is going to take a while, it seems). Along the way, we have quite a few diversions, and sadly, this seems like it will be a recurring feature, especially with the anime having caught up to the source material.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
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