“Easy As Pie” – Antique Bakery (anime) – 7/10 Peeps

Genre: Comedy/Drama/Shoujo/Shounen-ai(?)/Slice-of-Life

Review Status: Complete (12 Episodes/12 Episodes)

Licensed: Yes, this is licensed in the US by Nozomi.

Art/Animation: I can’t say much for the OP, because it’s carboard cut-outs against a dollhouse background, but the actual series looks quite good. It’s a more airy/sketchy look to it, rather along the lines of Honey and Clover, and in light pastels, though the backgrounds are often CG and not quite as nice-looking as the characters. You do get used to it, but it is disconcerting at first. The animation is very good. Since it’s a slice-of-life series, the budget is used to make things look nice, and it works.

Summary: A high school crush, a world-class pastry chef, a former middle-weight boxing champion… and a whole lot of cake!
Ono has come a long way since the agonizing day in high school when he confessed his love to handsome Tachibana. Now, some 14 years later Ono, a world-class pastry chef and gay playboy has it all. No man can resist Ono’s charms (or his cooking skills!) but he has just found a new position under a man named Tachibana. Can this be the only man who resisted his charms, and if so, will the man who once snubbed the “magically gay” Ono get his just deserts? And how in the heck did a former middleweight boxing champion wind up as Ono’s cake boy? (DigitalMangaPublishing)

Review: This has the cutest opening I’ve seen in a while. No, seriously, check it out!

It’s sweet and adorable (instead of looking cheap, like I had worried), and serves as a fantastic intro into a series that has the iffiest premise I’ve ever come across: A man who was kidnapped and forced to eat cake as a child ends up opening a bakery to find the man. It’s terribly strange, and if this wasn’t filled with handsome men baking delicious things, I might have turned this off right then and there. Thankfully, this wasn’t as ridiculous as it seemed to be, even though there are a number of moments that are… less than realistic.

This is mainly a character-driven story, and gives the impression that it’s shounen-ai off the first episode when Keiichiro ends up asking Yusuke whether he would work for him. Yusuke comes right out and says that Keiichiro used to bully him because he was gay and that he was madly in love with Keiichiro. Keiichiro has absolutely no interest in him however, but Yusuke gives into the pleas because it gives him a chance to show off his baking skills. And because he’s such a player that he can’t work anywhere else. But the staff isn’t complete yet! Chikage, a bodyguard that’s a touch slow, ends up becoming a waiter  (and love interest of Yusuke, but that’s minor). And the cast is rounded out by Eiji, a young man that desperately wants to make sweets and ends up becoming Yusuke’s apprentice.

The majority of this show is really the everyday happenings around the bakery, from developing a new cake, to being featured on televisiton, to sending Eiji away to learn more. And these things really are a lot of fun to see. The parts where it stumbles are on Yusuke’s personal life, because it’s so absolutely full of drama that it’s ridiculous. I suppose there’s something to be said about depicting how terrible abusive relationships are, but it’s still very out of place with the rest of the show. I’m also not fond of the kidnapper sotryline. It really highlights how silly the premise is overall. But… there are parts of it that really made my day, like tracking down people meant delivering cakes in ridiculous costumes as well as being asked to do truly difficult pastries. So while it was far from perfect, at least the kidnapper arc had a number of redeeming things.

For 11 episodes, though, it was too much time wasted and a little too much drama for what really should mostly have been an upbeat show.

Overall, it was fun and a decent series. Rate higher if you’re really fond of drama involving handsome men.

Recommended: 18+. Implied sex between two men, along with some partial nudity. There’s a series of murders of little boys happening (we never see them die, but it’s impied offscreen). Someone gets stabbed, and you do see some blood.

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Ristorante Paradiso (anime)

Bartender (anime or manga)

Sommelière (manga)

“Catch You, Catch Me” – Demon Diary (manhwa) – 7/10 Tulips

“Do your duty today and repent tomorrow.” ~Mark Twain

Mangaka: Kara (art), Ji Hyong Lee (story), Yun Hee Lee (story). Soom Lee (story)

Genre: Supernatural/Comedy/Action/Shounen-ai

Review Status: Complete (7 Volumes/7 Volumes)

Licensed: Formerly licensed by Tokyopop

Art: This is pretty typical shoujo art, especially for manhwa. Bowever, it looks nice and the panels flow quite well, so I have no problems! Especially since clothing and facial expressions are quite well-done.

Summary: Gods and demons wage a never-ending battle with the mortal realm as their battlefield. As is the case with most longstanding feuds, the reasons are no longer important- hatred has become a way of life. But it’s said that one will arise to restore harmony between gods and demons. Enter Raenef, heir to demon royalty, though he is hardly courtly material. The demon king assigns the wise and noble demon teacher Eclipse to whip him into proper demon shape. Raenef is the black sheep of the demon court, clueless about magic and royal etiquette. But before long, Raenef and Eclipse find that the bonds of their friendship grow stronger than the student/teacher relationship. (back cover of 1st volume)

Review: I had assumed Demon Diary was a companion to another manhwa, Angel Diary. I was quite wrong- this is completely seperate and an excelent story on it’s own. Better, actually, than the aformentioned Angel Diary. This brings together an eclectic cast of characters in ways that are pretty funny, if sightly contrived- a female bounty hunter that joins as a guard to save her own skin, a young priest who has the power of a god flowing through his veins (but a short temper and overzealous desire to prove himself) that needs calming before he becomes the head of the priesthood, and a young girl that simply wants to meet the new Demon Lord. And, of course, there’s Eclipse, a dark, brooding mentor that’s charmed by his new master’s bright smile, and Raenef, a carefree young demon that has a great skill for magic, but only wishes to be happy.

The main plot is to whip Raenef into shape. He is embarassingly polite and nice at the Demon Lord meetings, there’s no will for destruction in him, and he prefers to make shadow puppets with his powers than deadly aura blasts! It seems like there’s no hope for him, and as his friends gather around him one by one, things are only looking worse, with them having fun and getting into the occasional bit of mischeif. It’s not all lighthearted, though; all of the characters show bits of their dark pasts, why they are the way they are. For the most part, the focus is given on the young boy priest, who is key to some of the later plot.

What really is nice is that none of the characters are really skimped on or given the shaft. Something that really caught my attention is how the bounty hunter is treated- in shounen-ai, girls aren’t that nice, or really more than caricatures. Here, she’s treated well and even given a love interest! And it’s another Demon Lord, to boot, who comes to test Raenef and his skills. At about volume 5, things get more serious. The new Demon Lord tests Raenef, and things from Raenef’s predecessor come back to bite him. Things don’t look good for him at all, with a personality change and someone coming back from the dead to finish unfinished business. Unfortunately, this really doesn’t work as well as it should, with time travel, convoluted plot twists, and deus ex machina. It just doesn’t feel really planned-out, like the mangaka was in a rush to finish because they knew the story was going to be cut.

But for all that, the first few volumes were really a treat! I highly enjoyed all the hijinks and jokes that were going on, and can’t say enough about the characterization. This wasn’t the best, but it’s something that I would definitely read again.

Overall, it’s funny if a bit of a letdown at the end – read for the friendship, leave the rest alone.

Recommended: 12+. There’s the implication fo slaughter, and some slight minor language, but that’s it. Even the romane that’s blooming between Eclipse and his new master really isn’t ever overtly stated, just implied.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Kuroshitsuji (anime or manga)

“It’s All In The Numbers” – No. 6 (anime) – 6/10 Notebooks


Perhaps the greatest utopia would be if we could all realize that no utopia is possible; no place to run, no place to hide, just take care of business here and now. ~Jack Carroll

Genre: Sci-fi/Shounen-ai/Action/Josei

Review Status: Complete (11 Episodes/11 Epsiodes)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed for streaming on Crunchyroll.com

Art/Animation: Overall average. The colors are nice and bright, the character designs decently memorable. The animation suffers a bit in the slice-of-life segments where nothing much happens. The action scenes, especially at the end of the series, have wonderfully fluid fights that are a great watch.

Dub Vs. Sub: There is no dub for this title.

Summary: Sion is a bright teenager living a comfortable and promising life inside No. 6, one of this six remaining city-states created by The Babylon Treaty after the last great war devastated the world. On the rainy evening of his twelfth birthday, he meets a savvy adolescent who calls himself “Nezumi” (Rat) and is desperately trying to runaway from the authorities. For helping a fugitive of the state, Sion is stripped of all his privileges. Four years later, they meet once again. For better or for worse, Sion is about to unravel the secrets guarded deep inside No. 6. (ANN decription)

Review: No. 6- a utopia for those who love their city and never question it. A place of exile and terror for those who dare speak a word against it. Created to be a haven after the wars destroyed most of the world, those in power grew too hungry for power, and try to harness the power of a forest to try and revive the world.

This anime has some good ideas, but suffers for its length and attempt to balance character development with plot development. There is great build-up for the first 4 or 5 episodes, with the meeting of Nezumi and Sion, the clues that not everything is as it seems in the city, the way Sion sees life for those around him outside the place and his determination to save the people in the city. Unfortunately, the relationship with Sion and Nezumi gets rushed because they have to move the plot along, and the plot suffers because they spent time on the relationship.

Nezumi, you come to understand, has a deep-seated grudge against the people of No. 6. His family killed off and captured to be experimented on, he wants nothing more than to see the city destroyed. Sion has lived a charmed life within the city… until he helps a boy who has escaped from it. His perceived betrayal of the city casts him into the lowest of jobs and responsibilities, and his questioning of the city when people start dying in suspicious ways. In the peripheral is Safu, a childhood friend of Sion’s, who has a deep crush on him and becomes a key player late in the series. Things that connect her and Sion clue them in that things are very wrong in the city. The first half is where you really get into their characters and their motivations, and they become genuinely likeable people.

The great build up in the beginning all goes to waste in the second half. Unanswered questions and plot holes about. It’s easy to tell that they had expected a second season, and ended up struggling to give a good ending to the season. That still leaves the questions of who or what Elyusia is (and a giant bee? Really?). How was it determined that nothing of Safu remained? After all, there seemed to be enough of her consciousness at the end. Why would anyone program all the computers to destroy themselves if the main computer was gone (by far the dumbest programming mistake ever)?

The finale delivered in terms of action, explosions, emotional punches, and destruction, which is why I’m still rating this over a 5. There are few things I’ve found more horrifying than what was inside the walls of the correction center. The action and fights were beautiful and fluid, and the emotional scenes during it didn’t feel out of place or forced. Unfortunately, it was marred by one of the most overdramatic, obvious, and downright stupid revival scenes I’ve ever seen. Even so, the ending brought back some of the goodwill that it lost during the second half.

Overall, the flaws in execution really bring my opinion down, but the good parts still manage to outweigh the bad- just barely.

Recommended: 16+. There is very little language, perhaps one or two swears but none stronger than the d-word or h-word. There are two kisses between Nezumi and Sion, neither of which last very long. Besides those scenes there really isn’t any sign that they’re more than friends, sometimes even behaving more like brothers. Safu, being a very direct character, admits that she likes Sion and asks him to have sex with her. It is very blunt, but not out of character, and never brought up again.

This does have some scenes that are horrifying- the town of No. 6 outcasts is razed by the military, and lots of people are killed. You do see bodies and blood spatter, though no gore per say. Later, they are dumped in a pit to die, that’s filled with the bodies of outcasts that were thrown there to be forgotten and die. Nezumi and Sion must climb to the top of the pile to escape. No gore, though the thought can be enough to turn some stomachs.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Ergo Proxy (anime)
King of Thorn (manga)
Wolf’s Rain (anime)
Tegami Bachi (manga)