Well… stuff happened, and I guess there is a new periodic writer here in Link, someone I’ve known for a couple of years now. You may also know him for his twitter account, or for his associations with others around the Internet, for good, for bad, or for laughs. To that end, I’m hoping for another interesting opinion on anime, looks at shows that people don’t necessarily consider, and useful knowledge about fan culture and beyond (but isn’t that always the case with people here?). Here’s to a fun experiment. – TheBigN
Spurned by the seemingly unique “Professional” time skip sequel, buzz over the past few months, and Aoi Yuki’s marvelous, lovable voice, I decided to marathon Yumeiro Patissiere up to its current 46th episode. This was quite the fine idea on my part for this feels like a 90s shoujo treat, likely thanks to Studio Pierrot’s influence. Honest and pure without targeted moe elements, YumePati almost comes off as too simple and standard. But that’s part of its charm.
The series is one part Yakitate Japan!! without the surreal insanity, as the title implies, a story about 14-year old Ichigo Amano’s journey to become a professional sweets artist by entering a prestigious baking academy. Along the way she meets friends, mascot characters, and enemies, while growing as a person. The heartwarming drama, character interactions, mascot character concept (Sweets Spirits, who are literally Shugo Chara for baking), and occasionally the humor hit the right notes and remind me a good deal of Shugo Chara’s style. The very light romance is sappy and cliched, but it works, ripped right out of Kodocha’s pages. Ichigo’s obvious love interest, Kashino, has shades of Hayama himself!
The cast is equally standard, though they quickly grew on me, no less aided by the voice talent. Ichigo herself, an airheaded, clumsy girl who talks ten miles a minute with a love for sweets and a magical tongue to boot, is voiced by Aoi Yuki which creates a very memorable performance and character. It has to be heard to believed. I’ve been in love with Ao-chan’s voice since the magnificient Kure-nai and she’s improved drastically since then with her roles in Daimou, Kiruminzoo, Yutori-chan (watch episode 13!), and others. With YumePati, she’s captured my heart and my devotion with how much she grows as a seiyuu along with Ichigo. That’s naturally aided by Ao-chan playing a lead character in a 50~ episode shoujo adaptation and the many more lines she gets as a result. Neither has she played a character as upbeat and sugar-riddled as Ichigo with this volume of dialogue and frenetic emoting before. There’s a reason why she’s going to be in five new series this fall, including a lead role in a new Pokemon series, and I look forward to them with all my heart.
Ichigo is complemented foremost by her friends, the so-called Sweets Princes, the most skilled pastry chefs in the middle school. There’s the often entertaining and narcissistic Hanabusa, dependable, traditionalist Andoh, and the standout of the group, hotheaded perfectionist Kashino. Naturally, all three grow to care deeply about Ichigo over time in classical shoujo fashion. Now here is where this series could have been improved. While I’m aware of who the audience is, 10-14 year old girls, the proceedings may have felt somewhat less cramped with another central female to round out the crew. Possibly as a replacement for Andoh, who does not bring as much to the group as Kashino and Hanabusa.
But that’s a minor enough quibble with the Shugo Chara-like Sweets Spirits, who are three-quarters the opposite sex. While yes, Yumeiro Patissiere is a glorified merchandising vehicle to hook little girls (what isn’t?) on baking, and the mascots are an extension of this, they add a certain fantastical feel to the cartoon, combined with an emotional lifeline. I am a massive magical girl fan, in fact, so this provides another hook for me. Vanilla, Ichigo’s partner, headlines the Spirits, voiced by rising star Ayana Taketatsu. Fans of K-On!’s Azusa will feel right at home with Aya-nyan’s similar delivery, paired with Vanilla’s sharp tongue. Tsundere Chocolat is a riot as Kashino’s partner. The real draw among the mascots is Caramel, Andoh’s partner, voiced by impressively talented 11-year old Mayu Iino, who stole every scene she was present in as mechanic alien Ink in Koji Masunari’s Welcome to the Space Show. She shows curious range, emotion, and aptitude as Caramel. I was particularly struck by her hysterical “battle” in a recent episode, overplaying her way through the scene with professional comic timing. Maybe YumePati is her big break. I’m hearing similar praise for her part in the currently airing Shiki, a series I’m not watching.
The rest of the cast is rounded out by ever-dynamic Eri Kitamura playing the regal student council president and star of the school, Mari Tennouji, Shion Hirota as the adorable French student Lemon, Kashino’s spoiled, rich insane stalker and Ichigo’s rival Miya Koshiro, played in the most intentionally irritating fashion by Sayuri Yahagi, and others. Yui Ogura, the 14-year old who was (infamously?) motion captured as Hatsune Miku in Project Diva, plays two memorable roles throughout the series.
The production values via Studio Hibari are average and rarely stimulate the senses, though they stay consistent for much of the cartoon’s run. Neither does the pedestrian music. What enthuses viewers is the absolutely delicious display of cakes, chocolates, mousse, pies, and many other sweets throughout the series. I feel nearly hungry typing this! While the simple, no-frills character designs work decently enough, the desserts are the visual feast. As other shoujo adaptations have in the past and hopefully will continue to do so, YumePati features different outfits for its characters. Sometimes I wish every series borrowed that aspect of girls’ comics. Ichigo’s subtle change in hairstyle illustrates an interesting point later on, for one.
If you’re slightly overloaded by today’s moe dominated landspace like I am and have a mind for girly anime, give Yumeiro Patissiere a chance. You may come off refreshed, delighted, and very hungry. Now I’m off to await YumePati’s final episodes and intriguing sequel.