Nerdbot would like to thank VIZ Media for providing a review copy of ‘Shortcake Cake Volume 1’
‘Shortcake Cake’ is a brand-new shoujo (girly) manga series from creator duo Makiro and Nachiyan who together form the alias suu Morishita. It is the story of a short, cute, first year high school student named Ten. Within the first chapter, Ten is convinced by her friend Ageha that taking the bus two hours to school every day is bogus and that she should live in the boarding house. Ten is reluctant and dubious of this new information, but after a visit to the boarding house which is just so sweetly fun and comfortable (and conveniently has a vacant bedroom on the girl’s third floor as the boys live on the second floor) Ten decides to talk to her mom. Mom is pleasant, sweet, supportive, and says yes immediately.
And that ease-of-use sort of sets the tone for the rest of the book.
Long-time fans of shoujo manga and stories will recognize the “I’m a cute, oblivious girl and all the boys want me” story line and trope. What’s surprising is that not only is this still a prevalent plotline, but that there’s no twist or hook or stakes happening here. Not even a mom with a squirrel on her head, or someone who talks too fast, or a sex obsessed friend or anything.
Within the boarding house, the two good looking high school boys Chiaki (the smart one) and Riku (the hot one) both decide they have feelings for Ten. Now, what’s even more boggling is that both of these gentlemen go to her school. They’re both insanely popular with the girls at school. Somehow Ten has never noticed either, nor has any of her girlfriends mentioned them. So, that’s somewhat of a weak bullet point that I don’t quite buy.
When I first opened the book, I thought the story would be more reminiscent of classic shoujo stories where all the guys want the girl, something like Hana Yori Dango or even Fushigi Yuugi (minus the fantastical world elements). I guess I can see a little Tamahome/Hotohori coming into play here, but what the book lacks is just any secrets, surprises, or quirks. It reads like a laundry list where none of the clothes are stained.
One “twist” I feel like the story is going for is that something is going on with the attractive male character, Riku. He’s a native of the town where the boarding house is, yet Ten keeps wondering why he lives at the house instead of at home. I’m sure he has some sort of “dark secret” that involves his sister or a family member dying and either out of guilt he left, or he was rejected for being a weirdo. Perhaps the next book will tell.
The art in this story is very cute and sweet, but fits right into its genre. Ten herself isn’t a standout protagonist, but I do appreciate her being straightforward with one of the guys at the end of the book when she asks him a question about his feelings. It’s 2018 and hopefully girls in Japan are being encouraged to get direct and express their thoughts and feelings. But at the same time- it’s 2018; are we still telling this story of “all the boys want me”? The story is Rated T, but with the charming, uncomplicated art and simple method of storytelling, I can’t help but wonder if this is a manga aimed for preteens, more like the 10-13-year-old range.
I give Shortcake Cake Volume One a 3 out 5.