It's time for some delicious Christmas cake! It had better be delicious, for Ichigo and friends will have to sell a large number of them if she and Kashino are going to be able to avoid being separated from each other and shackled to partners that they clearly do not want.
What They Say
Team Ichigo continues to steadily improve their sales, while Koshiro's Beautiful Night Castle continues a steady and relentless pace. Hard work and excellent sweets pay off eventually, and by the last week, Team Ichigo is matching Koshiro's sales... But that's not going to make up the nearly 15 million yen difference in total sales they built up! In the end, everything hinges on the sale of Christmas cakes on Christmas Eve... Who will win the bet and get Ichigo's heart?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ah, how I miss the New York arc. Seeing Mari there before the opening animation reminded me of how much I miss that segment.
But, no, we are stuck back in Marie's Garden, and the idiotic competition between The Heiress Miya Koshiro and Team Ichigo. Though things seem to have slowly improved for the dream-colored brigade, as they are starting to become much more busy. They are getting some help, even from Mari whom I mentioned before, who has sent along her recipe for her Forêt Linda, the special dessert she made in New York for her friend. With everyone pitching in, Team Ichigo continues to improve their sales, to the point that their little shop is beginning to sell as much as Koshiro's. The final battle is going to come down to sales of Christmas cakes, that yuletide requirement in Japan that is somewhat akin to Christmas fruitcakes in America. While Team Ichigo discusses how they can best maximize their sales of the cakes, Miya, of course, has already plotted her cheating path to victory: she has already ordered all of the employees of her father's company to order a cake from her, resulting in 1500 sales right from the start. Johnny seems a little upset about not earning those orders, but Miya tells him not to be a child.
The final competition starts on Christmas Eve, the last day of the contest. Things being what they are, it is time to bring in the big guns, and for the underdogs, a very big one comes through for them, as Mari Tennouji appears. The weather also helps Ichigo, as it begins to snow, which makes some of the Châteux Seika employees decide to go home. The sales numbers for the final day are coming.
But first, some comedy, as we learn about the lifespans of Sweets Spirits. Apparently, Lemon's spirit Mint is a mere baby at 150 years old. Andoh's spirit Caramel is the oldest among them (age not given).
The final sales come through, and in the end, when the final sales of Christmas cakes are put into the final tally, it ends up with both sides tied in terms of total sales revenue. An amazing result. It was helped by Team Ichigo selling 2500 cakes, a very high number, including selling quite a few to employees of Miya's father who got tired of waiting in line in the snow. While Miya is ready to call it a tie, Johnny, showing a level of professional pride, admits that in reality they have lost, since they had to discount their cakes heavily in order to reach the number of sales they had, and they also spent a lot more on overhead (advertising, etc.). So, in terms of net profits, they did not make as much. The competition is over. Exactly as I predicted last week.
In the end, we have a short coda, answering some of the questions about relationship between Kashino and Amano, as well as continuing to show us that the annoying aspects of the series are not about to disappear (it appears that Miya and Johnny will never give up).
The danger of sequels is the unrealistic expectations they can sometimes create for the audience. It was clear from the start that Yumeiro Pâtissière SP Professional could not just pick up and repeat the cooking tournament formula nor the school comedy setting that made the first series a winner by the end. It would have to rely upon the strength of the characters that it created to carry the show. There was no great problem with that, as Ichigo and her Sweets Princes were a likable group by the end of the first series, and many minor characters had developed and improved in important ways over the course of the journey. Unfortunately, the anime writers for this anime-original sequel made a few questionable choices when they made their decisions about how to build the setting for the follow-up.
Immediately gone were two of the Sweets Princes, Andoh and Hanabusa, though for reasons that made sense in terms of internal show logic. Their disappearance was something of a loss, as they provided some balance to the remaining Sweets Prince, Makoto Kashino, who was kept in close proximity to Ichigo Amano. New characters would be needed to provide that balance, and here the anime writers stumbled. First, there was Lemon Yamagishi, a one-time rival of Ichigo's from the first series. There was potential there in her appearance, but instead of providing perhaps a minor foil to Ichigo, Lemon mainly became a piece of furniture throughout much of the series, being drawn into the background like the chairs and cooking counter tops. Second, there was Johnny McBeal, a loud-mouthed, Engrish-speaking buffoon, the worst caricature of The Ugly American. Brash, egotistical, self-absorbed, and worse...presented as a romantic rival for the heart of Ichigo, who was seen at the very end of the first series holding hands with Kashino, it being clear that our Strawberry Princess had found her Prince. In the early episodes, he presented the foil to Ichigo and Kashino, always in an annoying and grating way.
That would only be the start of the missteps. A great loss was the complete avoidance of St. Marie Academy, which had figured prominently in the first series. After all, Ichigo is still just a high school student, and there were a number of good and interesting minor characters who had been well developed in the original series. But they would play no role here, as the school was left behind after the first episode. Instead, despite their being high schoolers (and in some countries they would be subject to child labor laws, but not in the mythical universe here), Henri Lucas, the Svengali of the Sweets World, took four children, and let us not forget that they are children, and put them in charge of their own professional sweets shop. The result was similar to mixing oil and water. Johnny's headstrong selfishness and more dynamic nature led to immediate conflict with Kashino's rather more conservative and restrained perspective on how to approach the business of selling sweets. Ichigo, good at eating and good at making sweets, seemed rather helpless in navigating between the two young man, who also had the romantic angle influencing their mutual dislike at all times. What we had were several episodes of bickering mixed with lessons on retail business practices that are already well known by most four-year-olds.
It would get worse. While the writers seemed to realize their missteps by trying to bring back some of the magic of the original series, taking a detour to the Sweets Kingdom and visiting Mari Tennouji, the one-time wunderkind of St. Marie's, in New York, their major decision for this short series was to build up Miya Koshiro, the spoiled princess and openly declared rival for Kashino's hand to Ichigo, as the main antagonist. Not a bad choice in and of itself, as her rivalry with Ichigo was well established, though the writers had done a very good job in the last several episodes of the original series developing Koshiro in very positive ways, making her more into a friendly rival. Instead, they had Koshiro bound into the frame with the grating sound of her spoiled-heiress' laugh, to clown around for us as nothing more than a one-note character, the single note being her unrelenting obsession with Kashino, who has made it clear on more than one occasion that he is not interested in her. Gone were the layers and depth and development that had occurred at the end of the last series. Wiped clean away.
The final contest was over before it started. We knew that Koshiro would get out to a big lead over Ichigo and Kashino. We knew that by the end, they would catch up and win. It was so obvious, that it presented no real drama or tension. While one could have said the same for many of the cooking contests in the first series, the writers actually did a far better job of packaging them, of sowing just enough doubt, that you could feel some concern. That was completely absent here.
In the end, Yumeiro Pâtissière SP Professional serves as an example of missed opportunities and failed execution. A rushed sequel to a property that was obviously doing so well that they had to push out a sequel to build on the merchandising potential as much as possible. I do not blame them for doing so. As this show itself will tell you, business is business. I just wish that a little more time had been spent trying to create a sequel that would leave a sweet, and not a spoiled and sour, taste in one's mouth.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
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