If anime series revolving around food are of any comparable measure, one can expect them to have an illuminating, if not downright addicting, feel to their overall atmosphere. Antique Bakery happens to revolve around a group of handsome gents that manage a cake factory, and honestly, I haven't watched a series with such a nice, calming atmosphere that pulls you into the realm of the treat it revolves around since Bartender (alcoholic beverages) and Yakitate Japan (bread).
I sincerely love series like this, because not only do they properly do their homework regarding the subject at hand, they also create a point for the viewer to easily follow and become as invested in the art as the characters featured. I wouldn't be surprised if some viewers, after watching Antique Bakery, develop a bit of a sweet tooth (if they don't already have one).
There are quite a few things about Antique Bakery to consider: yes, it's a boys-love/shounen-ai series. The elements of this in the series are much more mature than I've seen in series of its respective genre and I would even go so far to say it's one of the best titles to look into for this genre. It blends slice of life with comedic and dramatic elements around a strong charismatic cast.
The story focal point falls upon Tachibana, who quits his job at a firm in order to open a bakery, and finds himself in a pinch to find appropriate staff to help him run the business accordingly. His paissiter happens to be the same boy that confessed his love for Tachibana many years ago, which creates some awkward (and hilarious) moments between the two, in addition to a former boxer with a love for sweets and an overprotective, but clumsy bodyguard on staff.
The series does an excellent job with progressing in the first part of the series, emphasizing humor and allowing the viewer to grow with the characters, but about halfway through, one will note that the story turns noticably darker. This transition is never awkward because it progresses at such a pace that it never feels like it hops from one plot point to the next or abandons. It does an excellent job revealing Tachibana's backstory, and delving a bit into the quirks and demons of the characters to give them more dimension.
Now, I'll be honest, some might not care too much for some of the rationales given in some aspects of the series and it may come across about as tart as the cake it chooses to focus upon, but when you look at the broader scope of the series, it's more of the character interactions and environment that appeal to the viewer in its overall progression.
The ending for the series is quite strong in how it resolves the conflict and ties of where the characters progress in the end, while tying into an important theme that matches the title of the series opening theme: "Life goes on." For that, I was satisfied on so many levels from beginning to end.
Some might find that I'm ranking the animation score rather low for this series, and the reason being is that while the character designs and settings are consistent, beautiful, and done very well, I take issue with it slightly in the same way that I did for series like Honey and Clover and Nodame Cantabile. They're very clearly tied to the manga counterparts to the tee, I wasn't turned off so much by the designs, but the coloring is sometimes a little too light in contrast, and could have been adjusted to give it a less..."pastel" feel.
Still, I would rank it highly among the better animated series presented this year.
Very nice musical score, for the most part. Chemistry, a popular J-pop/J-R&B group performs both versions of their song "Life Goes On" very well for the OP/ED themes. The opening sequence for the series is quite charming, using cut out figures and a panoramic view of the bakery to give it a nice, soothing feel alongside a synthesized, mid-tempo song. The ending theme is considerably more reflective, though the change in arrangement is quite fitting with the falling puzzle pieces.
The Japanese VA work is very well done. I was particularly taken by Tachibana's and Eiji's VAs, as they brought out their characters very well: Tachibana has a calm demeanor, but a cynicism that will make one laugh when you watch his interactions with the other gents. Eiji's character is an enthusiastic and energetic former boxer, who gives quite a few laugh out loud moments in a more extroverted sense. Ono's and Chikage's VAs were well matched as well for their respective characters.
I found it very difficult not to find myself falling in step with Antique Bakery's characters, and considering how it is a character driven series, there's no surprise lingering in its appeal. The primary cast leaves plenty of room for humorous and endearing interactions. I wouldn't say you come to know them as well as characters in slice of life series such as Nodame Cantabile or Honey and Clover, but you find yourself wanting to know more about them, particularly Tachibana, who has a bit of a dark past and a lingering mystery surrounding his character: why does he have the respective nightmares and why open up a bakery?
I also have to give due credit for Ono's character, as he's a likable lead whose romantic pursuits can often leave one in a fit of laughter (watch for his nickname in the series) while in others, you do tend to see his character felt under the weight of the implications some of those relationships lend. I wished in the back of my mind that some of conflicts Ono faced could have been made more tangible in depth, but for the scope of this series and what it chose to focus upon, I think his character was done well.
Eiji and Chikage are fine (and engaging) male leads in themselves, and they're given ample screentime alongside Tachibana and Ono. I actually found myself surprised with how well the series treats the secondary characters as well, though they aren't as thoroughly explored/expanded upon as the leading characters.
This is one of the first anime I've seen handle homosexuality in a realistic way. Instead of being a flimsy excuse for pretty boys to be together, it is actually shown in context within our society and is shown from many angles. The characters seem so real, and the animation is beautiful. It is funny and beautiful all at the same time. I felt so satisfied by the end, and just wish there was more of it.
Story: I'm usually not a shounen-ai fan but I'm a sucker for food. Therefore, I tried it with the hope that nothing would be too explicit. I was pleasantly surprised. It got me instantly hooked with an intriguing background, food, comedy, drama and did I mention food. I has humor which is light but still funny. The drama does get heavier toward the end of the series but nothing too over the top. There is romance but nothing hot and heavy. The pacing was nice with a really nice ending. It had a complete feel to and I liked the journey. Some things were predictable but there were still some plot twists. Overall, I really enjoyed. It was super exciting but it had a nice flow to it that made you want to keep watching.
Animation: At first the 3-D threw me off. However, I began to like and I think it gives this series a different feel. I really liked the pastel colors. It reminds me of Honey and Clover which I find pleasant. I think bright and bold colors wouldn't really fit. The details on the dessert was terrific. It made me really hungry. The characters were distinguishable from each other and had great range of expression. Sometimes movements were a little awkward but overall the animation was really nice.
Sound: I loved the song Life Goes On and it variations throughout the series. It was amazing how that one song could fit so many styles and moods. It really connected the series. However, the other tracks weren't nearly as memorable. They were good and fit for the most part but I don't really remember them. The seiyuus did a terrific job though.
Characters: Great development for both the main characters and even minor ones. You really felt for these people. They were given backgrounds and weren't simple cookie cutter models. They were also likable and the relationships between them were solid and strong. A great male cast. I don't want to give off too much but they have a down to earth quality about them. You see their flaws but their personality makes up for it.
Overall: A great series. If you're usually turned off by shounen-ai, I still suggest giving this a try. I like the way relationships were done. Also if you're a foodie, this will definitely appeal to. It's a great series that I wouldn't mind watching again. Especially if I'm craving something with food.
What's great about Antique Bakery is that while it's not completely episodic, each episode seems to have its own side-story within the big picture. The anime mainly focuses on Tachibana and his new cake shop, Antique, but as every other good anime, the other characters have good stories as well and sometimes the sub-plots even focus on seemingly random extraneous characters which makes for an interesting and enjoyable atmosphere.
Antique Bakery has some very nice animation. I loved the scenes where characters are kneading bread, folding dough, or stirring ingredients together, but what really impressed me is the fact that this is one of very few animated series that actually succeeds in blending pen-and-ink with CGI. Most of the time CGI in pen-and-ink series is a very bad idea as it creates a strange and somewhat disorienting Blue's Clues type of world, but Antique Bakery pulls it off very well with only two or three bad shots. One particular thing I noticed was in the first or second episode when a cat crosses the street in all its CGI glory, and completely ruined a great shot. Had that cat been like any other anime cat there wouldn't have been a problem, but whatever.
The colors chosen are fitting to anime, with lots of light cheery hues, but the saturation disappointed me a bit. There are times when the colors look really washed out and dull. It seems to be a stylistic choice since this is consistent throughout the anime, but there are times when a bit more color would do wonders for the mood.
The intro and outro, however, are fabulously done. As I sat down to watch the first episode of Antique Bakery, I was expecting just another cheery, flowery, all around pink intro sequence with some peppy upbeat song. What actually happened made me think to myself 'Omg this is going to be a great anime.' Seriously folks, the intro sequence is stunning the first time you watch it (or it was for me at least). The animators went with a paper doll approach instead of the generic means. It's kind of hard to explain so I'll just leave it at that. As for the outro, it's also very interesting, what with the puzzle piece motif.
The sound of Antique Bakery is like any other good background music, forgettable but fitting. It does just enough to set the mood, make you want to watch more, and then disappear without leaving a trace in your mind. The intro song is sweet and upbeat without being obnoxious, and the outro song, though I didn't actually listen to all of it, finishes the episodes well.
Sound effects are well done as well, with only a few things that bothered me. Most of the time they're pretty spot on, like dishes being set on tables, things falling, etc. The one thing that seemed off to me was the sound of sneakers on concrete. To me it sounded more like high heels on a linoleum floor, but at this point I think I'm just being picky.
The most refreshing thing about Antique Bakery is that, while it is a shonen-ai, it's very realistic. Example? Not every single male character is gay, nor is every single male character, gay or not, hot for every other male character. This is exactly what drives me crazy in things like Junjou Romantica or Sekai-ichi Hatskoi which make it seem like the world is chock full of horny gay men. Ono is this anime's resident gay man, already out, proud, and unashamed. No awkward or overly sappy ridiculous 'WHY DO I HAVE TO BE GAY??' moments, no 'OMG YUR A HOMO????' moments, and finally no 'IMA TURN YOU GAY CUZ I LUV YOU AND I'M HORNEH!!' moments. This is the moment all us LGBT people have been waiting for; an anime with a well-adjusted adult gay man with good straight friends and no qualms.
Ono: my favorite gay anime character.
The other characters are mostly generic. There's Tachibana, Antique's owner, kind-hearted, easily irritated, far too interested in women, and traumatized by his past.
Eiji, the hyper college-aged kid, who picks fights unnecesarily, but is amusing in his own way.
Chikage, the sweet-hearted bumbling childhood friend who always there when you need him, even if he does drop tea trays on a regular basis and hit his head on the top of door frames.
Minor characters are just as stock, but all with their own charm.
So overall I absolutely adore this anime. Of course there's always the possibility that an anime won't be as good as its manga, but this is one that lives up to expectations. I would definitely recommend it to my friends and anyone who's looking for a short series to watch over the weekend, or anyone looking for a cake shop run by a bunch of humorous dudes, or even if you're in it only for the one gay dude in anime history who's more than the average wishy-washy slut. =]
I loved this anime. It's based on one of my favourite maga. It's another one of those animes that you can show to an older friend. The plot is wonderful and you can get to love the charators.
This is a great anime that I'd suggust to friends. Go give it a watch!!