What They Say
In food and in life, one must taste what is bitter to appreciate what is sweet… Troubled that memories of the past continue to invade his dreams of the present, Keiichiro Tachibana stuns all who know him by abruptly quitting his ordinary office job to open a bakery. He envisions a predominantly feminine clientele and a wait staff of cute girls. Instead, his employees include a playboy pâtissier who’s been fired from every job he’s ever had, an ex-boxer with an insatiable sweet tooth, and an absent-minded childhood friend and family servant. Can this unlikely quartet overcome personal tragedies, learn to work together, and discover a recipe for culinary success? The complete 12-episode series!
The audio presentation for this release isn’t a surprise as it has the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded at 192kbps. The show is one that doesn’t stretch itself all that much since it’s all dialogue driven with some ambient sound effects and music to help tie it all together. The loudest scenes tend to come from the opening and closing sequences and even that isn’t saying much. There are a few character outbursts with dialogue but it’s not much in the grand scheme of the show. The mix has some nice placement as multiple characters are on screen at any given time and there aren’t any issues with how it performs. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in the summer of 2008, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The twelve episode series is spread across three discs evenly with four episodes to each disc. Antique Bakery has a very specific look about it that almost seems like it’s manga come to life with the character designs and their colors but it’s blended well with the CG style use of the backgrounds and the way the camera works through the settings. The colors are pretty solid overall with a good, subdued look that’s appropriate and there is some pop with the foods themselves which just adds to their allure. Detail is well handled and the shadows have a good intentional soft look to them that fits with the overall atmosphere. This isn’t a busy show with what it does and the transfer looks good overall.
The packaging for this release is done similar to most other Nozomi releases where it has a heavy chipboard box that holds three clear thinpak cases and a small book. The box is done with a distinctive look to it that has a soft white approach that lets the character artwork blend into it nicely. Each of the main panels features a split that lets two of the main characters stand side by side with desserts in hand. The illustrations look really good and you realize just how well the animation captures the look of the original work. There’s some nice framework to it that gives it a touch of elegance but it doesn’t stand out hugely or take away from the character artwork. The logo is kept towards the bottom with a simple font that looks really good for it.
The thinpak cases inside are really cute where it uses the same overall framing and has the logo along the bottom, all of which is done against a soft white background. What draws the eyes for it is that the center has a very small piece of artwork of a different dessert for each cover. It’s a great little design that really sets it apart from just about every other release out there. The back covers are all laid out the same as it has the look of a menu with the corner bindings while inside has the logo and a breakdown of each of the episodes on each disc with the episode title and three shots from that episode below it. The bottom of each volume also has a separate spot to list the extras that are on that particular volume.
The full color thirty-two-page booklet included is pretty solid as it does everything in the same design as the packaging while the artwork inside has that softer look that the show itself has. There’s a lot of good stuff in here as it breaks down all the characters and has a really nice page that covers some of the fun little facts about the show in liner note form. I also really, really liked the couple of pages that break down the various desserts from the show with pictures of them all. The rest of it is filled out with a lot of good interview material with the original manga author and a couple of the voice actors.
The menus for this release are simple but with a nice bit of elegance to them as it uses the framing design from the packaging wit a generally soft background color with shades of brown. Each disc uses a different piece of artwork of a particular kind of dessert which gives it a bit of fun character that wouldn’t be there if they actually used character artwork. The layout has the navigation on the left, which is minimal since it’s a monolingual release, and even the extras are available through the top level menu which makes things a bit easier to navigate. Submenus where available are quick to load and easy to use and player presets are a non-issue.
The extras for this release are spread across all three volumes and there’s some decent stuff included here. The first volume provides the clean version of the opening and Nozomi’s original trailer for the series. The second volume has the clean closing and a brief two-minute interview with Tomomi Kasai which shows her in the studio as well. The third volume has the biggest extras of them all with fifteen minutes of footage from one of the live events that were held and it has some good fun to it as we see the usual type of event where the cast comes out and talks about the show and such.
Based on the manga of the same name by Fumi Yoshinaga which was released by Digital Manga Publishing, the original work ran for four volumes from 1999 to 2002 and is presented here in a twelve episode series that’s pretty complete with the story it wants to tell. With the nature of this show, there’s a lot of concern among some potential buyers that it’s a show that’ll be too yaoi oriented for them. Antique Bakery has gay characters to it, and there are a couple of situations where things may be awkward for some if just the thought of two men kissing is enough to turn you off, but it’s a very mild show overall in this regard and there’s more general male camaraderie – Japanese style – than anything else.
The show focuses on the lead character of Tachibana, a thirty-something man who has abandoned the corporate life in order to open a bakery shop and cafe named Antique Bakery. It has the hook of using antique style utensils, plates, and other things in order to give it some charm and personality. The big thing he needs is the right patisserie in order to make it successful. What he ends up finding is a man named Ono that he actually went to high school with who had also confessed feelings of attraction towards him. Tachibana rejected him handily and made a bit of a spectacle of it, telling him to die in fact, but the passage of time has made it so that Ono doesn’t recognize him, though Tachibana does and it continues to haunt him throughout the series.
Ono is considered one of the best patisseries in the area as he has exceptional skill, studied overseas and has earned quite the reputation in that area. Unfortunately, he’s also earned a reputation as the gay demon of the area as well as every shop he’s worked in has had to fire him because the staff invariably end up falling for him, gay or not, and it causes innumerable problems. There’s a sequence where there is a cake bake off event at a department store and Antique Bakery is one of the participants and we see first hand just how reviled he is because of how he affected their businesses. For Tachibana, he doesn’t have any feelings towards him, but he has to be careful about who he hires. He actually wants a cute girl as the main part of his wait staff, but events don’t turn out that way for him.
Tachibana ends up with two people who work for him that are nothing like he wanted. Chikage is actually someone he grew up with as his mother used to work for the family and when she died, they took him in and put him through college. He refers to Tachibana as the young master and there’s a good relationship to be had there. He’s a tall guy that looks great in a suit but has the added twist of always wearing sunglasses because he has sensitive eyes. There’s a neat series of events that has him starting to fall for Ono, and they get pretty far, but it shows the sensitivity level of the man which is a welcome change of pace from those that dive in head first, literally, and those that fight it every step of the way. It’s a nicely nuanced relationship that isn’t what you think it will be.
While he handles things out on the floor, Ono gets himself some help with a young man in his early twenties named Kanda. Kanda’s kind of the odd man out because of his age but also because of his background as he’s a boxer who has retired. The reasons for him going to boxing are explored a bit and it has an impact on how difficult this job is later on as he becomes a surprisingly good assistant to Ono, who thinks that Kanda could be an excellent patisserie himself, enough so that he could surpass Ono some day with his creativity. Kanda’s the most brash of them all and has the youthful energy thing going for him, but it’s his love of Ono that’s fun to watch because it’s purely about the baking, never anything more than that. There’s a very strong relationship that forms through a master/apprentice way here, but it doesn’t go further than that.
The opening of a new shop has enough story itself and we see a lot of fun as the gang gets used to each other, harbors their own secrets and work hard towards the opening. What was surprising was that there is a pretty significant and interesting story underlying all of it that comes out naturally towards the end, not forced, involving how Tachibana was kidnapped as a youth. That event has impacted him over the years because the guy who kidnapped him fed him nothing but sweets, and you realize that Tachibana is going through all of this in some misguided form of trying to figure out who it was, even though apparently the statute of limitations has been reached on it. With kidnappings happening in the present, things get a little more complicated, but because it all involves older men rather than the usual high school crowd, it has a very different flavor to it that works very well.
What helps to sell the maturity level of the show, which does have some wonderful humor and outtakes sprinkled throughout it, is the design of the animation. While you can say it looks more like a manga than other shows, it’s because of the stronger, angled look of the characters and the soft palette used for giving them their color. There’s a definite “antique” feeling going on here with the shop and the characters which translates well to the overall mood. It has a layer of elegance to it but also that feeling of being old and almost kind of dusty, which can be really hard to pull off. What’s a little disconcerting about the show at times is how it uses so much CG animation for building exterior designs and in manipulating the camera around it. It has a really good smoothness to it as it moves about and feels like the right way to do this particular kind of show.
Going into Antique Bakery, I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to get since it has the perception of being more yaoi than it is. What I got was a show that has several very good male characters that aren’t teenagers, many of which are in their thirties or higher, who are dealing with a variety of issues but in a way that doesn’t truly dominate and control their lives and make them go down obnoxious paths. There’s a good underlying story to all of this that’s teased out slowly but never in a way that feels forced and that helps to complement the larger character pieces which are revealed bit by bit. I really liked the visual style of the show and that we get a mostly complete story here, but one that doesn’t end with everything wrapped up neatly, giving it more of a real life kind of feeling. This is definitely a show that helps to expand the Nozomi library of titles but also feels like a perfect fit. Very recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, clean opening and closing, interview with Tomomi Kasai (actress and member of AKB48), live event coverage
AND: A special booklet that includes character bios, quick facts, featured desserts, and two interviews featuring all four lead voice actors, as well as the creator of the manga, Fumi Yoshinaga.
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: April 5th, 2011
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.