Fumi Yoshinaga is one of the current Queens of Manga, since she’s so damn good at making comics that it’s almost unfair to all the other mangaka out there. Antique Bakery, the story of four men making decadent cakes and dealing with life’s crap in a homoerotically charged bakery, was her first work published in English, and it’s still considered one of her best and most accessible works almost ten years after its original publication in Japan. It can be argued that the first volume is pretty scattered, but since each volume improves exponentially, and since Volume 1 is still better than average, that makes the fourth and final volume so good that it may end war and poverty, align the planets, and allow meaningful contact with all forms of life. Also, it’s excellent for reading.
Over the years, Antique Bakery has been re-imagined in many other media forms. The live-action Japanese drama faced a lot of criticism for turning the character of Ono, a man so gay that he can turn any man into a salivating homosexual with a developed taste for boy bits, into a straight guy, because Ono’s World-Bending Gayness is the basis of about 50% of the manga. A few drama CDs were released, but nobody wrote home about them. And then came the year 2008, when Japan decided to do a 12-episode anime series while Korea simultaneously decided to do a big-budget, live-action film, and everyone agreed to be faithful to the original manga this time.
Rather than write an essay on how the anime is a low-budget, poorly directed, miscast mess that systematically ruins about 90% of the good scenes from the manga, I’m simply going to link to this, the best thing that came out of the anime, and you can watch it and then never waste your time actually picking up the show itself. Believe me, I tried to like the show…I really did. And I like little bits of it. Of course, there are little bits of the common cold I like, such as the fact that it lets me skip work to snuggle with my favorite pillow in bed all day, but that doesn’t mean I’d recommend everyone sneeze into each other’s cups just so we can share in that. Read the manga, hug your pillow when you’re healthy, and let’s forget the anime exists.
But the movie is wonderful – 10 kinds of wonderful. Not only is it a surprisingly faithful adaptation of the manga that actually manages to capture that grounded, hilarious, sexy sentiment that made the manga so good in the first place, but almost all of the changes are for the better, since they seamlessly adapt the comic to fit into a two-hour film. The movie also features close-ups of cakes you’d step over your own mother to eat, some of the prettiest men you’ll ever see kissing, and added dance numbers. Added dance numbers. If there’s one thing in the spirit of Fumi Yoshinaga’s celebration of All Things Hilarious and Gay, it’s dance montages where Ono lazily sings along in the kitchen just because cakes do that to people. Watch this movie. The directorial style is decidedly unique, and the first half of the film does feature insanely quick cuts that sometimes feel like the movie is reaching out of the screen to slap your face back and forth…but the cuts slow as the movie gets more serious, so the style works. Personally, since I have an incredibly short attention span, I appreciated the sense of ZOOMBANGBOOMBOYSKISSINGLOLWUT, especially the second time I watched the film. (Note: Both Eiji and Chikage have less character development in the movie, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less awesome on the screen than they are on the page. However, no Deko. *sniff*)
Educated impression: Considering how great a manga Antique Bakery is, it’s a shame that it never adapted well to other formats…until the Korean movie. Read the manga, watch the movie, and then you can take or leave everything else as long as there’s something baked and fattening within reach when you begin. (Lianne)