Thanks to dirtylibrarian for introducing me to Antique Bakery by Fumi Yoshinaga. The setup in brief: Tachibana, disgruntled scion of wealthy family, abandons his business career to buy an antique shop and converts it to a bakery so customers can enjoy their fancy pastries on equally fancy china. Of course, he needs a pastry chef. The man he hires, Ono, who’s cut a swathe through several other restaurants due to his — yes — demonic charm, turns out to be the same person that Tachibana brutally rejected in high school when he confessed his love.
The protagonists’ rich, complex backstories are one of the book’s strengths. Yoshinaga uses them to drive a lot of the episodic plots, but she’s judicious about how much she reveals, and when she reveals it.
Her character designs are elegant, and she’s good at pushing them to be broadly cartoony when the scene calls for it. (Hey otakus, what’s that called, when the art gets super-stylized? Is it chibi, or does that imply something else?) But oddly, a panel that really stood out for me was just a wordless background shot of some dishes in a sink, with the faucet slightly dripping. Perhaps because she doesn’t include lots of backgrounds, when she does, they’re more resonant and evocative.
Fun, well-executed soap opera, with moments of unexpected depth.
Also: scratch and sniff covers. How can you go wrong?