Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Shortcake Cake volume 2 (Manga Review)

Shojo Beat
Volume 2 - 7.5/10

I typically only buy one or two manga volumes a week. I've got my favorite series and if they have a new one that week, I buy it first. So Shortcake Cake is a series that I pick up when I don't have a new volume or a missed volume of a favorite series to get. With volume 2 (Shojo Beat), I continue to like it enough to want to keep buying volumes as they come out, but it hasn't yet totally captured me to where I'd elevate it to my "must buy right now" list.

Shortcake Cake tells the story of Ten, who moves into a co-ed dorm at the urging of her friend. In Volume 2, Riku confesses to Ten who turns him down and we start to get the sense that Chiaki might have feelings for her as well. Of course, we're set up to root for Chiaki, the beautiful bookworm, and Ten to ultimately get together.

Rei, the mysterious, somewhat sickly, rich boy appears one day and wants to talk to Ten, he is rude and insulting, and then asks her out (obviously she declines). There is a connection between him and Riku that no one is talking about. Rei fills their dorm with flowers. Riku goes off to look for him in anger and Chiaki and Ten follow, worried about the connection between those two.

The next day, Rei is in their dorm waiting for her. When she tries to leave him, he tries to stop her, and we see that Ten can take care of herself, actually knocking him out to the point they lay him down in a bedroom to recover. Ten and the dorm mom attempt to hide him from the others but both Chiaki and Riku find out leading to confrontations. Ultimately, Rei leaves after Ten again shows her gumption and self-sufficiency in defending Riku. The volume ends with a critical revelation, but I won't spoil that here.

So here's what we have after two volumes: 1) an awesome heroine who doesn't need boys to protect her and isn't all boy crazy (actually seems indifferent to boys), 2) two nice pretty guys and a bad guy who all want her, 3) connections between the characters that will continue to drive the undercurrents of the story while still leaving time for day-to-day happenings and character exploration in the series. That's a pretty good balance and a big reason why I will continue to buy this series.

What's stopping it from bumping up my list is that it isn't told exclusively from Ten's point of view. It's more of a third person series but it does allow some time in each person's private thoughts. It just doesn't have quite enough of Ten for my taste. I tend to prefer a first person narrator with the lead heroine as the narrator (it's my same problem with Hatsu Haru which is otherwise amazing, we just don't get enough of our lead female in that series).

The art is relatively simple with most panels consisting of character heads talking. The backgrounds are simple or sometimes non-existent. The art is well done though, with good character designs. There is relatively simple use of screen tones, mostly black or a single gray tone for basic shading/coloring, but not the heavy-handed sparkly shoujo-style screentone use that I love. Each chapter moves quickly and the volumes feel a bit short as a result.

Two volumes in, it's a good series that has the potential to become great as it grows. There are no real red flags and a lot to like. This appears to be a romance shoujo with some good character development. My guess is that the longer it goes on and the deeper it gets, the more I'm going to like it, even to the point of maybe loving it. Its pace is good through two volumes but also doesn't have anything immediately grabbing about it, so that's why I'm hoping it'll be more a slow burn type series which means it'll keep getting better rather than just staying "good but not great." This volume is a pleasant 7.5/10.


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