Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Shortcake Cake volume 3 is plenty good but isn't grounded in a clear plot (Manga Review)

Shortcake Cake volume 3 - 7/10

Shortcake Cake
After reading volume 2 of Shortcake Cake, I decided to add it to my regular purchasing list. I'm reviewing volume 3 today to get ready for the release of Volume 4 in two weeks.

Volume 3 continues the story of Ten, the highschool girl who moves into a co-ed boarding house to shorten her trek to school at the urging of a close friend. In this house, she has met two very kind, but very different highschool boys. Riku is the former playboy who has confessed, quite seriously, to Ten, but was turned down. Chiaki is the gorgeous, book loving boy who is secretly in love with Ten, but keeping it from her to give Chiaki a chance.

Volume 3 picks up after Chiaki and Ten pretend to be dating to avoid harassment by Rei, a strange, sickly, but presumably very wealthy boy who has some relationship with Riku. At the same time, Riku is doing everything he can to keep things normal with Ten even though it could have been awkward for them after she turned him down. Ten is very appreciative of this sweetness.

The gist of volume 3 involves them all studying for finals together in the living room with the rest of the dorm mates, and spending an evening cooking dinner for themselves when their dorm mother gets sick. Through this, Ten contemplates both boys, Chiaki pines for Ten but supports Riku, and Riku tries to keep things from being weird between everyone.

Rei more or less drops out of the story for this volume (other than two minor scenes), so we don't get any new revelations about who he is or his relationship with Riku. We get a little insight into Ten's past in the guise of a dream where she runs into a boy, maybe from middle school, and maybe someone she used to like. But that's about all.

I continue to like Ten, Chiaki, and Riku. It's really nice to have a love triangle where everyone is likable. It's actually hard to pick which boy she'll end up with, and it's great that they're both nice people. I've read too many shoujo manga where one or more of the boys is the "bad boy" or where the so-called nice guy ends up being a jerk. Even worse are the shoujo series where one or more boys physically and/or emotionally abuses the heroine, and it's treated as normal or excusable behavior (I'm looking at you Happy Marriage, Hot Gimmick, and lots of others). Yuck. So thankfully, Shortcake Cake is about three nice people and maybe shoujo in general is moving on from normalizing terrible men!

There really isn't much plot in this volume and that's my only complaint. It feels like somewhat of a middling set of chapters, they don't advance too much of anything, and I'm not sure they were really needed. But, the ending chapter does start us off in a more aggressive direction for Volume 4, so at least that's something.

The art continues to be relatively simple, but engaging with pretty character designs all around. I do sometimes have trouble telling the two male leads apart if their hair isn't shaded distinctively enough. I have that problem in real life too, so it can be worse in manga when the character designs are similar and I have to rely on things like props or hair color.

I don't have much to say about this volume because not much happens. Basically, if you liked the first two, there's nothing to change your mind here. If you like shoujo romance, this series continues to be a good one. I'm hoping that the story really kicks into gear with volume 4 and the final chapter of volume 3 seems to suggest it will. This volume gets a 7/10.


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