suu Morishita is a manga creator duo, and their slice of life series Shortcake Cake is being released by Viz Media. Read on for my review of Volume 1.
Back Cover Blurb
Ten Serizawa has a two-hour commute through the mountains to high school every day, so she can’t spend much time hanging out with her friends in the afternoon. She decides to move into the local boardinghouse, where one of her friends and three other boys are living. Ten’s friends consider her to be as oblivious as a rock when it comes to noticing boys and falling in love, but will she be able to keep her calm and steady heart in her new living situation?
Because I’m a shojo manga fan, Viz’s Shojo Beat titles generally have at least some amount of appeal for me, and I’ve enjoyed several series with “ordinary girl” protagonists. As such, I was surprised to find Shortcake Cake such a disappointment.
To start, the plot is hardly a page turner. Our main character Ten is a freshman from Ryunohara, which is a two-hour bus ride from the nearest high school. Her schoolmate Ageha is also from Ryunohara, but she stays at a local boarding house to avoid the commute. After spending the night with Ageha at the boarding house and meeting its residents, Ten decides to move in there, too.
This opening scenario could have delivered conflict and drama to engage the reader, but it doesn’t. Moving out might be unusual for most teenagers, but in Ten’s rural community, it’s no big deal, everyone does it. Her parents have no problem with her moving away, and paying for her room and board isn’t a financial burden. Yes, there are boys living at the boarding house, but the girls are not overwhelmingly outnumbered (once Ten moves in, the house boards three boys and three girls). Plus there is a live-in house mother to enforce the rules. As such, the opening chapter ends up being a long-winded introduction to Ten’s housemates.
Without any major (or minor) external conflicts, it’s up to character relationships to carry the story forward. Unfortunately, they’re not all that interesting. Ten’s female friends are all bland friendly types. As for her male housemates, we have a stereotypical bespectacled nerd, a flirty Casanova, and a gorgeous intellectual. It eventually becomes clear that the plot will center around these boys’ interest in the main character. The problem is Ten’s not outstanding at all. Her looks are on par with the other female boarders; she has no goal she’s trying to accomplish or challenge she needs to overcome; and while she is not antisocial, her personality is pretty dull. As a result, I have trouble warming up to her as a main character. So when Riku, the resident playboy, instantly falls for her, it feels completely forced.
In addition to the lackluster narrative, the artwork is also unimpressive. The only difference between the two resident lookers Riku and Chiaki is a minor variation in their bangs, so in group scenes, I had trouble telling which boy was which. Also, the illustrator frequently uses mini-eyes and mini-faces in dialogue bubbles to indicate the speaker, but except for Yuto the singular glasses character, they are all so similar that I’m still left guessing as to who is talking.
Extras include an afterword, bonus mini-manga, and title page collection at the end of the book. Oddly, there are no footnotes or translation notes despite a number of cultural references.
I usually enjoy Shojo Beat titles, so I was unexpectedly underwhelmed by this one. The heroine Ten is neither engaging nor inspiring, and without any real conflict or believable chemistry between the characters, the plot is boring. I can’t recommend the illustrations on this one either. Shortcake Cake doesn’t have offensive or inappropriate content, but without real substance, it doesn’t have much to like either.
First published at The Fandom Post.