Antique Bakery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I managed to finish the short 12 episode series Antique Bakery, which is the story of four men; the owner, the patissier, his apprentice, and the owner's lifelong bodyguard/butler. The owner, Mr. Tachibana, is a scion of a wealthy Japanese family who grows bored of his life as a junior executive and decides to try his hand at managing a small business instead. His first new hire is a former High School classmate, Mr. Ono, who is now a renowned patissier. Ono doesn't recognize Tachibana at first, but Tachibana does remember Ono. Ono is openly gay, but he came out in High School and declared his love for Tachibana, who did not take this very well at all, cursing Ono with hateful, homophobic slurs. Tachibana reminds Ono of this incident, which Ono of course never forgot. But Ono is desperate for work and is willing to forgive his former classmate, and even rationalizes that the harsh rejection forced him to dig deep within himself and reinvent himself and fully accept himself as a homosexual.
The next hire is a up and coming young boxing champ, Eiji, who is forced to leave the sport due to a deteriorating eye condition; if he continues boxing he could go blind. Reluctantly he hangs up his gloves and as fate would have it he walks by the new bakery and applies to become an apprentice patissier. He's immediately smitten by Ono's charisma and demands to become his apprentice. Tachibana doesn't like the young man's freshness and disrespect, but he also implicitly trusts Ono's professional judgement and reluctantly agrees to hire Eiji.
Lastly there is Kobayakawa, the strong silent type who was Tachibana's childhood companion and later became his butler and bodyguard. Kobayakawa feels duty bound to stay by his young master's side and so begins hanging around outside the shop in one of the family vehicles. Tachibana finds this ridiculous and decides to employ Kobayakawa as a waiter.
After the first 2 episodes, I assumed this was going to be a farcical BL romantic comedy, but it turns out this series is much more complex, with multiple stories intersecting. It handles emotional topics sincerely and with great sensitivity. Kobayakawa is a closeted homosexual and totally Ono's type. In time and as their friendship deepens, Tachibana asks for Ono's forgiveness for his cruel words in High School.
The episodes cover the day to day running of the Antique Bakery, but also the lives and tribulations of the four men who work there. Past loves, new customers, and the owner's dark past all interplay in this story. It seems Tachibana was kidnapped as a child and forced by his captor to only eat cakes and sweets. He managed to stab his captor in the leg and escape but was so traumatized by the events that much of his memory of it was blanked out. One motivation for starting the bakery was as a tool to find his original kidnapper and confront him, even though the statute of limitations has long since expired and no prosecution today is possible. Then suddenly young boys begin to be kidnapped again and worse, some are turning up dead. Could these be related to Tachibana's cold case? Tachibana is haunted by nightmares from his childhood kidnapping ordeal, even into his 30s. He agrees to do his part to aid in the police investigation of the latest string of kidnappings when new evidence comes to light about the last meals of the deceased boys.
I was really impressed with Antique Bakery. Even though I'm a dub fan typically and this show was sub-only, I was still thoroughly entertained by this series and it even provoked a few tears watching it. Love is universal, whether straight or gay or anything in between. I give it a thumbs up!