An uncompromising attitude may be seen as a sign of integrity in certain contexts. In others, it often leads to disaster. Mari Tennouji is not willing to change the way that she is doing business in New York, but business as usual will shortly result in her being fired by Henri Lucas. Can Ichigo and friends find a path that will improve sales without compromising Mari's principles?
What They Say
Ichigo's group begins helping Tennouji-san come up with some way to raise her sales, but the shop's location in Midtown makes it difficult to attract regular customers, since most of the crowds are tourists. At the same time, Miya is scheming to get revenge on Tennouji and take over her shop! Ichigo gets inspired with an idea for an event that should get new customers, and Tennouji's imagination is reinvigorated after she encounters a young dancer who is entranced by her sweets...But will it be enough?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As Ichigo and the gang try to figure out how to help Mari, they look at all of the main factors, including the location of the shop (in Midtown, which is a problem as the foot traffic is mainly tourists, not people who live in the neighborhood who could be built into a regular clientele) and cost. It appears, however, that they can't do anything about either, since, well, they can't move the shop, and Mari refuses to consider lowering prices as that would require her to use cheaper ingredients, a sacrifice she will not make. It would seem that the plan to get her shop back on its feet is not going to progress easily. Added into the mix is that it seems that Mari is still fixated on Henri Lucas, to the point that it is affecting the taste of her sweets. Most people are incapable of noticing it, but Honey (her Sweets Spirit) and Ichigo (with her Palate of God) both realize there is something off in the flavor of her creations. Honey later confronts Mari, telling her that the turbulence in her heart is entering the tastes of her sweets. Mari has a lot to deal with emotionally, being depressed at her current failure, and yet another emotion, explored only briefly in the original series, surfaces again: her deep jealousy of Ichigo Amano. This time, the jealousy is centered on Ichigo's strong support network of friends, while Mari has no one she can talk to. Keeping all of that emotion bottled up inside is not good for a person, and it really looks like she is headed for a nervous breakdown, not too uncommon in emotionally stunted princesses such as herself.
Just when you think Mari is about to fall into a deep depression, she happens to meet up with an eccentric character, a dancer named Linda who has been seen hanging around the shop several times before. Linda had never been able to get up the courage to enter the shop before, as she had been intimidated by the high class feel of Mari's place. But she happens to look in on the shop now, which was closed for the day for the brainstorming session, and happens to attract Mari's attention fully (Mari had noticed her hanging around before), and this time Mari goes out to meet her. She discovers that Linda had originally been drawn to her shop after an unsuccessful audition for a musical nearby (which would put Mari's shop not too far from the theater district). The young dancer was captivated by the beauty of Mari's sweets, seeming as they did to be a group of elegant dancers at a ball. The chat somehow lightens Mari's spirits and helps her to find something that she lost.
The next day, Ichigo comes up with an idea to drive up sales, by offering an online coupon to bring in more customers. Mari, who seems in better spirits after her chat with Linda the day before, is herself in a much better mood, which helps her to overcome her jealousy of Ichigo and agree to her plan. Things look like they might improve...until the expected, annoying, and unknown element comes into play. It appears that Miya Koshiro, still nursing a grudge years later over her loss to Tennouji in the St. Marie Academy Cake Grand Prix, plans to open up her own sweets shop in NY, in order to show Mari who is boss. She thinks she might even be able to force Mari out of business and take over her shop. To that end, she floods the streets with free vouchers for sweets at her new place which will be set up in Central Park (I guess her father's company slipped a few bills to someone to get the permits so quickly). When the Sweets Spirits come outside to investigate the racket caused by Miya and her procession (going down a one-way street the wrong way, naturally), Marron comes over and hands Chocolat a personal coupon for Kashino. Chocolat promptly tears it up.
Chocolat, you are so awesome.
But to the happy surprise of Ichigo and friends, despite the new competition, it seems that people are taking advantage of the online coupon deal that Mari's shop is offering. Perhaps things will be alright after all. They manage to have some customers the next day, though foot traffic is definitely down, as Miya's over-extravagant festival (to her vanity) in Central Park packs in the crowds. Celebrities show up, including one referred to only as "Paris" (how fitting). Oddly enough, however, Miya's event manages to help Mari's shop in the end. Since the Central Park tent is a zoo, with nowhere to sit, people streaming away from the Park afterwards seem to be coming by Mari's shop, including people who bought the online special coupons for her place, coming around after checking out Miya's free goodies.
In the end, people came to Miya's event only to grab the free sweets and then ran off. Shows you how superficial the whole thing was. Mari's shop, on the hand, did quite well that day. As they hold a video conference call with Henri Lucas, Mari seems optimistic, but Henri again is very harsh and negative. It seems that this is Mari's last chance: come up with results in the next week or else he will hand over the shop to someone else. Things look tough, but at the very end, reinforcements from the old Team Ichigo might be on the way...
After making a feint in the direction of becoming a wallow in Mari Tennouji's (largely self-induced) angst and depression, the show quickly rights itself. Ichigo, with her inability to be depressed for long, quickly pushes forward a new business idea in order to improve sales. Mari herself, drawing inspiration from a customer who is in love with her elegant creations, rallies from depression and starts looking forward again, showing greater creativity in her sweets while also displaying some willingness to listen to Ichigo and her friends' ideas. We get some comic diversion as well from Miya Koshiro, who tries to upstage Mari in revenge for her own personal defeats at Mari's hands years ago. Though for one day, Ichigo's ideas and Mari's newfound confidence help to improve sales, Henri Lucas is still not impressed and issues an ultimatum: improve results in a week, or he will find someone else to run the shop.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Apple Mac Mini with 1GB RAM, Mac OS 10.5 Leopard