Friday, May 10, 2019

Shotcake Cake Volume 4 spins its wheels...until it doesn't (Manga Review)

Shortcake Cake volume 4 - 6.5/10

I've liked, but not loved, Shortcake Cake as a series and volume 4 elicited the same middling feelings from me.

It's the story of Ten, who moves into a boarding house to be closer to school and who is being pursued by two of the boys who live there. One, Chiaki, loves books and goes to her school. The other, Riku, is a known skirt-chaser and goes to another school. A little while before this volume, Riku confessed to Ten who didn't totally believe him, but after he kissed her in the last volume, she's starting to think about him more frequently. On the other hand, Chiaki finally admits to Riku that he too likes Ten.

In this volume, Ten takes a job working at a local grocery, the strange young man Rei makes another brief (but meaningless) appearance, and despite the new awkwardness between rivals Riku and Chiaki, the two of them go with Ten to the beach on summer vacation. Further complicating things (because no one actually tells anyone what they're thinking in manga), Chiaki has let Ten know that he likes someone (it's her) but she doesn't realize it's her. So Ten, instead of even considering Chiaki, is pretty much only thinking about Riku.

To be completely honest, both boys are sort of blandly nice. Neither has really developed much of a personality or backstory by this fourth volume. Ten is a pretty classic shoujo heroine, in that she's spunky and cute and nice but she doesn't have much of a nuanced personality either. The story it told third person, so we don't get much inner dialogue either.

And there isn't much that actually happens in this volume (or series, yet). I want character driven stories, but I like some plot that helps us explore those character's inner workings in how they respond to situations. In Shortcake Cake (as a series), the plot is like random scenes of every day things (but not in that great Iyashikei genre way) in which someone is thinking about how they like someone else. Oh, here she is walking with groceries thinking about Riku, here's Riku cooking dinner thinking about Ten, oh here's the three on a bus and Chiaki is thinking about Ten while reading a book, and on and on for four volumes so far.

It's not exactly boring, but it's not exactly emotionally resonant either. I like the characters, but they are meant to be likable. I just also don't know anything about them or how they really work. They are a bunch of nice people living together and the guys like the girl and the girl...well, she might like one of the guys. That's perfectly adequate, just not awesome.

But the mangaka keeps dropping Rei into the series. He's the only character who is actually interesting (even if he is very odd), but after four volumes, she hasn't done much with his plot although we're led to believe that he might be a linchpin in Riku's story. Hopefully something comes of this soon. I have a feeling that Rei's stated hatred/infatuation with Ten might boil over if Ten and Riku end up together at any point. So here's hoping that's handled in an emotionally interesting way.

The art continues to be nice, but middle of the road. There are some good uses of blacks, line widths, and screen tones, but backgrounds are mostly pretty simple. The draftsmanship is quality. However, I can never tell Riku and Chiaki apart unless a) they are in the same panel or b) they have drastically different hair colors. In scenes with only one of them and where their hair is some level of gray, I have no idea who is whom until the text helps me identify them. That's not great.

I'm going to keep reading the series, but that's only because the people are nice and I like romance, not because it's terribly interesting. At least they treat each other kindly so it's not one of those awful shoujo series where boys are mean and the girls think that's alright. I'm happy to support a mangaka who lets her lead men treat the women like partners and human beings and not something to be toyed with and controlled. Hopefully the days of that being the norm in shoujo have passed.

With that all said, volume 4 is pretty much just going through the motions, at least until the very very very end where we're given some hope that we might get some forward momentum. I've struggled with how to rate this volume, but I think I'm giving it a 6.5/10 due to a general sense that it's just passing the time.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Remember: please talk about the work, and offer counter points to others' analyses but DO NOT ATTACK THE PERSON whose analysis you are countering. (no ad hominem comments) Thanks! <3