by Fumi Yoshinaga
published by Digital Manga; $12.95 US
As with Book 2, this volume wasn’t what I expected.
In fact, it’s beginning to remind me of the author’s previous series Antique Bakery in that she’s treating it almost as an anthology. The loose framework she’s set up allows her to tell a variety of stories, and the subjects she chooses tend to be a bit more diverse than the usual shojo.
Sumiko, the manga artist from the previous volume, goes shopping with classmates in a charming piece about different interests. The girls get varying types of enjoyment from exercising their fashion skills and knowledge (or lack thereof). It’s a more nuanced portrayal than the usual makeover-type sequence, and it takes its characters seriously instead of making fun of them, demonstrating their empathy.
That’s just one of the character profiles that make up the first half of the book. Another focuses on Shota, who’s working on a manga with Harutaro and learning his preferred style of artistic collaboration. The two deepen their friendship after realizing that honesty is a necessary foundation for any good relationship.
Meanwhile, Shigeru, the unusual teacher from Book 1, is torn between an affair and forbidden love with a student, which all comes to a head at Christmas. For the holiday, the students are throwing a party that illustrates the virtues of compromise and creativity. Mostly, it’s a heart-warming seasonal message that the trappings don’t matter, that you can have fun with good company and good intent.
It’s a rewarding conclusion, although there’s a short cliffhanger sequence afterwards. As a disturbing-only-to-me note, the way the girl on the cover is drawn, she reminds me of me when I was in school.
(A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)