Bishounen-series are in a way much like bishoujo-series. It’s just too easy to just treat the fanboys or fangirls to a lot of fanservice and get things over with, but of course the real challenge is to put them in interesting situations, develop them properly and flesh them out like real characters, otherwise you could just as well start selling paper bags. Antique Bakery is an example of how to do this right, although it’s rather unconventional.
I’ve said this before, but the series of the past spring- and summer season often had theme of fooling the viewer. Quite a few series defied expectations by focusing on something different from what you’d expect them to. Antique Bakery for example, looks all the way like a yaoi-series. Instead, it’s just an iyashi-kei series with a bit of mystery, where one of the characters just happens to be gay.
It really knows how to handle its cast of characters. At first, it starts out like a rather cheesy series, but very soon the cheese turns into genuine drama. Every character gets enough attention to show what he’s got. Because the series deals with such an original setting of a cake-store, the characters really have the ability to move away fro the stereotypes, and develop in the way they want. There’s this strange bond that develops between them as the series goes on, and it just seems to fit perfectly.
The mystery-part of the series is also delightfully unpredictable. How often do you see a guy with a trauma, because he had once been kidnapped in his past by someone who forced to make him eat cakes all the time? At first, it might seem like a bit of good cheese, but interestingly enough as the show goes on, this develops into genuine drama, with an actually very nice ending that prefers logical progression over a sensational ending, and yet puts a satisfying conclusion to everything.
There’s one character who feels a bit out of place in this series. This series is mostly about adults, but there’s one teenager amongst them, but he just doesn’t feel as part of the cast as the others. All attempts to flesh him out feel a bit shallow, and the moments that focus on him are mostly the less exciting of the series. An ex-boxer who loves cakes may sound good on paper, but the creators just didn’t use his character well enough.
This also isn’t a series for everyone. The fact remains that one of the characters is gay, so if you hate gay people with the intensity of one thousand suns, then you’re not going to like this series, even though the fact that the guy’s gay is used very nicely to symbolize the anxieties of gay people in the modern society. There’s also one particularly wrong scene where the guy carries his fantasies a bit too far, but apart from that the creators nicely balanced his feelings, to prevent the shounen-ai tones from getting too big of a focus.
Overall, though, Antique Bakery is another example of why Noitamina rocks. It comes with the most unconventional premises that actually work out somehow. It’s an inspired series that’s sometimes relaxing, and sometimes it shines with powerful drama, and the creators showed that they knew exactly how to use their limited time of 12 episodes. While it’s not going to break any records, it’s another good example of a nice quick watch.