Mania Grade: B
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- Audio Rating: NA
- Video Rating: NA
- Packaging Rating: NA
- Menus Rating: NA
- Extras Rating: NA
- Age Rating: 13 and Up
- Region: All Region DVD
- Released By: Crunchyroll
- Running time: 275
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Yumeiro Pâtissière
Yumeiro Patissiere Episodes #40-#50
Yumeiro Patissiere Episodes #40-#50 Anime Review
By G.B. Smith
September 26, 2010
Release Date: September 25, 2010
Today we take a final look at Yumeiro Pâtissière, the story of Ichigo Amano, the big-hearted, well-meaning but klutzy aspiring pastry chef whose skills do not match her dreams. Despite that, she may well become the greatest pâtissière ever, since she has the palate of God. The end of the World Grand Prix is in sight, one more battle before it can be declared whose cream shall reign supreme.
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!
From its happy, chirpy opening theme, to the bright and clean colors that have been used throughout the show, it is unmistakeable that Yumeiro Pâtissière, "Dream-Colored Pastry Chef," is meant to be a happy show. Like many shows aimed at the shoujo demographic, plenty of moral lessons, about friendship, about love, and about following your dreams, are liberally sprinkled about. That does not mean, of course, that it is always sweetness and light, one long sugary confection that will lead to tooth decay. Nor that the show does not occasionally go into slightly heavier territory, dealing with the range of negative emotions that result from setbacks in life.
In the final run of episodes here, we have finally arrived at the end point of Ichigo's journey for now (I say for now, since not only is the manga on-going, but it has already been announced that a sequel series, taking place several years in the future, will begin broadcasting after the conclusion of the original series). At the beginning, Ichigo was still just a complete novice, good at eating, but not much else. Over the course of the show we have seen her progress and advance, even if she still is not quite a world-class pastry chef in terms of technical skills. Having gathered a strong team of pastry chefs who do know what they're doing, the Sweets Princes Hanabusa, Ando and Kashino, Ichigo managed to not only advance through the Middle School tournament but even managed to finish second in the main Cake Grand Prix of the entire Japan branch of St. Marie Academy. They may not have won that tournament (and that is quite realistic, considering their competition was the near flawless team of Mari Tennouji, the High School Division Student Council President and top chef in the entire school along with 3 very talented high school students), but circumstances played out that they would get to go to Paris to compete in the World Cake Grand Prix anyway.
Upon arriving in Paris, Ichigo and the Sweets Princes spent some time find their way around the city, as well as meeting the other teams in the competition: top students from all of the various branches of St. Marie Academy. Besides the expected entrants, we also see a few old acquaintances, including Lemon, who once visited Japan thinking herself superior to everyone, only to have Ichigo teach her a thing or two about life and sweets. And while I was expecting her to show up, I did not imagine that Miya Koshiro, the spoiled rich princess, would find a way of getting into the Grand Prix, though with her family's wealth, that was not entirely a surprise. Her means of accomplishing it (buying an entire branch of the Academy) was...unique, to say the least. The bar here, however, has been raised much higher, and Ichigo and the Sweets Princes will have to use everything they know in order to advance.
Over the course of these ten episodes, we see a number of battles, though they do not actually dominate the episodes, as there are only a few rounds involved in this competition. So, as much time is given to showing Ichigo and the Sweets Prince training as to the cooking competitions. That does not mean that these episodes are mere filler. Among the best of them, such as episode 43 "Underneath the Orange Tree," we learn not only quite a bit about the making of sweets, but also something about the characters which we may not have seen before. On the surface, the episode is about training, as Team Ichigo is split up into two groups and sent to different places. Ando and Hanabusa go to a four-star hotel and get to work in their kitchen, which makes very high class sweets. Ichigo and Kashino, on the other hand, come to a somewhat run-down shop, though it is supposed to be a three-star (and here, we should think of Michelin ratings, where three stars is actually the top level) patisserie. There, under the eyes of the rather severe looking Monsieur Robert Blanc, Ichigo and Kashino do not live in the lap of luxury, as Ando and Hanabusa do, but they may, in fact, learn a lot more about the making of high-class sweets, as it is soon apparent to them both that Monsieur Blanc is a pâtissier of the first rank. We also see something made fairly clear, something which I had long guessed from the very start of the series: Kashino, always shown being angry at Ichigo for her mistakes and air-headedness, is suddenly much more embarrassed at being in close proximity to her. It is formulaic, it is cliched, but the standard "opposites attract" dynamic seems to be at work--though only from one side. Ichigo is pretty clueless when it comes to matters of the heart, specifically her own heart, let alone the romantic yearnings of others.
She does, however, have this odd ability to touch the hearts of others, even when she is not meaning to do so. For Monsieur Blanc's severity does not arise from a severe personality. He is still in the grip of loss and grief, the source of which is hinted at obliquely in the opening of the episode before the intro theme and animation. The orange tree of the title, seen in the beginning with a woman standing underneath it, was the favored tree of Monsieur Blanc's late wife Michelle, who specialized in sweets using the oranges grown on that very tree. Ichigo, her nose attracted by the wonderful smell of the fruit, wandered out there on her own, and her standing underneath the tree brought back the image of his wife doing the same to Monsieur Blanc. Later, he gives Ichigo an orange from the tree, as she had expressed a wish to eat one. But as the episode nears its end, instead of eating it, Ichigo decides instead that she will use the orange to flavor a tart that she will make as a way of saying thanks to her host for all that he has shown her and Kashino. Kashino notes the boldness of offering sweets to someone who is a master of making them, but together they make a tarte à l'orange, a pastry with orange and chocolate, and offer it to Monsieur Blanc. Tasting it, it brings back the full memory of his late wife, and he tells the story to the two young students, of how she made all of the orange flavored sweets in the shop, including this very orange tart that they have presented to him. In this show, as we have seen time and again, sweets seem to have an almost magical healing power, and Monsieur Blanc, who had not made a single sweet using orange flavor since his wife's death, remembers her wish that their shop should always have orange-flavored sweets among them. As we leave, we see the range of sweets being offered in Pâtisserie Blanc increase in number and variety, with the reintroduction of the orange to the range of flavors used. A heart is healed while knowledge is gained.
Of course, several episodes are devoted to the actual competition. The first round involved a food wagon set up near the Louvre, where Team Ichigo barely survived being matched against her old acquaintance Lemon and her team of European all-stars. Their next match is against their old rival Miya Koshiro and her team from Andorra, the smallest branch campus of St. Marie Academy (and wholly-owned by Chateau Seika, Koshiro's father's company). There, the battle is over chocolate dresses. Yes, they are asked to make dresses out of chocolate. Koshiro, of course, makes a dress so over the top, you must see it to believe it. Ichigo and friends take the Cinderella route. The result is a tie, requiring a rematch. So, after a trip around Europe (paid for by the Academy I hope for Ichigo and her teammates' sakes), they meet again at Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria (Germany) for a second chocolate-themed battle, this time making chocolate bon bons. Not those frozen ice cream-filled things you may have seen at the supermarket. These are high class chocolate pieces, much better than what you'll get with your average Godiva assortment around Christmas time. So, the semi-finals for Team Ichigo comes down to a small plate of exquisitely turned out chocolates. Of course, Ichigo and friends had been paying closer attention to all of the places that Henri-sensei had sent them during the "vacation," and their chocolates better reflected the range of experiences that they had. Now that Koshiro is taken care of, it must be time for the rematch against the overpowering Team Tennouji, yes? Yes?
Not immediately, as we have a diversion to the Sweets Kingdom, where Ichigo and the Sweets Spirits go in search of Michiko's (Ichigo's grandmother) special strawberry tart recipe, the thing that was pretty fundamental in making Ichigo want to become a pastry chef. Broad comedy and little else, though it is effective in reducing some of the tension that tends to build up during the tournament episodes, as even the audience needs an occasional break from the constant run of worry about whether this is indeed as far as Ichigo and her limited talents can go. While Ichigo manages to find the recipe, with a little help from Marjoram, an aged Sweets Spirit who turns out to be the former partner of the late Michiko Amano, she decides in the end not to read it. Trying to create her own strawberry tart, however, does not go well, as she does not seem to be able to create the flavor she is looking for. Since the other parts of the tart are fine, she determines it must be the strawberries that are the problem. She wants the strawberries that her Grandmother used when making her tart. While in search of them, she happens to run into Miya Koshiro. The two of them stand dumbstruck in front of a clock in the Academy in Paris, which just happens to be a portal to the Sweets Kingdom. A bright light, and you can guess what happens. It's Koshiro's first trip to the place, so it's natural that she might be a little surprised at the diminutive form she takes. Leaving the comedy aside, Ichigo and Koshiro go to Japan (the Sweets Kingdom connects to there as well) in search of the strawberries Ichigo remembers from her childhood. There, traveling to the back garden of her grandmother's shop (now run by her uncle), Ichigo searches among the weeds and finds one straggly looking strawberry vine. A few fruits are on it, but Ichigo tastes one and recognizes the flavor immediately. The strawberries are small and oddly shaped, and Marron, Koshiro's Sweets Spirit, reveals them to be fraises de bois, woodland strawberries. They may not be pretty, but their flavor is unmatched. With this knowledge, Ichigo is now ready.
So, now it must be time for the rematch with Team Tennouji, yes? Yes?
In the great shock at the end of episode 47, a phone call from the Chairman of the Japanese campus of St. Marie Academy informs Kashino that Team Tennouji lost in their semi-final match to Team François. Stunned, the Sweets Princes and Ichigo wonder how that could have happened. Fortunately for them, Koshiro had a DVD made of the event, so they see for themselves what happened. The other semi-final was also a chocolate dress battle, but it was not a match of equals. It was clear that Mari was not working with a clear head. After the competition, in fact, she ran to her hotel room and locked herself in. Ichigo being Ichigo, of course, decides then and there to rush off and see Tennouji, even though Amano is in Paris and Tennouji is at Mont Saint Michel. Conveniently, Koshiro's helicopter is never far from her, and yet another airlift is on the schedule. Rushing to Mari's room, they find the door locked closed and one of her teammates standing outside with Honey, Mari's Sweets Spirit. No one has been able to get inside and talk to her. Amano tries to get Mari to open the door, but it takes Koshiro and her appealing to Tennouji's pride to get her to open the door and talk. Inside, it is revealed why Mari seemed to be in a complete daze during the competition: the day before at Montparnasse (in Paris), she saw Henri Lucas walking with François (shouldn't that be Françoise? I won't get on their case here), the leader of the rival team. The two of them seemed not just friendly, but extremely friendly, if you know what I mean. That of course caused Mari to have a complete mental breakdown, as it is well known that she has a jealous love for Henri-sensei, even so far as to see Ichigo as a rival for his affections (while Ichigo does seem to like Henri Lucas, she doesn't seem to have the deep romantic attachment that Mari has developed). As if this little drama wasn't enough, the man himself, Henri Lucas, now enters the hotel room and says that what Mari saw the day before was all a set up he arranged with François. All of the members of Team François were hand-picked by him, so they are all close to him, as Mari is. However, he felt that Tennouji was far too attached to him personally, to the point of being dependent on him. He wanted to see if she could operate with the connection severed. She couldn't. Ichigo, of course, is repulsed at his playing with Mari's feelings, but Henri is unconcerned to say the least. He taunts her with chasing her grandmother's shadow and states that a certain hard-heartedness is actually required to become a top pastry chef. Thus are things led into the Finals.
The Finals themselves, at least the first part, are actually something of a let down, possibly because of all of the high drama and tension of the previous episode. It's not just the anti-climactic nature of their position, it's also the result of a preliminary contest that is not quite as compelling. Things are never simple, and even though there is a three-hour contest between the two teams, the result ends up being a draw, leading to a continuation of the match. The second round, involving each member making a single type of dessert crust also leads to a tie, so a further continuation of the match is required to decide the winner. Except that final confrontation will only pit one member from each team against each other for all the marbles.
So, it has been a long road, 49 episodes (and a little bit of the finale) leading up to this moment. On one side, there is an advanced student who has been hand-picked and guided by Henri Lucas, a talented pâtissier and grandson of the founder of St. Marie Academy. On the other is a naive little girl also scouted by Henri, but without the careful guidance. She has been allowed to flounder her way in the world, but happened, through various means, to join forces with some of the most talented young students in her year at school. While she rides their skills to an extent, she possesses certain talents which even the most highly trained professional will sometimes lack: most importantly, an instinctive knack for what will make the consumer of their sweets happy. She also has an incredible palate, an ability to remember any taste she has ever experienced. So, while it is somewhat surprising that her teammates would choose her to go up against the near-professional in the one-on-one final match, perhaps it is also not too surprising. For Ichigo has the ability to catch lightning in a bottle, their only hope to beat an overpowering opponent.
It's somewhat far-fetched, of course. After all, Ichigo is the one member of the team who messed up her crust battle, making an apparently rookie mistake. But as the Sweets Princes state, they have faith in Ichigo's abilities, and believe that only her strawberry tart, her own one, not her grandmother's, will be able to conquer the seemingly invincible François. So, she is determined to make her own strawberry tart. Of course, Ichigo is a klutz, so the opening of the match features her nervously fumbling around the kitchen station. What she really needs to do is...get a speech from Mari Tennouji, which is just what happens. Mari reminds her that she has the ability to sense what will make people happy with her sweets. Ichigo just needs to relax and concentrate on that, as well on all of the people who have believed in her all along. So, it must be time for a montage (and so it is).
While François makes her signature creation, a new type of chocolate torte that uses unusual ingredients such as black pepper, Ichigo works on her strawberry tart, though the pace at which she is working makes many wonder and worry a bit. Ichigo manages, however, to finish her work in time, with just seconds to spare. So it is on to the judging. François' Dijonaise au chocolat is a hit with the judges, as it is nearly flawlessly executed, scoring perfect 100s from four of the judges and a 98 from Henri Lucas, who is an extremely harsh critic. Things do not look that good for Ichigo.
But when they taste it, the flavor is apparently heavenly (we see the judges turn into angels, flying through the skies). Even Henri Lucas is impressed with it. Koshiro, self-appointed reporter, comes up to Ichigo and suggests renaming the sweet, as "strawberry tart" is rather common. Vanilla, Ichigo's Sweets Spirit, suggests Sourire de l'Ange, an "Angel's Smile," a name that seems appropriate for it. The scores are perfect again from the other judges, and a 99 from Henri Lucas. It would appear that we have the dream ending for Ichigo. She cannot believe it herself, thinking that this must be a dream of some sort. Vanilla smacks her with her magical spoon to prove to her that she's awake (though in the real world, if you were to be smacked by a fairy holding a magical spoon, you might not be awake. At least, you'd better hope you aren't).
François, understandably, is upset with the result, but Henri Lucas reveals the gap that exists between her and Ichigo. While there is certainly a gap between the two in skill and technique, with François the clear leader, Ichigo has made a giant leap beyond François in creativity and originality. All she did was replicate a perfect edition of her Dijoniase au chocolat. She did not make any adjustments, nor did she try to move beyond it. Ichigo made an entirely new type of sweet, using corn meal and rhubarb in her strawberry tart, ingredients you would normally never taste in that kind of dish, but ingredients that she somehow managed to meld perfectly with the flavor of the strawberries and everything else. What she had accomplished was to make a leap beyond the conventional and into the new. That is why Ichigo won.
At the very end, in a final coda to the show, Ichigo and Henri have a talk at the Paris airport. He reveals that he was hoping all along to find someone who would be willing to break away from the current world of sweets, which he feels has stagnated. Ichigo had been told earlier that Henri had deliberately played the "bad guy" in order to spur her into surpassing her grandmother. Now, he wants to take Ichigo under his wing, much as his own grandfather had taken Ichigo's grandmother Michiko under his wing many years ago (he even produces a picture of the two, who look astonishingly like Ichigo and Henri today). Ichigo has achieved her dream-colored ending.
Keep watching until the very end. There's a little surprise there too.
The story may not be completely over (there is a sequel series comings soon), but we are ready to close a chapter in the life of Ichigo Amano, the scatter-brained heroine of Yumeiro Pâtissière. From the very start, this show has traded in cliches and kept pretty close to the tried and true methods of storytelling, even if that may be slightly ironic, given how much emphasis is placed on originality and innovation in the end. Sometimes, however, a formula, when well executed, can bring a good deal of pleasure. In that respect, it is fair to consider this show one that provides pleasure rather than providing the thrill of the new. Again, ironic considering how much that goes against the spirit of the most important lesson it is trying to impart at the end.
The minor quibble of it being wholly derivative aside, Yumeiro Pâtissière does what it set out to do: present the tale of Ichigo Amano's rise from being a self-proclaimed good-for-nothing, whose only talent (as she would tell anyone quite openly and with no qualms) is eating cake, to becoming a pastry chef whose creations can delight and astound serious gourmands. One fateful day, she decided to eat the cake of a young pastry chef named Henri Lucas, and it would change her world forever. Through the course of these fifty episodes, we have seen Amano grow in important ways while not losing anything that made her a fairly appealing character from the start. Her kindness and her openness are essential character traits, and ones that in the end are more important than some of the professional techniques that she has slowly begun to pick up in her time as a student at St. Marie Academy, a school specifically aimed at training the next generation of world-class pastry chefs. While we might, with good reason, want to step back for a moment and consider the reality--do you really think a 14-year-old girl who had never so much as baked a cookie from packaged dough before would, in the span of just a few months, learn to become a top pastry chef?--we do not really feel any urgent need to do so. As this show trades in magic, part of what it strives to accomplish is to make you buy into its magic, and to an extent, it succeeds in doing so. As a work of shoujo anime, combining entertainment with a few life lessons and a few hints of romance, this show succeeds quite well. It's not original, but it is entertaining and if you had to recommend a show of this type to someone else, you can do so with some confidence that it will likely put a smile on their face.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
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