Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the previous two volumes of Yoshinaga sensei's Antique bakery series, I was really looking forward to seeing what would happen next. Imagine my surprise when I opened this volume up, and instead of meeting the staff at the bakery, I was confronted with a busty female newscaster! Yes, things are about to get very busy for our boys as they get the attention of a pair of female TV reporters who do the "Bargains for Housewives Report". Interviewing local shop owners, they happen across our favourite patisserie and encounter every girl's dream: a shop ran by a group of hot guys who give great personal service! Unfortunately for Ono, one of the women is single, thinks his cake tastes sexy, and he discovers to his horror that his demonic charm apparently applies to women as well.
If that is not enough stress for our female phobic pastry chef, the surge in popularity from the news broadcast leads to an invitation for an event at a department store. All of the better patisseries are invited to showcase their wares in a set of miniature in-house shops for a food fair that is to be covered by the press. Having to work behind glass and with only the clumsy Chikage to help, Ono finds himself surrounded by ever more women, AND the men from the shops he worked at in the past ,who are not too happy to see him. That female newscaster is there covering the event too. Will Ono make it through without cracking? And what about Chikage? Can he not put the shop to shame without the support of the rest of the staff?
In the midst of this chaos, a mysterious blonde foreigner appears carrying roses for Ono,. It is Jean Baptiste, owner of a five star shop in Paris, and a former lover and teacher of Ono's. He has come to reclaim Ono, and presents a very tempting wage offer as well as his body. Will Ono go? What will happen to the shop if he does, and the camaraderies that the staff have built around their working dynamic? Poor Ono is getting one shock to the system after another, and fate is not done playing tricks on him yet, as he discovers that his crush, Chikage, as a surprise in his past too. Just who is is the tall young girl who comes in, talks childishly, and sits on his lap? Ehh? She is really only how old? And she is...who's daughter?!
Volume three certainly has stepped up on the laughs. There is a lot less painful angst this time around, and what there is has an unexpected levity to it. I particularly like the dry wit of Ono's as he recalls his love affair with Jean Baptiste, likening it to a French film. This is very much Ono and Chikage's volume, as we get to explore their characters past and present, inside and out, in much the same way as we did with Tachibana and Kanda in the first two volumes. It rounds things out nicely, with the additional side characters we meet carrying along the overall story arc without faltering.
As always, Yoshinaga's art is interesting. She has a singular signature style that can take a bit of getting sued to, but it is far from ugly. What really arrests my is the way she does the eyes. Wonderfully expressive, and the way they are lidded and inset are truly unique. I dare say one could identify a drawing of hers if only the top half of a face, with eyes in full view, was shown. Her storytelling runs as smoothly as ever, with her plot threads weaving in and out as chaotically as real life but with definite cohesion. The result is a humourously wry slice of life manga that has one looking forward to the next instalment. in the meantime, the scratch and sniff cover is quite nice.