Yumeiro Patissiere

July 2, 2011

Mmm… Yummy… Food for thought. After watching a handful of animes, some leaving a bad aftertaste in the mouth, some sourish, some with that unsatisfied and un-full feeling and just several enjoyable ones, I thought to myself that I need to go for something sweet. That’s when I thought of giving Yumeiro Patissiere a go. That’s right. I love eating sweet things especially chocolates so I was hoping for some savoury treats while watching this series. In my opinion, as far as the tasty pastries are concerned, they do not disappoint. At least visually. Now my mouth is getting watery even as I type this blog.

Those seeking inspiration or aspire to be a patissiere (that is a fancy French term for what most of us would call a pastry chef), may look to this series as a start but still, don’t expect to perform miracles after watching all 50 episodes of the first season. You still need practice, practice and more practice. Yeah, not just making tasty pastries but the need to make them look good, glossy and delicious so that all those who take a bite from them would really feel like they’re eating a piece of Heaven in their mouths. Damn, I need to have one right now! Because long running series that span over a year or so, you know my style of not going into real detail. So for those who wish to have additional references can go to Wikipedia and Mania Beyond Entertainment as both these sites I frequent for references.

As usual, such genres will have a main hero and in this case, a heroine by the name of Ichigo Amano. Like most protagonists that start out, this 14 year old middle school girl is well, a klutz, talentless (good for nothing if you want to put it in another way) and an airhead. Yeah, not a good way to introduce things but hey, it’s a fact. She’s got a habit of tripping and falling down stairs so much so you’d think it’s her destiny to do so when she goes down one. But being so has its good points. She’s carefree (in a good sense), happy, loves to help those in need and a pig glutton (she’d prefer the term ‘big-eater’). You think the last one isn’t a good point? Think about this. You’re a girl and have a bottomless stomach. Way better than the Black Hole. You can swallow any kind of food, fatty and filled with cholesterol without gaining a single pound. That has got to be a blessing, right? Her destiny to become a patissiere begins when she was eating (the word ‘eating’ is underrated) at a cake shop after her little sister Natsume‘s piano competition. Top French patissiere, Henri Lucas was there to showcase his talent and he was amazed by Ichigo’s superb sense of palate. Coincidentally, Ichigo’s late grandma, Michiko had once studied in the renowned St Marie Academy, a place where professional patissieres are made. Guess what too? Henri’s great grandmother founded the academy and his grandfather was Michiko’s tutor. Yeah, this has got to be more than just fate. Ichigo finally decides that her true calling is to become a patissiere and plans to enrol in St Marie’s Japan branch. Though her mom and Natsume are supportive, but it’ll take a little more nudging before he allows her little girl to realize her dream. I understand him as a father will sorely miss his daughter when she’s gone, not to mention the possibility of bad boys wanting to ‘eat’ her. Sooner or later, he has got to let the bird fly out from the nest.

Ichigo is as excited as ever after successfully enrolling at St Marie. To put icing on the cake, she is being paired in a group with 3 good looking guys: Makoto Kashino, Sennosuke Andou and Satsuki Hanabusa. How come a new transfer student and a total beginner gets to be paired with hotties in Group A? Well, one thing, Ichigo is sure ‘famous’ since word has it that Henri was the one that recommended her. Expect envy from other b*tches. However those 3 guys aren’t just looking good for decoration as they have the skills to prove and live up to their name as the Sweets Princes. Moody and prickly Kashino is a chocolate specialist (always constantly arguing and reprimanding Ichigo. Yeah, you know what they say about couples that fight a lot), polite and calm Andou is Kashino’s childhood friend whose family has been making Japanese confectionery, Yumetsuki for generations and lady-killer and narcissist Hanabusa has his strong points in candy sculpture, designing and flower arrangement. Wow. Now I can see why many would feel irk for Ichigo to be in this group. Feels like a reverse harem, doesn’t it?

Of course Ichigo knows nothing about making pastries but you know her hidden talent in making them (but some after hundreds of tries and practice), you can tell she’ll just get by. Although Makoto may be harsh on her, scolding her each time she screws up or her density about not reading up or just common sense (maybe that’s his way of showing his love. Tsundere…), at least she’s got kind Andou and Hanabusa to help her out nicely. She’s really lucky. Another thing about this academy is the belief in the Sweets Spirits legend. What’s that? Little chibi spirits from the Sweets Kingdom that seem to pair themselves with a patissiere student so that they can be patissieres back at the Royal Court in the kingdom by sending pictures of cakes and sweets made back to the kingdom via the Queen’s portrait. Like a twinning programme, eh? A symbiotic relationship that provides benefit for both? Hmm… Note how the top students have Sweets Spirits with them? Cheating? Don’t worry. Though the Sweets Spirits can sprinkle some magic on the cake, decorating and providing pleasing eye candy, it is basically the students’ own effort that makes their respective sweets delicious. In addition, for those who do not have Sweets Spirits, they can’t see them though at times they can faintly hear them. You’re not hearing things, eh? So yeah, Ichigo has got Sweets Spirits Vanilla who specializes in, well, vanilla. Kashino’s is Chocolat who makes good, erm, chocolate. Duh. Andou’s is Caramel who does well in… Yeah, you’ve guessed it. Finally Hanabusa is Cafe. What kind of flavour does he provide? Coffee lah. Each of the Sweets Spirit not only provides comic relief with their cutesy antics but morale support and booster to our protagonists as well. Then there are other supporting characters at the academy as well such as Ichigo’s dorm-mate-cum-best-friend, Rumi Katou, other supportive classmates like Kanako Koizumi, Miki Mori and Sayuri Kanda.

The most interesting one has got to be Miya Koshiro (love her or hate her). The daughter and “Heiress” of the internationally famous sweets delivery company Chateau Seika is Kashino’s self-proclaimed lover and isn’t shy or afraid to show her utmost affection for that little kid in public. The reason she fell in love with him was because he did not hesitate to condemn her pastry skills when they first met. She liked how he was being honest with her unlike everybody else who was just putting up a fake front to please her. Regretting it, boy? I smell a love triangle coming up. Not that oblivious Ichigo and Kashino would know about. I guess Kashino knows her so well that you can say he can really avoid her ‘rushing hugs’ whenever she makes her obnoxious grand entrance (coupled in with her trademark annoying arrogant laughter). She has 2 loyal servants, Satou and Shiotani who will gladly serve out her whims and fancies and as a bloody filthy rich girl, she gets to buy all the best ingredients to hire the best patissieres to make the best sweets and cakes in the world. But even so, there are things that money can’t buy. Like Kashino’s heart. Can’t buy me love, baby. Don’t you know? A way to a man’s heart is through his stomach? And even if she does practice 24/7, you still can’t beat a pro who has been practising for umpteenth years. But will that stop Miya? Noooo… Just like Ichigo, her perseverance in pursuing Kashino’s love is admirable. You’re in one big sh*t and long ride, pal.

So in the long journey that Ichigo and the Sweets Princes’ goal to become professional patissieres, most of the initial episodes are in this kind of format. We see Ichigo and her group trying to come up with sweets for a particular theme or occasion such as Kanako’s little kindergarten sister, Ringo’s birthday and putting up jealous b*tches that craftily steal their design. Of course, they don’t go blaming or even tell on the culprits and even come up with their own new design with limited time. Wow. That’s why they’re all so talented, including beginner Ichigo who has got a knack for creativity as well. There is a part Ichigo goes a step further by observing a customer’s sweets habits and preferences and customizes her sweets accordingly to their tongue. Is it hard to see why the Sweets Princes follow her (heh, Kashino just don’t want to admit it)? Then they also go solve other people’s problems via their delicious creations (if words don’t help, eating something does. Logic, right?) such as helping Andou’s youngest sibling, Ichita to realize big brother’s dream of opening his own branch that fuses Western and Eastern sweets, helping a depressed customer to reunite with his loved one after 7 years abroad playing for a jazz band, helping a friend Hayami regain her confidence to continue since she was on the verge of quitting school because of her diminishing grades (due to non-interest by her group members, she was relegated from a top group to the lowest), making friends with a group of travelling circus band, help the husband-and-wife dorm landlady and landlord to make up and remember the reason why they stayed on in this academy, rejuvenating Natsume when she is down and planning to quit piano, a field trip to a dairy farm, a cruel prank to leave Ichigo lost in the forest by those jealous b*tches in which it leads her to the room of student council president (nobody has been in there before so for Ichigo to do so is such an honour and amazement) and Henri’s favourite top genius student, Mari Tennouji (her Sweets Spirit is Honey), and of course the pudding battle or Valentine showdown with Miya over Kashino (no prizes to guess who comes out tops). Miya also gets her own Sweets Spirits: Marron.

The series also deals with some flashbacks such as Ichigo’s past on how she enjoyed the sweets Michiko made in her shop and came to realize her calling in this trade and the day the Sweets Princes meet but loggerheads Kashino and Hanabusa didn’t see eye to eye till an accident in the forest strengthened their friendship as they made madeleines to commemorate it. We also have glimpses of the Sweet Spirits quartet going back to their kingdom to help out with the New Year preparations or to take a supplementary exam or else they’ll fail for good. Even Ichigo had a chance of going back there in her chibi form (since everyone in the campus had gone home for the holidays, leaving her alone. What else better to do?), accidentally meet the naughty trio called Jerks and helping them out with their project. Hmm… They have this uncanny resemblance and personality to the Sweets Princes… Kasshi? Andy? Narcy? Very similar indeed… Sure they’ve done something unspeakable like cheating to be expelled and even plan on some grand revenge to ruin it, but in the end, the Queen saw their sincerity and accepted them back.

Basically a big chunk of the series is about the main competition event of St Marie called Cake Grand Prix. Groups of 4 can participate in this tournament and facing off with other teams depending on the sweets’ theme designated and winners will advance to the next round if they score higher than their opponents by the judges based on design, originality and taste among the several criteria. The winner would of course have the privilege to study at the main campus in France. Sounds nice, eh? What a better way than to hone your skills further in a country famous for its sweets. As for Ichigo, it is also her dream to meet Henri. The Sweets Princes partly also garnered famed when they participated last year and was the first freshmen to advance to the next round but failed due to Miya’s fiasco and failure. To ensure Ichigo doesn’t flop, she has to undergo lots of physical and mental training from the Sweets Princes. No pain, no gain! Who said being a patissiere is easy? Since there are too many middle schoolers participating this year, a qualifying round is held to trim down the participants. Each of them have to enter a hall and walk through a choice of doors as answers they think right in a series of questions about the pound cake they have just sampled. If a member fails, the whole team fails. The Sweets Princes are particularly worried about Ichigo. I can see why. Even if she’s such a blur case, she didn’t get by via luck as she remembers hard the lessons she learn and much to the relief of her comrades, the whole team qualifies for the qualifying round. The guys also decide to make Ichigo their team leader and thus their team name will be Team Ichigo. A klutz as their leader? Probably the same reason why Luffy is the captain for the Straw Hats Pirates. Sixteen teams have made it (I guess it’s easier for us to turn it into a direct knockout) with 10 from third years, 5 from second years and first years only have 1. The format of the tournament won’t bore you since we will be briefly told what they are making and how they are making it. Yeah, just show the bits and parts of the action before the judging. You already know which team will advance, right? After each round, there will be a slight break (some may call it fillers) to see Team Ichigo in other action apart from their Cake Grand Prix competition before the next round begins.

Amidst all that, we get to see members of Team Ichigo aren’t completely perfectionists since they have their own problems too. The odd thing is that whenever they are down, they have this tendency to want to quit the academy. That’s more like running away! Ichigo must have started the trend since after too many shelling from Kashino, she thinks she would be better off doing something else and ran away back home without permission. The Sweets Princes wouldn’t let her go just like that and go all the way to bring her back by making her realize that she does best making people smile with her sweets. Of course, after wasting daddy’s money like that, don’t tell me you want to just easily quit! Just made that one up, hehe. Then we have Hanabusa about his rosewater bottle flavour thingy because it brought back tragic memories of how his dad died in France while holding that bottle as his last gift for his son. Kashino comes from a family of doctors (they have a whole building with doctors bearing the same surname! Imagine the chaos of calling a specific one!) so his dream of opening a chocolatier in Paris is not approved by his strict and stubborn parents (ultimately his sister does though not directly). And Andou, he does the same after a losing a match. But that’s what friends are for. They stick around through ups and downs. Can’t stay gloomy forever, eh? Maybe they need to take a breather once in a while and relax and get new ideas rather than getting all cooked up in the kitchen all day long practising.

The Cake Grand Prix’s first round has Team Ichigo facing Team Ichimatsu, third years who have their cakes featured in the Salon de Marie (a cafeteria in the campus in which if your cake is featured here on the menu, it means it must be damn good). However Team Ichimatsu is cocky and arrogant, looking down on Team Ichigo. Yeah, mistake number one. Without going into details, Team Ichigo wins the pound cake and family theme contest. In the quarter-finals, they face the only first year team, Team Lemon. Lemon Yamagishi is from the main campus and has been transferred to Japan upon request by Henri. The friendship-themed round ended in a draw and a rematch had to be done (Ichigo who had fallen to Lemon’s ruse and surprisingly Andou contributed to their lost) and this time, Team Ichigo wins it. Lemon reveals she boasted about her top grades in the main campus so Henri wasn’t amused and sent her to Japan to observe Ichigo. Plus, her other members only let her joined in since they thought she was Henri’s favourite pupil. Lemon learns her lesson and returns to France, vowing to become a better patissiere. In the semi-finals, they face Team Koshiro. Finally an official bout between the ‘love rivals’. The theme for this round is love. Something Kashino isn’t happy with. To make things interesting, Miya wages that if Team Ichigo loses, Kashino must join them. Wait, is that legal? Team Ichigo gets off to a nightmare start when Ichigo unknowingly shows her cake design to classmate Youko Ayukawa who happens to be on Miya’s team and a spy. They got their design stolen and Miya has got some famous Parisian chocolatier (Monsieur Leon – I guess he must be a real person) to train her and be on the panel of judges. Ichigo works hard all night and comes up with a unique design for her sachertorte but in the end, falls short by a single point! Oh dear! Team Koshiro wins! Oh no! Is this the end? However there is 3rd placing and the winner of this match gets to advance. Ah, I see. Phew. But in the meantime, Kashino has been whisked away to Miya’s team and while contemplating on the theme for the finals, she relegates Youko to be a substitute. See, this is what you get. One bad deed deserves another. Youko may be feeling bad and how she deserves this retribution but kind Ichigo forgives her. Kashino puts his foot down and wants Miya to let him take command of her team. This means he wants Youko to be in the main team while Miya the substitute. However Miya isn’t a total b*tch to sell out her team mate so she fires Kashino from her team and lets Youko back. This doesn’t mean she would be giving up on his love, though. Maybe it’s part of Kashino’s sly plan to get out. So Team Ichigo is a whole again. But it makes you think. Can you really swap team members in the middle of the tournament? As for the finals, Team Koshiro pounds their rivals while Team Ichigo faces Team Kobayakawa with the theme bond (not that 007 agent but ties/connection lah). As expected, Team Ichigo wins by a 7 point margin after paying tribute to all those who have supported them as their bond theme.

The main tournament of the Cake Grand Prix arrives. Team Ichigo is paired with Team Tachibana. As the theme is elegance, Team Ichigo breezes through because the country girls of Team Tachibana’s peacock cake crumbled. Ichigo even wanted a rematch for a fair fight (she probably got too much emotion up in her head) but their fallen opponents accepted their defeat with much graciousness. The other highlight match of the first round is Team Koshiro against Team Tennouji. Miya’s team got trounced as Mari shows her worth of being a top student. I guess this adds to Miya’s list of people for revenge, eh? I don’t know how many rounds they skipped because it is the semi-finals now as Team Ichigo meets Team Natsuki, a bunch of lively girls specializing in serving natural tropical fruits with sweets. Well, it seems that is the theme of this round too. The Sweets Spirits came out with an idea about strawberries so the rest is left up to Ichigo as she creates a dish that sends them into the next round via a single point! The finals will be Team Ichigo versus Team Tennouji. To grace the event, Henri is here as one of the judges. Both Ichigo and Mari are determined to win as they want to be with Henri (obviously you can tell Mari is in love with him). However Henri cautions Mari about chasing his shadow. The theme for the final is ‘dream’. Team Ichigo decides to design a cake that displays all their dreams while Team Tennouji a beautiful swan taking flight. As the time ticks down, Kashino is having problems finishing his Eifel Tower piece. Because of that, points are deducted from Team Ichigo’s total. However one of Team Tennouji’s members didn’t use originality so Henri’s tongue couldn’t be deceived and they got their marks lowered too. In the end, Team Tennouji wins by a single point! Oh no! However as Henri announced, since Team Ichigo did so well and exceed expectations, they are also invited to study at Paris. Oh well. I guess it’s a win-win situation. Yay! Off to Paris! Bonjour mademoiselle, bonjour monsieur.

In Paris, airhead Ichigo is so excited about tasting every French pastry and even got lost. Heck, her French sucks. She meets a cool handsome Italian hunk, Ricardo Benigni AKA Rick. Oh no. Not that the guys in Team Ichigo would want another playboy fooling around with their gal. So the World Cake Grand Prix is about to begin in the main campus. Guess what? Rick is also participating as the main campus’ representative. It’s a small world. But I have to mention several few things about this World Cake Grand Prix. Firstly, if this is where every campus of St Marie gathers for the finals, how come there are a total of only 8 teams? Since 2 are already from Japan, that leaves 6, right? And among the 6, Rick’s team felt a little international since we have Lemon (yeah, it’s her again. But now she has her own Sweets Spirit: Mint) and one from Germany and the other from Greece. As for the rest, they come from other parts of Europe. Hey, there is no team from England?! British make good scones, you know? What about China or even USA? Malaysia have their own unique tasty delights too, you know. Doesn’t feel that international here. Oh yeah, everyone here has Sweets Spirits. So is it a wonder how they made it here? Oh and oh! Miya is also back! How? Apparently her large fortune has her bought over the St Marie campus of Andorra so she’s got another 3 Spanish hunks under her wing. Wait a minute. A tiny country like Andorra has a St Marie school? But not England or China or even USA?! Andorra’s campus is so small, cramp and pitiful that it doesn’t even look like a campus! Mind boggling…

So another direct knockout round as the matches Team Ichigo faced felt like rematches. Yeah, quarter-final match they are already up and against Team Rick. Which means, they’ll be battling against Lemon again but this time in a food wagon. But the stakes get higher because you are now not only required to make delicious sweets, but to make sales and attract customers too. Yeah, should’ve taken up Business Administration, eh? Team Ichigo can’t lose because if they do, Rick will make Ichigo his girlfriend! Hey Kashino, hey Hanabusa, would you really like that? At the end of the competition day, Team Ichigo’s gelato defeats Team Rick’s doughnuts by a single point. Phew. Didn’t I tell you it felt like a rematch since Team Ichigo will face Team Koshiro again in the semi-finals? The location is at Saint-Michel’s castle and they have to make a dress out of sweets. However, the match between Team Ichigo’s Cinderella dress and Team Koshiro’s huge light-emitting dress ends in a tie! Which means a rematch. During the break, both teams are sent to tour Europe. At Neuschwanstein Castle, again what is a match with Koshiro without a wager on Kashino. If she wins, Kashino will marry her right now! The match of the bon-bon chocolates has Team Ichigo besting Team Koshiro this time by a healthy margin of 14 points! Why? Team Ichigo had taken their slow journey across Europe and used all the ingredients they gathered into their dish whereas Team Koshiro flew pass each destination in her helicopter (see the disgusting love design on her heli?) without taking time to absorb and use those experiences in making the chocolates. Looks like another wedding postponed. Safe.

To prevent this from becoming a total rematch, we’re expecting Team Tennouji to win, right? Wrong! They lost! To another France team of the main campus: the all-girls Team Francois. Watching the replay, it seems Mari looked disturbed and couldn’t concentrate so much so her chocolate dress crumbled. She fell into depression since. It is revealed that Mari spotted Henri with Francois Adjani and they were close to each other so much so they seemed like lovers. He was even talking about making her part of his Henri Project. This sight devastated Mari and thus her confidence shattered. Suddenly a shocking revelation that Henri purposely put up an act to see how strong Mari was. He mocks her feelings for him and even mentions that love is not needed to become a patissiere! OMG! Say it isn’t so that Henri’s true colours are turning him to be an antagonist! Ichigo felt sorry for Mari but vows that she will beat Team Francois in the finals after Henri mocks her skills as well. In the finals at Versailles Palace, both teams have 3 hours to make their sweets with several themes and subjects. On a side note, I’m wondering if every of Ichigo’s pals and family members got sponsored to take a flight here and support her. At the end of the day, both sides are tied. What? Again another rematch? This time it will be an individual match-up on batter. What’s this?! Another draw!!! I can’t believe it! Ichigo once again flops but Hanabusa’s loss was merely due to a less popular trend of an ingredient he picked. It won’t be fair if you declare both sides as winners so a final match will decide it all. Each team will pick a representative to battle it out. Francois obviously is chosen but for the Sweets Princes, they think it is a good thing for Ichigo to represent them. Hey, their team name is taken after her, right? They seem to really trust her a lot by now, entrusting the whole fate of the team to her.

Another point to ponder. Each of the battle takes 3 hours, right? There is a 1 hour break in between so come to think of it, don’t you think the finals nearly spent half a day?! Don’t they feel tired? As the final of the finals begin, as expected Francois does her popular signature sweets, Dijonaise au Chocolat while Ichigo improvises on Michiko’s trademark strawberry tart and names it Sourire de l’Ange (Angel’s Smile). Previously, Ichigo in search of the key to her grandma’s strawberry tart’s recipe, went back to the Sweets Kingdom to find the key and chance upon Michiko’s Sweets Spirit. After passing her trial of the original tart’s taste, Ichigo decides not to read or use her recipe because it is fundamental that she creates her own original sweets. And because of that, Ichigo defeats Francois in a high scoring match by 1 point! Deja vu?! Another slim victory! The scores they obtain are close to perfect! Ichigo sure loves winning by a single point. Hooray! Team Ichigo wins!!! Henri’s reasoning why Francois lost was because she seemed contended with her signature dish and didn’t bother to create something original. In the end, it is revealed that Henri purposely said those mean words and took on the role of the bad guy so that Ichigo can improve. Not only that, he felt the sweets industry has stagnated and wanted people to come up with more creative ideas and originality. Shame on me for ever doubting Henri as a baddie. Henri shows a photo of Michiko when she was young studying under his grandfather. Hmm… Looks a lot like Henri and Ichigo. You can say it’s like history repeating itself. Lastly, we see Kashino and Ichigo holding hands! Is it a sign that they’re a couple even if they mention that they won’t let each other know about their feelings?!

Yumeiro Patissiere SP Professional

It’s not really over yet because right after the first season ended, a second season called Yumeiro Patissiere SP Professional with additional 13 episodes. It takes place 2 years after the end of their World Cake Grand Prix victory as Team Ichigo are returning back to Japan for the first time after a couple of years studying in Paris. It must be a relief for Ichigo. Not because she gets to reunite with her friends but rather the amazing and mind boggling part is that her French still sucks! OMG! After 2 years, it makes you wonder how she could communicate with the people of France. Hand signals? Other than that, many of the characters have a slightly grown up and mature look and some of them even have a change in hairstyle like growing long ones (Hanabusa and Andou), cutting it short (Mari) or simply letting it loose (Ichigo and Lemon). However Ichigo’s return to Japan is greeted with some sort of sad news: Team Ichigo is breaking up! Oh no! Say this is not true! Unfortunately it is. Hanabusa and Andou decide to take leave from school and pursue their own dream. As Kashino mentioned, it was Ichigo who indirectly spurred them on during all these years to do so. Kashino himself skips a grade due to his excellent grades but is in the same class with Miya. Oh the horror! Thus with Ichigo’s return, Group A is totally revamped. They include Ichigo, Lemon (looks like she transferred back here again and due to her outstanding grades, is able to skip a grade and be in the same class with Ichigo), Rumi and Johnny McBeal. Johnny who? No, he does not have any relations with that lawyer Ally. Instead, this American transfer student guy may seem like a slacker but his pastry skills are top notch since it is his dream to create original sweets back in America. And you know, Johnny loves greeting girls by carrying them in his arms. Plus, he likes Ichigo so you know what this means, right? Right. The love triangle gets heated up with the appearance of a new character. Johnny and Kashino do not get along well, most of the time arguing. Johnny also has a polite-but-strict Sweets Spirit named Maize who frequently messes up Japanese terms. In this sequel, I guess in a way viewers will be glad we won’t be seeing anymore sweets competition as it takes a more business approach. Hey, when you become a patissiere, not only you have to make good pastries but learn how to run a shop and manage your customers. Damn. Should’ve taken up Business Administration.

However you won’t see the new Group A into action because Henri calls Ichigo, Lemon, Kashino and Johnny (okay, maybe 3/4 of the gang) to be in charge of a main street in his project called Marie’s Garden. Seems like a huge town with lots of shops selling different types of sweets around the world. If it’s bad enough that Johnny and Kashino are loggerheads, it gets even worse when we find out that Johnny’s cousin is Miya!!! MIYA!!! She’s back! Again. Oh damn it! It’s such a small world after all. Apparently Johnny plans to request loads of cash from Miya’s dad and company to create his ideal plan of a sweets theme park but you know, Kashino would prefer to utilize the limited resources they have. Here we go again. Another argument. As the new Team Ichigo decides on what to do for their project, Henri announces the opening of a street filled with different shops of different nationalities selling different sweets. So now you don’t have to travel the world to eat sweets. It’s all right here. Andou’s Yumetsuki is also part of this street. To make this street more competitive, at the end of each month, the shop with the lowest sales will have to close down and a new one will move in and replace it. Andou has Kanako and her friends help out and it seems the shop is attracting lots of customers. However the waiting time causes them to be irritated and with the lack of stock in certain items, they slowly disappear. Andou is further stressed when preliminary results show that his store is in last place and may have to close down. Apparently he is taking upon himself to do everything, causing himself to turn ill. But with advice like Johnny’s Chance Loss and Disposal Loss and the support from his friends, grandpa and Caramel, Andou learns to let everyone help him out (including Hanabusa who has just returned from overseas) and in the end he makes a comeback and his store is saved.

Problems in the real world take a break as the Sweets Spirits return to their kingdom (accidentally taking along Team Ichigo as well) to help the Jerks prepare for an exam in which if they fail, they won’t advance to the next grade. Since the theme is to depict the kingdom, the gang decides to travel around the kingdom to famous landmark and spots to collect its ‘natural ingredients’ to make the ideal theme. Their journey along the way includes meeting Kasshi’s farmer mom, climbing a high crystal mountain top (Kashino and Ichigo temporarily separated as a cue for the lovebirds to spend a little quality time together) and watching the beautiful breathtaking overall view from atop, riding through the powder desert and milky lake, getting lost in the Baum Forest (in which the Jerks were accused by the forest’s master for littering and imprisoned – of course their name cleared and the real culprit turn out to be the master’s grandson), and the Egg Village in which we learn that all Sweets Spirits come from eggs! Holy! Are they like chickens?! Anyway the importance of the Egg Village is to appreciate one’s parents since it takes lots of love and perseverance to get an ‘egg’ and even so it is not guaranteed. The gang collects all the necessary ingredients and have enough time to think up of the rest. During the strict exam (passing means getting all to approve. A single disapproval means total fail), Kasshi uses his mommy dearest vegetables as part of his theme. The judges think they have strayed from the think but when the Queen tastes it, she finds it delicious. In short, they pass!

Back to the real world, Team Ichigo is called to visit Mari in New York. Currently she and Rick are being tasked to handle a shop there as part of Henri’s project. However it seems Mari is having a hard time finding customers so as expected, Team Ichigo is here to help her out. However Mari is also given an ultimatum. If her sales do not reach the expected target, Henri will replace her with someone else. It’s a dog eat dog world in this trade too. Mari is adamant of maintaining her French theme for the shop as an experience of Paris even if those Americans do not know how to appreciate or told her bluntly that “this is America”! Duh? Hanabusa stops by to help out and the love triangle heats up when you realize that the potential lovers of Ichigo are all in one place. To make matters worse, Miya is also in New York. You know why lah. It was pretty hilarious seeing how she got all the large television screens on the streets to play out her undying love for Kashino. Then right in the middle of the busy street, her helicopter somehow manage to ‘kidnap’ Makoto and go on an aerial date. I guess that guy just gave in and go with the flow. As the gang discuss about their plan in change of the design and concept, they have Mari take a break since she haven’t had one when she first started manning this shop. Along the way, she helps a family of blacks by reconstructing their daughter’s wedding cake back to normal. They are delighted with her skills and invited her to the wedding party. That is when Mari realized that this town is about its people. With the help of a dancer friend, Linda who got inspiration from her cakes, Mari also gets inspiration from her. They use coupons as part of their plans to attract customers and slowly they start trickling in. Henri warn them of being too optimistic and counting their chickens before they hatch. That is because Miya plans to open her own branch in New York (partly to settle her old score with Mari) by having celebrities to come and a large outlet at Central Park. But this is a blessing in disguise because the customers who came to Miya’s outlet just came for the free sweets and left soon as the celebrities left. Plus, there were no place to sit down and eat thus making Mari’s place and ideal spot. As for the increasing queue, Linda’s dance performance entertains the waiting customers while the rest have their hands full serving them and Mari coming up with a new sweet. In the end, Mari gets a call from Henri but she is too busy and will call back later. Is she snubbing him? Apparently that’s not how it looks like. She’s in a delicate process making her cake and that call was just Henri wanting to congratulate her of meeting her target.

When everyone returns to Japan, it seems Miya continues to be a pain in the ass for our heroes as she throws down another challenge. Between both sides whereby the winner is decided by the most sales at the start of Marie’s Garden opening. But it seems Johnny has defected from Ichigo’s team and is siding with Miya. Why? Apparently his school fees are paid by her Miya’s dad so in a way he is bound to do as he is told. Plus, since Chateau Seika is a big sponsor of Marie’s Garden, you can bet that Henri has to approve this and their store Beautiful Night Castle (a play on Miya’s name) is a large complex a few stores away from them. Yeah, something about how they want the customers to experience the ultimate cream of the crop experience of eating sweets like the wealthy and nobles. That’s how much money they’ve got. And you can guess what’s in for Miya if she wins, right? Uh huh. Kashino will instantly marry her (‘nice’ delusion she got there) and not only that, Kashino will take on her name! Makoto Koshiro… Hmm… If that isn’t enough, Johnny gets to date Ichigo till they get married! In the even if they lose, they will give up on Kashino and Ichigo. Hanabusa and Andou return to help out and for the first time the original Team Ichigo reunite with Lemon to come up with a counter plan. Hanabusa and Andou confront Kashino and let him know that everybody knows about their relationship. Of course Kashino denies and tries to cover up by saying that his pals too like Ichigo. They admit that they like Ichigo. But for Andou, he decided to give Ichigo to Kashino because he has got his own girlfriend (Kanako) while Hanabusa is too busy to get into any relationship (I thought he was lying) but will attack straight if Ichigo dumps him. Everyone works hard to come up with the design of their shop and new sweets. However with Miya’s advertising at a frightening rate (she’s got her posters just about everywhere!), this depresses Ichigo a little but she can’t stay that way forever as there is work to be done. But it isn’t going to be easy as it is like David against Goliath. Miya shows she is serious as she is a step ahead like handing out free chocolates and even hiring her Andorra guys to back her up though they manage a different shop (if customers buy from their shop, they get discount coupons to buy at Miya’s). Sales at the end of the first day sees Team Ichigo tasting the vast difference and power of Miya and Johnny. While Team Ichigo barely reach their target and only managed a few hundred thousands, Miya and Johnny are already easily into millions! Their Castle is immensely popular and the waiting queue is crazy. Japanese people sure do love queuing. But Team Ichigo didn’t give up and improvise to attract customers like putting a window to display the Sweets Princes making their stuff, doing market research, setting up an online website and their old friends helping out. They make steady paces to catch up so even if Miya isn’t worried, she has to by now even though they are still leading by a convincing amount.

This means that the battle will be settled on Christmas Eve and the side that sells the most Christmas cake will win. I guess Miya ‘played cheat’ by ordering her father’s company employees to come lining up to buy the cakes but would they do so in the cold snowing weather? The end results show that both sides end up in a tie! What the? How can this be? You can say it’s a miracle for this to happen. However Johnny admits that his side actually lost in terms of net profits due to huge advertising and discounts were given to many of their cakes. Yes! Another triumph over Miya and thankfully Kashino lives another day without becoming Mr Koshiro. The next day, Kashino and Ichigo have a very intimate moment at the lake together. Just like us viewers, the Sweets Spirits are anticipating a confession. Well, even if Kashino stops short of saying “I love you”, at least he hugs her and tells her that he wants to be with her. They were about to kiss when Miya and Johnny interrupted. Damn perfect timing. I thought they agreed to give up on them? Well, I guess they could also become sly lawyers because though they agreed to do that, they didn’t say they would give up forever. Yeah, they’d give them up till just yesterday. They start pushing each other so Kashino and Ichigo fall together into the bushes. Though we don’t get to see what really happened, their position and facial expression indicate that they may have locked lips. Then they get a call from Henri and he is happy that Marie’s Garden is so successful that he plans to open one in London. Yup, he needs their help. Are they up to it? You bet.

Having My Cake And Eating It…
Wow. That is quite a sweet ending though it doesn’t pretty much ‘end’ since there will be more challenges for the gang as they go on honing the skills and experiences to achieve their dream. Through the series, we see how the main characters develop out nicely. Ichigo may be still the dreamy airhead but at least she has found what she likes doing best and something that brings everyone around her happy. The Sweets Princes also had their course of direction change for the better after meeting Ichigo. They are able to see things and bring new fresh ideas and motivation from her point of view. Lemon and Mari also changed themselves for the better as it isn’t being number one or just yourself. As for Miya, it’s hard to hate her though some may call her annoying for coming in between Kashino and Ichigo. She may be a recurring ‘villain’ for Team Ichigo but without her, they won’t get to come up with answers and solutions to improve themselves, right? You have to admit that being stubborn and not giving up her love for Kashino as a good persevering point to fight on. And her laughter too… Each time I smile whenever she does that. Henri has a good eye on people and he knows his stuff well. Without favouring or discriminating, he offers not only Ichigo but everyone else the same opportunity to improve and shine. The pacing of the story is also nicely laid out. Especially between the competitions, these fillers aren’t just mindless as we see the protagonist improving their skills and we get to learn more about them and the other side characters even if they just appeared for that episode. It would be boring if we are shown them going from one competition and straight to another. The small arcs in the second season are also nicely set in ‘bite size’.

As we can see, the first season focuses on the Cake Grand Prix tournament but in the second season it’s all about the other stuff like running a shop comes into play. All these elements are important if you want to be a successful patissiere. Just like in any other field, you will have to be an all-rounder if you want to be tops. In the second season, it seems that many of the supporting characters do not make their appearance or enough impact. For instance, I thought it would be Rumi’s turn to shine but she’s still a background character. Natsume and her family didn’t even make their periodical appearance and had they not make that short cameo patronage to Ichigo’s store, we might have all forgotten about them. Also, I noticed that Kashino didn’t do much of his chocolate tempering as seen frequently done in the first season. Same case with Hanabusa and his flowery candy sculpture. Perhaps it’s because he’s going around the world doing so. Mari seems to have that melancholic look in the sequel instead of her previous self that exudes confidence and grace. Is it still has something to do with her love with Henri? It also makes me wonder how long it takes for the Sweets Spirits to become Royal Court patissieres. Well, the youngest of the lot, Mint is 150 years old! Woah! I guess they’ll have to undergo several more pairings before they are successful, eh? How is it for a Sweets Spirits to be with you till your dying day? Say, another funny part is how the Sweets Spirits transport back to their own kingdom via any oven. I just hope they don’t get accidentally burnt when they hop in.

The major eye candy and of course my favourite are the various designs of the many sweets and cakes. Each time they are presented, it makes me want to have a taste of it! It got so annoying that at one point I just thought of swallowing my whole monitor! Of course that didn’t happen. I’m glad to learn a few types of cakes such as macarons and terms such as meringue and add them to my little knowledge of sweets though shamefully I could do better (heck, by the time I finished watching this series and blogging this, I already forgotten many of them! DAMN IT! NOOOOO!). Maybe I should try my hands at being a patissiere? Heck, I only know how to eat ;p. But those who are inspired and wish to start making simple sweets, at the end of each episode there is a segment called Magical Essence in which most of the time we are given short demonstrations and short handy tips on how to make a certain sweets via some famous patissiere. This segment also showcases other stuffs like decorating one’s cake, the reception and premier of this series and other kids trying their hands making their sweets. Mmm… Yummy… There is also a short OVA lasting minutes called Mune Kyun Tropical Island. I find this nonsensical because we see Ichigo and the Sweets Princes stranded on an island. I don’t know how this happened as we see them trying to survive like getting chased by a giant tumbling rock and fishing out a giant fish. Some close intimate moments with Ichigo too and a disgusting one whereby Hanabusa is admiring his beautiful self amidst the waterfall. In the end, the Sweets Spirits ate too much and turned into giants the next day. Huh?

As for the overall drawing and art of the characters, they lean more towards cute since the characters have sparkly bright eyes as I feel it is aimed towards young teenage girls. As for the exaggerated reactions, I say this is a must in every anime that has food as its main theme. I’m not going so far as to say that the judges’ reaction are really funny when tasting the sweets because you don’t see them screaming in delight whenever they taste sweets that are out of this world. Yes, each one of them are mature and veterans in their area so it wouldn’t be just funny to see old buggers getting all excited in an exaggerated way, it would be plain weird. Thus you can see the images and the scenery they are being transported to when they take a bite. Again, nothing very exaggerative (don’t expect to see volcanoes or the universe exploding) but enough to give you a hint that the confectionery is indeed worthy of the heart, soul and love they put into when making in. Then again, how do you really describe such nostalgic happiness? I really need to have a taste…

Besides the values we learn such as friendship and perseverance, we also learn the importance not only in the sweets itself. For instance, we also learn how to appreciate the basic ingredients that they come from such as flour, sugar and eggs. If the basics aren’t good, then you can bet the end product will also be bad. Other educational insights such as sugar shouldn’t merely be seen as a sweet substance that contributes to obesity and diabetes. It is an important substance in holding out the structure of certain sweets and the same types of sugar can turn the sweets into a different type depending of the amount and heat applied. Very enlightening for me. But too bad I had forgotten most of them. DAMN IT! NOOOOO! Another thing I noticed is the wastage of the ingredients when the gang used to make sweets during their practice. It is a good sign that we see them producing trays after trays of sweets but come to think of it, the amount that they churn out (especially Ichigo) seems like too much for her to finish and thus wasted, right? I’m also a little puzzled since these ingredients aren’t that dirt cheap and the St Marie Academy seems to be able to provide unlimited supplies of them. Of course the idea that they are a patissiere school should make this argument invalid but like I said, it just seems endless.

For the cast of this series, I am surprised that some of them are young and below 20 years old. For example, Mayu Iino was only 10 years old when she took on the role as the voice of Caramel. No wonder she sounds so cute! She sounds real different from grownup ladies trying to make squeaky high pitch girl voices. So when Caramel is in a pinch or go shouting “Aaaaaaa~”, she does sound different and in a way, cute. Aoi Yuuki as Ichigo (Mina in Dance In The Vampire Bund, Murasaki in Kurenai, Budoko in Akikan) really fits her character on all occasions, whether she is being dreamy, klutzy or serious. She is only 17 when this series is made. Other young casts include Sachika Misawa as Cafe, Yuri Yamaoka as Chocolat and Yui Ogura as Mint and Ringo. At first I couldn’t place my finger on Vanilla’s voice as she sounded so familiar. When I found out she was Ayana Taketatsu, it occurred to me whenever Vanilla tries to motivate and get Ichigo going and not slack off, she reminded me so much of her other role as K-ON!’s Azusa trying to do the same to Yui! Other casts include Nobuhiko Okamoto as Kashino (Usui in Kaichou Wa Maid-sama), Shinya Hamazoe as Andou, Tsubasa Yonaga as Hanabusa (Jun in Special A), Daisuke Kishio as Henri (Suginami in Da Capo series), Sayuri Yahagi as Miya (Haruna in To Love-Ru), Eri Kitamura as Mari and Honey (Yui in Angel Beats), Mariya Ise as Lemon (Stocking in Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt), Tomokazu Sugita as Rick (Gintoki in Gintama), Marina Inoue as Francois (Chiri in Zetsubou Sayonara Sensei series) and Kikuko Inoue as the Queen (Belldandy in Aa! Megami-sama).

The first season’s opening theme by Mayumi Gojo, Yume Ni Yell! Patissiere sounds like a lively anime pop piece and with the lyrics filled with lots of tasty pastries, it definitely gets you into the mood of the series. “Strawberry fraisier and framboise, happy happy macaron, happiness made go!”. Oh yeah. Got to love that even if sometimes I get goosebumps hearing this groupie part. Ichigo No Miracle by Yukina Sugihara is the first season’s ending theme sounds like a slow-moderate anime pop. It’s funny to see the Sweets Spirits doing some kind of dance. However come the second season, the opening theme feels more like a techno R&B dance beat! Sweet Romance by Mayumi Gojo makes it sound as though it is for a series that is dramatic and romance (even the opening animation suggests so with some mature visuals like lipstick, Sweets Spirits in black cat suits and such). So much so you’d wonder if you’re watching a pastry-themed anime in the first place! But the dance beat is catchy enough to make me get up on my feet and impersonate (albeit very lame) dance moves of my own. The second season’s ending theme by Primavera is Home Made Happy and though it is slower, feels suitable like another dance song. This one didn’t make me get up and do a full gig but enough to make me shuffle my feet. The animation of the ending credits shows the Sweets Spirits each cycling. What does this imply? After eating too many sweets, they need the workout to burn those calories?! Haha! As for the background music, I’m not saying that they are similar but it somehow reminds me of the other bread-themed anime series: Yakitate! Japan. From the ‘battle’ themes to the jazzy casuals they are nicely fitted for the atmosphere and scenes. Perhaps it’s the overall feel that reminded me of such since both series’ story flow (the competition, ‘power up’ training and ‘fillers’ sense) are pretty much alike.

Though this series may not be one of top favourites but in my opinion it is one of those better animes for the family (also read: no fanservice). In addition to the drama, romance and comedy, viewers get knowledgeable insights in the world of sweets. Speaking of which, no matter what kind of sweets and from wherever in this world they are from, it is important and essential that sweets make people feel relaxed and happy. Just like how it did to me. I may not be able to tell apart or identify many sweets or chocolates but each time I pop them in my mouth, I know that I am experiencing a little part of happiness. I know the prices of chocolates aren’t cheap these days and with a limited budget, it really puts a damper. Maybe, I should really start trying to bake those sweets myself. But then again, maybe not. Why? Because like I said, I only know how to eat.