by Kou Matsuzuki; adapted by Lianne Sentar
published by Tokyopop; $10.99 US
This cute, food-based shojo series starts with promise but settles down into standard stories for the genre. It’s a comfortable read, but like the desserts it features, it’s fluffy, not particularly filling.
The 16-year-old Uru is frequently mistaken for a grade schooler, since she’s small and overly emotional. However, she also has super strength. (That literal phrase is even used in the text.) The unsmiling Shindo owns the Cafe Bonheur, where Uru gets a part-time job. There’s also Ichiro, a co-worker, who falls asleep whenever he’s hungry. To awaken him, you have to shove food in his mouth. (Seems dangerous, not to mention messy and unsanitary.)
The cafe and its treats make people happy, although the two guys are remarkably customer unfriendly. Shindo’s working out abandonment issues, while Uru is learning to be more honest about how she feels… and wondering how deep her emotions go when it comes to Shindo. This combination of plot points, when added to images and descriptions of delicious desserts, seemed like it could be fun, if frothy. I enjoyed wondering where the characters would go after book one. However, by the time I started book two, the souffle had collapsed.
The short, youthful Uru is generically styled, as are the taller, meant-to-be-handsome men that run the cafe; however, when placed next to each other, they could be from different species, or at least different series. The art tends to be cluttered, which is in keeping with the drastic mood swings of the characters — both sometimes have too much going on at once. The overwhelming impression generated by Uru, though, is one of encouragement. She’s always ready to believe the best and tell others they can do it, whatever it is.
If you have the energy to keep up with the quick changes from exaggerated comedy to meaningful moment, this can be lightly entertaining. Uru worrying about how to cope with a co-worker when she discovers they live next door to each other is the kind of everyday moment that can be surprisingly fraught with emotional impact. Also in book one, she has to study hard to keep her grades up in order to keep her job, and she helps a new friend become a teenage model.
In book two, the storylines become even more predictable. There’s a heartwarming chapter where they create a new dessert for an adorable little girl no one can stand to disappoint, showing Shindo’s soft side. Then a pair of brothers with a competing cafe challenge our gang to a dessert battle. It’s with the introduction of those characters that the art gets really confusing, since we now have two pairs of giraffe-like guys, one light, one dark, wandering around, all with similar spiky hair.
This volume also includes Kou Matsuzuki’s debut manga story, which also deals with characters who don’t appear to be their real age. A teenage girl gets upset when she’s mistaken for her mother, due to looking much older than she is. She makes friends with a newspaper delivery boy who’s in college but looks like a schoolboy. (The publisher provided review copies.)