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June 14, 2010

Bento Bako Weekly: Antique Bakery vols. 1&2

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: Antique Bakery
Author: Fumi Yoshinaga ( Ōoku: The Inner Chambers)
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing
Volume: Volumes 1 and 2 today (of four), $12.95 each
Vintage: 2000 by Shinshokan in Japan, volume 1 in May 2005 by DMP, volume 2 in September 2005; the series is still in print
It’s really hard to classify.  There are boy’s love elements, shojo elements, romance, comedy, drama, even a little mystery.  It’s a really nice blend of different elements.  I’ve seen it classified as shonen-ai (a light version of yaoi), but I think it’s easier classified as shojo or even josei.  I say that because the series is not defined by the sexual orientation of its characters.  It’s a story that happens to have gay characters in it, and not a story about gay characters (and really, there’s only one openly gay male in the story).

At the bakery Antique you are treated to some of the best pastries in Japan.  Made and served by handsome men, and delivered on pieces of antique china, the pastries, teas, coffees, and snacks transport you to nirvana.  Dine inside or take the exquisite desserts home with you.  In Antique Bakery four men run this unique cafe: Keiichiro Tachibana (32 years old) the owner, Yusuke Ono (32) the genius pastry chef, Eiji Kanda (21) the assistant pastry chef (and former star boxer), and Chikage Kobayakawa (34) the salesman and waiter (also a childhood friend of Tachibana).  Each of the men has a troubled past, but works hard to create a new future.  Tachibana was kidnapped as a child, Ono was brutally rejected by his crush in high school, Eiji was forced to quit boxing due detached retinas, and Chikage’s mother was abused by her husband.  Antique has a variety of customers, from all walks of life.  Many of them have their own stories to tell, which are woven into and between the stories of the main characters.  Each of the four main characters gets personal face time, but Tachibana is the center of everything.  It’s his cafe, he gathered up the employees, both Ono and Chikage have personal pasts with him, and the underlying story (which makes up the bulk of the final volume) revolves around him.

In the first volume, we’re thrown right into the setting.  When the story starts, we get a brief introduction to Ono and Eiji pre-Antique, and then suddenly we’re following the story of one of the cafe’s regular customers and Ono, Eiji, and Tachibana are already working together.  You get to see them interact as co-workers and friends before you see how they all came together.  Fourteen years ago, Ono confessed his feeling to Tachibana on the last day of school and was brutally rejected.  Thirteen years ago, two young girl pass by each other in junior high.  Eight years after that, Eiji is told he can no longer box.  Two years later, in the present time, a middle-aged man is enjoying some cake from a new bakery.  Suddenly the two junior high girls meet again by accident, and they bond at the new bakery in town, Antique.  Shortly after, Yoshinaga delves into the past of the middle-aged cake lover, Tadahiro, setting him up as more than just a regular customer.  Eiji takes the spotlight later, when a rival from his boxing days demands to know why his hero is working in a pastry shop.  Then Yoshinaga takes us back into the past, to watch Tachibana start his bakery, and meet Ono once again.  They get set to open up the bakery, and then Eiji joins on, initially as a waiter, but his enthusiasm for Ono’s sweets earns him a spot as Ono’s assistant in the kitchen.

Tachibana's hopes and dreams are dashed by his exceptionally talented pastry chef in volume 1 of Antique Bakery.

Volume two starts showing us more about the main cast.  Eiji is revealed to be a former delinquent and a bit of a playboy.  Then a new character arrives – Tachibana’s family’s housekeeper, the tall, innocent, naive, shy, clumsy Chikage…who just happens to be Ono’s exact type.  It’s a little more than the “Gay of Demonic Charm” can stand, and he spends the next couple of chapters trying to seduce the gentle Chikage, who is awkwardly falling in love…but is far too innocent to be corrupted by Ono’s charms.  As Christmas approaches, Tachibana tests out a delivery service, leaving the three more socially awkward employees to hold the fort while he’s gone – Ono, who is terrified of women; Chikage, who is shy and clumsy; and Eiji, who has no sense of tact.  At the end of the volume, we learn more about Tachibana’s family situation, and the reason he decided to open up a cake shop.

Yoshinaga has a fantastic sense of character development.  The characters are well developed and grow throughout the series.  They’re genuine, if a little silly at times.  Yoshinaga handles their physical expressions excellently; even with Chikage, whose eyes are constantly covered by sunglasses, it’s always clear what emotions he’s expressing.  She handles the serious moments just as well as she handles the comedic moments, making you really feel for the characters through some pages, but keeping you grinning and laughing through the others.  Despite the somewhat backward flow of the story in the first volume, everything pieces together quite nicely.  And, to top it off, Yoshinaga’s descriptions and drawings of the pastries are mouthwatering.  You can almost taste them.  If you’d like to smell them, Digital Manga put a scratch ‘n sniff spot on the cover of each of the four volumes, that coincides with the featured pastry.  It’s a neat little bonus feature on the beautiful dust jackets.

The only real complaint I have is in regards to DMP’s translation.  I’d love to see the original translation, because I’m interested in the honorifics and special terms that were used in the Japanese edition.  They translated them into American equivalents, but it reads a little awkward sometimes.  Like Ono calling Chikage “Mr. Chikage,” despite their friendship (he’s most likely calling him Chikage-san).  Or Eiji calling Ono “Master”; I’d like to know if he means “sensei” or if he uses a title like he may use in boxing (like a “shishou” in a dojo), which would be rather amusing.

I’ll look at the final two volumes another time, so keep your eyes open.


Review copies provided by Digital Manga Publishing.



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kristin Bomba, Comic Attack. Comic Attack said: This week for #MangaMonday we salute @DigitalManga's ANTIQUE BAKERY vol. 1 + 2! https://comicattack.net/2010/06/bbwantiquebakery1_2/ #manga […]

  2. Billy

    Sounds exactly as you said as far as the mix of elements involved. I tend to like those kinds of stories best.

  3. […] First, some quick news regarding Antique Bakery. The anime has been licensed by Nozomi Entertainment (Right Stuf), and should be available early in 2011.  Hooray!  I believe they debuted a trailer at Anime Expo last weekend, which will probably be available on their site soon.  Now, on to the conclusion of my manga review!  You can read the review for volumes 1 and 2 right here. […]

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