Monday, January 7, 2019

Shortcake Cake Volume 1 is just different enough (Manga Review)

Ten Serizawa
Shortcake Cake volume 1 (by the duo suu Morishita and published by Shojo Beat/Viz) is the story of Ten Serizawa who lives a two hour bus ride away from the regional high-school. After taking the bus for a while, a friend who lives in a boarding house near the school invites her to spend the night. Ten meets the other residents and finds that she likes both the company and the extra time each day. With that, she asks her mom for permission and moves into the boarding house.

This is the story of Ten, a first-year high-schooler, and two young men: everyone's love interest Chiaki (who is oblivious to girls and LOVES books) and Riku (who loves all girls, but won't date any of them until he finds the girl that can make him forget all others).

Ten is presented as a fairly normal, capable, young woman. She is both kind and speaks her mind. She seems mildly interested in Chiaki, while Riku becomes interested in her. Chiaki, well, it's unclear for now, but there are hints he might be aware of Ten as well. Both male characters are also interesting in that they are subtly different than our typical male love interests in shoujo.

The plot itself consists of Ten's first sleep over, her early days in the boarding house, and a group trip on the weekend to explore the local town. What makes this story work is the balanced tone. Ten seems normal, her life before high-school seems normal, there is no obvious tragedy, she's just a kid like anyone else. That could be boring, but here, it's actually nice to not have baggage and crisis right from the beginning. But it's also combined with her being a generally capable person. Unlike many shoujo where the girl is presented as one of several stereotypes 1) the ditzy, below-average student or 2) the brilliant nerdy student who is secretly beautiful, here we get a very typical young woman.

Also for balance, while there is some hint that Riku has a complex backstory, it also doesn't appear that it will be overly dramatic. Yet, with all this normalcy, the story isn't boring because the characters are likable, it isn't dwelling only on romance, and we get to hear each character's inner thoughts. This isn't told from any one point of view, but is really a third-person story. It has a great overall feel, relaxed, but still forward moving with characters that are appealing.

The art is okay. It's somewhere between a strict realist shoujo style and the currently prevalent moe styles. It's realistic with just a bit more cuteness in the features. It's fairly simple art compared to some, with deep blacks, and lots of single-toned shading. It isn't a complex use of screentones, but there is some depth.

Overall, this was an enjoyable, if not earth-shattering first volume. Because the characters are likable and there were no warning signs of objectionable content, it's easy to see myself picking up the next volume. I am curious which boy she might end up with (if either) and that's more than I can say about other series which have left me bored right from the beginning. I'm giving this volume a 7/10 as a nice entry to what seems like a fairly calm and normal shoujo romance. That's not a bad thing at all.


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