Chéri, My Destiny!
Chéri, My Destiny! LOOKS like a cute food manga about two young men falling for each other while making sweets, but by the time we reach the final chapter (of four) in the story, it’s well earned its Mature (18+) rating.
Sakura manages a shop that sells Western-style chocolates and desserts near a confectionary that sells Japanese-style treats. Sakura gets competitive, so he checks the other place out, where he sees that they’ve got lots of young female customers. Sakura is insecure about how Western-style confections are better, insisting Japanese-style are old-fashioned, but Sojiro, manager of the traditional store, is unflappable about the whole thing, thinking each can be enjoyed for what they offer.
When he finds out Sojiro hasn’t had Western-style sweets, Sakura starts bringing him samples. Before he realizes it, he’s fallen for his “competitor”. I suspect the Western-trained confectioner being over-emotional and extreme while the Japanese heir is calm and well-balanced is an intentional contrast. It’s amusing, though, seeing Sojiro being mature and thoughtful while Sakura blows his top, and there’s a long tradition of opposites attracting. I was rooting for these two to talk to each other.
They finally kiss, then, halfway through chapter 3, the sweet romance jumps the tracks to something much more explicit. After an invitation using the F-word, chapter 4 presents fully nude penetrative sex (and not-good non-consensual interaction to go with it, as Sakura sneaks whiskey into chocolates without telling Sojiro what he’s doing, knowing his partner doesn’t want to drink).
After the sex scene, the book ends with a few short romantic moments between the two. In the concluding author’s note, Okoge Mochino mentions this being only their 2nd BL manga (and implies that it may be their second ever). I wasn’t surprised. There’s an overall lack of detail common to newer creators — few actual dessert names, for instance, or details about the candy — although artistically, there are plenty of backgrounds and scene setting.
The visual element that stood out to me most was how much the boys’ heads looked like puffballs. They have smaller faces and giant mops of hair. Overall, the art is sufficient to the story, with some lovely images of the chocolates and some heartfelt portraits of the young men when they are full of emotion. The rest just moves us between the two.
Sakura is our viewpoint character, and we don’t get to see much of what motivates or drives Sojiro. Various plotlines are mentioned but insufficiently followed up on, mostly around his family status. He briefly has a fianceé, for example, but only for a temporary dramatic obstacle. There’s also little known about Sakura’s background — he’s French-trained, but in a longer series, I imagine we’d know more about why and how and his family background (which here doesn’t exist).
As it stands, if you’re comfortable with the explicit material and the abrupt change in tone (which feels like “ok, they’re together, now the smut!”), this is a cute single-volume read, although its brevity may be a little unsatisfying afterwards.
Chéri, My Destiny! is due out July 20 in print (and can be preordered now from your local comic shop with Diamond code APR21 2265). Oddly, it’s promised at Amazon to be available digitally May 10, two months earlier. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)
Tokyopop has been releasing their digital editions earlier than the print for a while now. The whole traditional vs western style sweet thing DOES remind me of the, er, discourse around Great British Bake-Off’s latest season when they had a “Japanese Week.” (I remember saying, upon hearing that, “Uh, it’s just gonna be French week then,” since French patisserie is… exactly what western people think of when they think of Japanese sweets these days, and not traditional sweets.) In any case, I am looking forward to this one! (…obviously.)
I really wish there had been more information on what Japanese sweets were, but that’s part of the detail that got left out in the short space. There was one word used, that I had to look up online, but that was it.