Yumeiro Patissiere embraces every shoujo cliché in the book- A clumsy yet hardworking girl with a quaint dream arrives at an ornate boarding school in the middle of a forest. She encounters prodigies, "princely" boys whose every blink and smile are accompanied by sparkles and roses, jealous Queen Bees, and fairies. It's a near carbon-copy of every shoujo series out there, which is fine if you're accustomed to tripe.
To its credit, the series eschews the trap of becoming a simple fluffy wish-fulfillment shoujo. Instead of granting her magical baking powers, thus dooming the show to atrocity instead of merely mediocrity, the sweets spirits give Ichigo extra tutoring sessions. Despite this, Ichigo still masters techniques a bit too quickly. I would prefer a show where the protagonist just mans up and accomplishes her goal on her own, but the light dusting of magical realism isn't too onerous, all considered.
The rest of the plot is less palatable. The Cake Grand Prix, an Iron Chef-esque baking showdown, occupies almost the entirety of the series' run. Episode after episode that could have been spent on character development, comedy, or a variety of drama is instead relegated to Ichigo and team having yet another baking showdown against even more "impossible" odds. A few contests would be admissible, even welcomed, but to devote such a majority of time to them seems merely a way to disguise filler as something relevant.
Even the lackluster plot would be slightly admissible were it accompanied by a shred of believability. Fans of the genre may have no trouble ignoring all the happy coincidences that Ichigo runs abreast of, but the rest of us will have to buff up our suspension of disbelief to accept some of them. When the main characters' specialties are fruits, chocolate, cake, and Asian fusion, of course the upcoming competition just happens to center around those ingredients. And despite the school's claims of being a meritocracy, where students are grouped as determined by their relative baking skill, the teacher arbitrarily places Ichigo in the highest-level group without attempting to assess her skill level. Needless to say, the three ultra-handsome/talented/sophisticated "Sweets Princes" of the school occupy said group.
No expense was taken in making this series look fantastic. Episodes are full of still-frames, blandly-animated movements, and oftentimes only the characters' hair provides clues as to who they are. This is a blessing in disguise, however, as had the animation been better I would have been constantly craving the sweets featured in each episode. For this, my waistline is thankful.
Everything about the visuals augments the series' bland cute factor. Each character sports an abnormally large head replete with almost equally-huge eyes, and the cast and scenery alike are decorated with a washed-out palette of pastels and copious amounts of sparkles.
With a fluffy and unsubstantial opening track, and a score to match, Yumeiro Patissiere's music staunchly refuses to be memorable.
If only the vocal work was so forgettable. The high-pitched chirpy voices of the cast sound like they were recorded in a vat of helium. Caramel's voice actor is the most egregious example- I'd swear she stuffed her mouth with cottonballs (or perhaps Novocaine) before recording.
The lead character Ichigo is such a stereotypical shoujo protagonist that it hurts. She's clumsy, scatterbrained, terrible at math, French, baking, and pretty much every other subject the school teaches. Luckily for her, everyone finds her klutziness "refreshing" and loves her anyway because she's adorable, optimistic, and always tries her best. In a word, she's boring.
Speaking of shoujo clichés- you know the "Prince of the School" that every shoujo series has? Yumeiro Patissiere has three. Between the tsundere boy, reserved gentleman, and overly-exaggerated fop, every single preteen girl in the show's target demographic can find a suitor worthy of fawning over. Were I twelve, I'd be all woozy with hormones over this selection, but armed with few other personality traits, the "Sweets Princes" will have difficulty endearing themselves to a more seasoned audience.
Furthermore, the fairies who serve as the series mascots never rise above being a cloyingly cutesy gimmick. While these type of characters rarely get any development, the show does make attempts at fleshing out the Fairy World yet fails to pay its inhabitants equal courtesy, making them feel especially half-baked. It's impossible to ignore glaring inadequacy in characterization when both the main and tacked-on secondary casts are so vapid and vexing.
Yumeiro Patissiere is cute, inoffensive, and wholly generic. By no means the worst shoujo title available, it is still a far cry from the pinnacle of the genre. It makes decent marathon fodder, as it requires precisely zero thinking, but is otherwise hard to recommend.
The series will appeal to those looking for a guidebook in shoujo clichés, or material for a case study in the ridiculous things that little girls think are sophisticated. Everyone else over the age of thirteen (mental or physical) would do well to steer clear.
Fourteen-year-old Amano Ichigo is a would-be pâtissière who acquired her love of sweets from her late grandmother’s desserts. After meeting the talented Henri Lucas at a local sweets festa, Amano convinces her parents to let her attend the culinary Marie Academy so that she can fulfill her dream. However, as she’s only armed with a positive attitude and no real cooking skills, Amano quickly finds herself at the bottom of the class. Luckily, she soon meets Vanilla, a sweets spirit who’s here to help Amano reach her full potential. Alongside good friends such as Rumi and the three gorgeous Princes of Sweets, Amano will bake, mix and sift her way to the top!