The deadline looms for Mari Tennouji to increase her sales, otherwise Henri Lucas will force her shop to close its doors. Can Ichigo and the gang come up with a plan to save the shop, and her? Will Mari allow them to, since the biggest obstacle so far has been her unbending will to operate a Parisian shop while in New York? Accidents will happen, and sometimes change the path of a life.
What They Say
With the successful coupon event, more and more customers are arriving at Mari's shop. But time is short and that'll only last for a while unless they make some fundamental changes. In order to think things through, Mari is forced to take a day off and actually see some of the sights of the town she lives in, New York! But on the way back, there's a terrible accident... A wedding cake is ruined! Can Mari save the day, and maybe herself in the process?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When it was announced that Yumeiro Pâtissière was going to have a sequel series, I was quite looking forward to it, since the first series, after getting off to a somewhat slow and predictable start, managed to put together an interesting and lively group of characters, bound together by the tight bonds of competition in the ruthless world of making cakes. Who knew so much stress accompanied an occupation that most people would associate with pleasure and indulgence?
The second series, of necessity, was to be an original creation of the animation production staff, since the original manga source material had already been leapt over during the course of the first series. For some people, this might already have signaled a cause for worry, but if the writing team has truly familiarized themselves with the characters, then who's to say that they might not come up with not only acceptable, but even praiseworthy scenarios for our characters to inhabit?
Unfortunately, the new series got off to a rather jarring start. The Team Ichigo we had come to enjoy seeing, our klutzy heroine and her three Sweets Princes, were broken apart, two to disappear, one to be kept close (chocolate master Makoto Kashino). One bit player from the first series (Lemon) was now promoted to regular, though we hardly saw much of her. Instead, the anime writers sought to put their own stamp on the show by introducing a new character, the highly irritating faux American (no one actually acts like this, one hopes) Johnny, who just so happened to be the cousin of Miya Koshiro, the wealthy heiress whose stalker-riffic infatuation for Kashino was played for many a laugh in the original series. With this new team and new dynamic, we were treated to a wonderful series of new pastry creations that made the audience salivate with envy.
Or, that is what I would liked to have written.
Instead, we were subjected to several episodes of petty squabbling between the members of the new Team Ichigo, as they argued over business plans and bored me to tears at times. Kashino and Johnny butted heads like rutting beasts over Ichigo, who, of course, was completely oblivious to anything but her own craving for sweets (in addition to that divine palate, she must have the highest metabolism known to modern science). Lemon was a piece of furniture.
Fortunately, that ended when the group made a side trip to the Sweets Kingdom for a couple episodes, which brought back at least a few memories of the fun this show used to be able to create. That vacation, however, seemed over when the preview for the next arc seemed to promise a lot of storm and stress, as we were headed to New York where Mari Tennouji, the genius high school student, was now living, running her own patisserie under the patronage of Henri Lucas (geez, the Lucas family must be rolling in dough, between these pastry schools, shopping malls and individual shops all over the place). But she was not living the fantasy, as the shop was not doing well, to the point where Henri Lucas decided to send Team Ichigo to go and find out what was wrong. The signposts ahead said Angst and Depression.
Fortunately, it seems that when the chips were down (and I have to wonder what the ratings have been like so far), Team Ichigo finally rallied around Mari (and the writers finally found a decent way to have all of the characters interact) and instead of massive bouts of depression and melodrama, instead we saw Mari begin to remove her head from the sand (actually, I would want to use a stronger image, but it's impolite, so I won't) and Ichigo finally start to do something other than look stupid and salivate over sweets.
In this episode, which looks to be the conclusion to this arc, Mari is facing a deadline, as Henri Lucas has ordered that sales reach a certain level, or else he's firing her. As the gang brainstorms, it is revealed that Mari has never taken a day off since opening the shop. While it may play into certain Japanese stereotypes about hard work, the entire gang, Japanese and Americans (and whatever Rick is again) tell Mari that she has to take some time off. And so, she does, touring New York for the first time, going to The Cloisters and Fort Tryon Park, taking in some of the diversity that exists within the City. It is rather sad that she has been living in New York all this time and seems to have never made the effort to see any of the City.
Of course, manufactured drama is what television writers from just about every culture seem to indulge in, and we are not free from that here. As Mari is returning from Washington Heights all the way up in Upper Manhattan, her bus gets stopped by an accident ahead of it. Getting off the bus and heading for the subway, she sees that there is one "injury" in the accident. A family heading on their way to a wedding suffered damage to their wedding cake. So, it is fortunate for them that a world-class pastry chef just happens to come across them. Mari takes the family to her shop and fixes the cake for them, making it better than it was before. In thanks, the family asks Mari to come to the reception. Though she is hesitant, they insist and the gang push her to go, so she goes. The cake is a big hit, even though Mari is reluctant to take the credit. After all, what she did was to rearrange and salvage the cake the bride's grandmother made, she did not make the cake from scratch herself. So, she does not want to lay claim to the good parts of the cake that were already there in terms of flavor. But, of course, Mari learns a lesson from being at the reception: what counts is the smiles on peoples' faces, not her own being the center of attention and praise. It took about 3 years and her near ejection from her own shop, but she finally learned the true meaning of cake baking. It's about others, not yourself. Or at least that's the lesson being given here.
It seems like a heavy burden has been lifted from Mari: her inability to move beyond her own infatuation with Henri Lucas and the ideal of a high-class French patisserie. Now, meeting with Ichigo and the gang again, she realizes that she needs to move beyond that, and embraces the town she now lives in. The first series also involved itself, as many shoujo shows do, with imparting life lessons on the audience of mainly young girls. While it can be a little hokey at some times, at others, some of the better episodes have been involved with seeing characters grow and change. When we last saw Mari Tennouji in the first series, she seemed almost a broken young woman, emotionally played with and used up by Henri Lucas. Oddly, Miya Koshiro in one of her few interesting appearances help Mari to regain some of her pride and dignity, while Ichigo tried her best to buoy up her spirits. But it is only now that Mari has finally had any real growth, managing to free herself from the specter of Henri Lucas and her childhood infatuation. Mari has finally grown up.
That growth is finally confirmed when Henri calls, in order to congratulate Mari for exceeding the sales target that he had set. The shop is now unrecognizable from what it was before, as it has had a complete flower redecoration (the hand of Ichigo's old friend Hanabusa is clear in this; he appeared at the very end of the previous episode and has been helping out in the background in this one), away from the Parisian stolidness of the original interior. It is also completely unrecognizable in that it is filled with people, returning customers, and most of all, life. While Ichigo rushes with the phone over to Mari, she refuses to drop what she is doing to talk to Henri. She is busy running her shop and will call him back later. The old Mari would have dropped everything else she was doing in order to hear his voice, but now she can stand on her own.
It is good to see that someone at last has begun the real transition to adulthood, and one hopes that they might move a few other characters in that direction one day. No rush to do so, but a certain sweets-loving klutz could certain use a little character growth.
Encouraged by her success with the coupon event, Mari now needs to buckle down and think how she can meet the sales targets set by Henri Lucas, who holds her shop's future in his hands. Ichigo and the gang are willing to help, but in the end it still depends on Mari, since it is her patisserie, not theirs. Sometimes, when stress and anxiety have us at our worst, it can be best to take a brief break to clear our heads. Mari has never taken a vacation since opening her doors, so the gang pushes her to take the next day off to explore the city that she currently calls home. It appears that she has never really explored New York at all. Doing so helps to refresh her spirit. But a chance encounter while on her voyage through the city will do more to help her grow and develop, as she learns, or perhaps finally remembers, the reason why she wanted to become a pâtissière in the first place. With the past arc, the show has come back to where it should have been, pushing positive growth and the transition from the limited perspective of childhood to the fuller view of an adult. The writers of the show would do well to study carefully what they have done right in this last set of episodes, and where they went horribly wrong in the first set.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
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