(Quick note: I am going through the fall season’s premieres and having a blast, so expect a couple of posts in the next days on that topic. Also, with any luck, I’ll be able to get my grubby little hands on subs for the last two episodes of Someday’s Dreamers before the Sun implodes… A man can dream, no?)
In retrospect I did not give Antique Bakery the attention it deserves, but in my defense, such a quiet, character-focused show makes poor blogging material. How do you compare the daily lives of four gay guys opening a Western-style cake shop to giant mechas or undead schoolgirls dual-wielding Uzis?
Nom nom nom after the break.
I’ll start right off by guaranteeing an Antique Bakery review sooner or later. It kinda flew under the general anime radar and it’s a shame, because it truly had some amazing moments of brilliant characterization. The finale brought more of the same by finally letting us into the mind of Kei to find out what truly happened, twenty years ago, when he was kidnapped and force-fed cake; once you wrap your head around the entire situation it illuminates his personality — especially his homophobia and his reaction to Ono’s declaration of love when they were in high school.
I tend to rag on happy endings. I find them boring in a medium that’s known to push visual and storytelling boundaries further and further every season. But Antique Bakery does conclude with a happy ending as Chikage and Eiji both leave the nest, so to speak, the former to live on his own without Kei, the second to France where’ll he no doubt spend a couple of weeks stuffing his face. And it made me happy because it felt natural. In a show like Sekirei, for example, every character possesses lethal superpowers and death should be commonplace, thus making a happy ending inconsistent. But in the world of Antique Bakery… People live and learn. They get knocked down and they get up again. And they eat a metric fuckton of cake.
(Wow, I’ve been mentioning Sekirei a lot lately, and not favorably I might add. Serves it right!)
The ending did leave me with one nagging question in mind. We learned in the previous episode that the sudden rash of pastry-related kidnappings was not the doing of Kei’s former kidnapper, but of a young psychotic man, whom Kei helped find and arrest in episode 11. At the end of episode 12, Kei’s true kidnapper pops up at the shop to buy a cake.
Does Kei know?
I am asking because I have no idea. Nothing in his speech or gestures indicate that he realizes the true identity of the customer he’s serving. The camera lingers on the man’s slight limp as he walks away; are we to infer that Kei has noticed it, too, and is putting the pieces together? But perhaps more importantly, does he care? He seems to have remembered the entirety of his ordeal from twenty years ago and, in retrospect, it was a desperate gesture of mingled sorrow and misguided love from his kidnapper. Are we to infer that he forgives him? Are we to likewise forgive him? The ambiguity is maddening, yet at the same time, it is welcome. The more a show’s ending forces me to reflect on it, the better it was.
Anyway, here’s the TL;DR version: you probably didn’t hear much about this show, including from me, and it’s a great injustice that I intend to correct and which you should too by giving Antique Bakery a shot. Much like Kurenai, at 12 episodes it’s extremely short, but unlike Kurenai there wasn’t very little filler to speak of — which might be explained by the show’s lack of story to start with. Not that it’s a weakness, because as in life, there are no stories, only people.