"Antique Bakery has glimpses of potential, but poor writing and a convoluted plot drag the entire show down."
Lack of coherency seems to be a reoccurring theme in much of today’s Anime. Many shows strive to please too many viewers and oftentimes lose focus in the process. While Japanese animation is rich in niche genres, it’s difficult to find shows with a distinct voice and purpose nowadays, particularly when romantic or dramatic subject matter is involved. Antique Bakery is the perfect example of a show that had potential to be unique, even meaningful, but failed to recognize its own values by tangling the story with convoluted subplots and melodramatic tedium.
Keiichiro Tachibana has a troubling past. As a child he was kidnapped by a maniacal cake-lover and he’s constantly haunted by traumatic memories. To deal with the problem, he decides to open a bakery…with the financial support of his rich parents. How noble. His assistants are an overconfident ex-boxing champ, Kanda, a skilled pâtissier, Ono, who’s been fired from every previous job and Chikage, Tachibana’s childhood friend whose character isn’t fleshed out much until later in the story.
Yusuke Ono is gay…no, let me rephrase that, the show portrays him as super gay with “Gay Demonic Charm” that makes every man fall in love with him. However, his alluring sexual magnetism is contrasted with emotional torment of his messy love life and his chosen career path. Ono’s sexuality and split personality is meant to bring depth to the narrative, but is instead treated with such crude arrogance and vulgarity it can be borderline offensive. At times I couldn’t tell whether the creators were being insensitive or just completely clueless. Despite yaoi elements, Antique bakery doesn’t particularly follow the expected genre trend of strictly focusing on relationships between two men, rather it shoehorns awkward instances where the show loses grip on what it’s trying to convey.
"Even yaoi fans won't find much of interest here. It's a shame really, because Antique Bakery ultimately feels like it could've been so much more."
Antique Bakery is at its best when it spotlights the bakery and how the four friends run their business. The joy is in seeing the bakery grow and in the interesting customers that come and go. Character development is split up with certain episodes focusing on certain characters and their backgrounds and it works well for the most part. The problem lies in the convoluted kidnapping subplot and poor dialog. Melodramatic banter tends to overshadow anything even remotely interesting and it’s clear that the creators had no confidence in the characters to carry the plot.
To add insult to injury, the show is an eyesore. A strange, overblown glow filter masks every scene (particularly the “dramatic” moments) and the amateurish use of 3-D is laughable. While some of the interior furniture looks nice during wide camera pans, things like cars and buildings look like failed student projects. At least the food is delicately drawn.
Antique Bakery is not a complete disaster. Its semi-poetic anecdotes provide interesting insights into the characters’ past, but its soap-opera approach to storytelling makes it difficult to stay engaged throughout. The show is only twelve episodes short but feels like it goes on for more than a hundred. If you’re really craving a relaxing slice of life drama…you’re better off with the vastly superior ARIA or the more comedic and similarly themed Wagnaria.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Review Format: DVD | Running Time: 300 Minutes