Antique Bakery vol. 1
Jesika Brooks rates it:
Author/Artist: Fumi Yoshinaga
Okay, first of all, readers take heed: This manga is about pastries. And gayness. So if you are somehow repulsed by either sweets or homoeroticism, you'll likely dismiss Antique Bakery from the get-go.
That said, to those remaining: Antique Bakery is a great asset to the little-appreciated genre of food manga. DPM, the Japanese company who released Antique Bakery, is a manga line devoted to churlish tales of gay love. They're already releasing to a niche market-- although the sales of yaoi and shounen/seinen ai are way up. The fact that they decided to experiment with food manga in an already niche market shows quite a bit of dedication to the title. But, man, the dedication is appreciated. Antique Bakery serves up quite a tasty treat.
The story, which shifts around in its timeline from setting to setting, is a tale of three men who work at a pastry shop. The owner, Tachibana, is a grizzled "old" man with a knack for salesmanship-- he knows just the right thing to say to persuade an otherwise reluctant customer to purchase a cake. The head chef, Ono, is a gentle, bespectacled sort who is most assuredly, equivocally gay. Although his pastry skills are renowned, Ono is cursed with "demonic powers" that directly influence his standing with his male colleagues. The last employee of the Antique Bakery is Eiji, a boxer whose detached retinas forced him to retire from the ring. Although his previous master had connections with a ramen shop, his unabashed love of sweets steered him towards the pastry shop instead.
Antique Bakery is more of a character piece than anything else. Its strength lies in its characterization; its lusty, delicious displays of pastries come in second. I adore the interactions between both the employees and their customers. The time-shifting nature of the manga allows glimpses into the pasts and psyches of the three major players; it's interesting to how Ono evolved from a mildly-suicidal junior high boy to a gay poster child. It is somewhat refreshing to see a lack of angst in the backstory for the main cast-- despite its forays into the past, Antique Bakery has its feet firmly planted in the present.
To those who may be a bit hesitant about the content: Honestly, while Ono's gayness pops up in conversation frequently, it's often used as a gag. Antique Bakery isn't hardcore like many of DPM's titles-- the gay quotient is enough to titilate while being low enough to satisfy those who aren't adult women, DPM's main marketing demographic.
Foodies will likely enjoy this manga. While food manga usually focuses on preparation-- a la Yakitate!! Japan-- Antique Bakery is focused more on the customer reactions and on the descriptions Tachibana gives in order to pander the product. This doesn't sound like much food content, but it certainly is enough-- throughout the manga, I found myself craving such sweets as pumpkin scones with apple jam and syrupy cakes filled with halved pears. Tachibana thinks all of Ono's pastries taste of sugar; Eiji's reactions more match my own-- sheer glee.
I would not hesitate to reccomend this manga to most any casual reader. If the gay thing bugs you, you'll likely have to drop a star or two from the rating. To all others: Enjoy Antique Bakery for the delicious diversion it is. I can honestly say that I highly anticipate the second volume; if there isn't a follow-up, I think I might have to eat a fancy cake to feel better. Then again, I might just eat the cake anyway.
Added: Monday, November 28, 2005
Related Link: Digital Manga Press