Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Shortcake Cake volume 7 inches things forward - but where's Rei? (Manga Review)

A highschool boy and girl back to back
Shortcake Cake vol. 7 - 5/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

Shortcake Cake vol. 7 (Shojo Beat/Viz) wasn't bad, nor was it good. It was just sort of there. Given that the middle third of it was consumed with the already cute Ten feeling like she needed to pretty herself up in a way that wasn't who she normally was, I ended up being more disappointed in this volume than just bored.

Ten has just confessed to Riku. But instead of waiting for an answer from Riku, she thinks he no longer likes her and declares that she'll make him come around. He, either being sweet or sadistic, plays along even though he's still madly in love with her. She then goes through a period of trying to make herself look more desirable (ughhh), which is unfortunate because the beany-hat wearing Ten from the early volumes was totally cute as she was.

After who knows how long (someone comments she even lost weight - yet another horrible trope in shoujo manga - because she was already a healthy girl) she re-confesses to him and he eventually admits he's liked her all along. Now that they're dating, they decide to keep it from their housemates who don't already know.

And that's pretty much all that happens in the entire thing. It's not that this was a bad volume, but it was a bunch of filler with her dithering. I don't understand why he didn't just tell her he liked her after she confessed, there was no reason to lose that time. But she's likable, so it wasn't awful to read or anything.

I am concerned with its focus on her having to "change" ie "get prettier" "lose weight," make him like her again. It sends horrible messages to teen girls. She was healthy and cute as she was. And he already liked her, but was he glad that she did that? If so, that's not good either. Maybe I'm making too much of this, but it seemed to be reinforcing bad social pressures that teen girls don't need.

The other thing is that after the first couple volumes, the character of Rei has completely disappeared. It seemed that they were building him up to be something early on, but then dropped him. However, he's mentioned in the opening background page and so now that Ten is dating Riku, maybe this figure from his past will reemerge. I hope so, because he was both interesting and could be a sort of "Chekhov's gun" if you will.

Also, while it seems that Chiaki has accepted that Ten likes Riku, I have to believe that he will also reemerge as a romantic interest. I still think Ten ends up with him in the end. If so, seeing how things progress and then end with Riku and start with Chiaki will be fascinating. I know we've only just gotten Ten and Riku together, but I still don't believe it's the defining romance of this series.

The art is attractive as always with a mix of realism and cuteness depending on the mood of the panel. Some panels are also very simple and some have lots of detail, again depending on the mood. Overall, the art enhances the story.

I don't have much else to say about this volume. It's cute since we like the characters, but doesn't actually do much. We start with a confession and we end with them dating, with inconsequential filler in between. Hopefully now that they're together, things can get more interesting. Maybe Rei will reemerge, and maybe things aren't really done with Chiaki! Overall, a pleasant but inconsequential Shortcake Cake vol. 7 gets a very average 5/10.

  • Story interesting (0-10): 6 - it's fine, sweet at times, you can't help but find it interesting because we're attached to Ten by now, but it's nothing novel
  • Characters interesting (0-10): 6 - Ten is always great, but Chiaki is nearly absent, Riku feels bland compared to the early volumes, and no one else gets much "screen" time
  • Quality prose/writing (0-10): 6 - fine, a little better than average, but nothing special
  • Emotionally plausible (0-10): 5 - I don't believe that Ten wouldn't have wanted to hear from Riku right after her confession. I also don't believe that in the face of the confession that a teen boy would wait.
BASIC SCORE (avg.): 6/10 

  • Emotional insight/depth (0-5): 0 
  • True LGBTQ+ representation (0-5): 0
  • Female agency (0-5): 0 - the reverse really: "Oh, I have to lose weight and be prettier to win him back." - yuck
  • Character growth/change (0-5): 0 - only if you mean Ten loses herself to bad social messages and Riku becomes more boring than the early volumes.
  • Quality art (0-5): 2 - it really is a plus for the series
  • Other (0-5): 0 
BONUS POINTS (sum/8): +0 (I only do 1/2 pt increments)

  • Homophobic/transphobic (0-5): 0
  • Misogynistic (0-5): 2 - Ten feeling like she needs to become prettier to win him over is a terrible message to teen girls
  • Fan service (0-5): 0
  • Child/adult relationship (0-5): 0
  • Exploitative (0-5): 0 
  • Other (0-5): 0 
PENALTY POINTS (-sum/2): -1



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