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Tachibana's life just got even more complicated as a current wave of child abductions makes his childhood trauma rear its ugly head above the realm of his dreams. The children are all found murdered after having eaten high quality cakes, a facet that resonates with his own abduction experience, so much so that the now retired police detective who was in charge of his case is consulted. When the cake from the children's stomachs is analysed, Tachibana and the guys find their shop the centre of police activity. Who is taking the children, and why feed them cake? Is it a new perpetrator with unwitting similarities, or is is the demon from Tachibana's past making a reappearance? Tachibana is close to coming unravelled, with nightmare ridden sleep and visions of stolen and murdered children confronting his vision daily via the news.
If that is not enough of an ill wind, Kanda finds he is being sent to evening classes to learn French. He is quite put out about the academics he is being pushed into, but not for reasons one would expect. That is, until Ono gives him just the impetus he needs when the truth comes to his attention. Once Kanda goes, he finds his teacher is rather interesting. So interesting in fact, that he decides to go to France with her for a holiday, to experience her family's small bakery. Is the little bird spreading his wings, or will he return to roost back at Antique? One thing is certain, and that is that change is afoot and life is moving ever forward for the four friends and co-workers.
Yoshinaga's final instalment of the Antique Bakery series is a psychologically driven piece, with inner turmoil and emotions playing a large part of the story arcs within. The humour is still there in part, with light deft touches here and there, but appropriately, the overall tone is more sombre. I quite liked how Yoshinaga sensei tied past plot threads in previous volumes into the current events without missing a beat. She also managed the feat of taking such a potentially disturbing plot line and not turn into a gloating, in your face spectacle that demeans such events. And while the volume ends with our friends looking forward to the future with slightly troubled, yet hopeful, expressions, it does not leave us hanging, as a closure of sorts is reached so that they are literally able to move mentally and emotionally forward and not just drift along with life's tides. It is a sentiment that one encounters again in Flower of Life, and also in Ichigenme, being a seeming trademark of Yoshinaga sensei's. I was sad to leave the bakery behind, but hey, with hard copies available to sit on my bookshelf and the animé and live action versions available to watch, it is not like it is goodbye forever. Now if I can just find Yoshinaga's Antique doujinshis...
***I would like to thank Digital Manga for providing this review copy. ***
Additional Reading suggestions: If you like the gentle comedy and the setting found in Antique Bakery, you may also like Happy Boys and Café Kichijoji de, also from Digital Manga Publishing.