Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Antique Bakery, vols. 1-4

by Fumi Yoshinaga

I've praised the work of this author previously (here), and I have to say this series totally delivers! And lots of other people must like it too, because it's also been made into a television series in Japan and a movie in Korea. It combines great storytelling with beautifuly soft and stylish illustration, and the characters are intriguing and well-developed.

A fancy patisserie owned by a lower-middle-aged former businessman — who, as a child, was abducted and held captive and fed cake for several weeks before escaping — is the setting and back-story. A bit of a ladies' man, he's very suave and attractive but ultimately unlucky in love. One of the other characters, a young former boxer apprenticed to the head pastry chef, calls him "geezer," but the age difference is barely noticeable in the illustrations. The main visual cue that sets him apart is his subtle stubble.

Rather unassuming, maybe even slightly geeky at first glance, the incredibly talented head pastry chef is frequently referred to as "a gay of demonic charm," due to his siren-like ability to seduce anyone who comes near, be they gay or straight, male or female. Somewhat unusual for yaoi manga, he came to terms with his homosexuality in high school and since then has been about as "out" as he can be within the weird borders of Japanese culture. There is, however, one person impervious — actually, more like oblivious to his charms: the fourth employee of the bakery is very tall, quite dopey and, since childhood, fiercely loyal to the owner.

It's easy to see why this became a TV show, with it's underlying story and episodic story arcs. The series doesn't include any actual sex that I can remember, but it definitely includes frank discussion of sexual themes, so it's PG-13 for sure. (On the cover, it's rated "mature, for 18+".)

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