With American anime sales on a downward trend, a lot of attention is being paid to its partner in crime manga, the Japanese comics that are often adapted into anime (if they’re not already adaptations themselves). In North America and Europe manga has exploded, but the sheer volume of manga published in Japan means that not every series makes it over here— and even the ones that do don’t always get the attention that they deserve! So here’s one of our Top Ten Underrated Manga that we recommend that you should get your hands on:
Odds are good that if you’re not a fan of yaoi— boy/boy romance manga for women —you haven’t read Fumi Yoshinaga’s Antique Bakery, which is technically not yaoi (barely). Her series is part slice-of-life comedy and part drama about four men working in a bakery together. Primary among the men is Keisuke, the son of a wealthy family who has an odd fixation on sweets because a man who kidnapped him as a child fed him cakes.
The pastry maker of the café is Yusuke Ono, a gay man with the odd ability to make any man (gay or straight) fall for him— except Keisuke, who was a high school classmate of Ono’s. Ono is also terrified of women. A childhood friend of Keisuke’s, Chikage Kobayakawa, works as a waiter in the restaurant because he wants to help Keisuke…unfortunately, Chikage is pretty helpless when it comes to, well, anything. And the fourth pillar of the series is former-boxer and current kitchen help Eiji Kanda, who has declared himself to be Ono’s apprentice.
Although Yoshinaga is best known for her various yaoi series, even non-yaoi fans really ought to give Antique Bakery a shot. First off, Yoshinaga’s art is phenomenal; she uses sparse backgrounds to draw focus on her characters, who are amazingly expressive.
For various reasons the four men are working together in a bakery, which naturally attracts throngs of women for its amazing food. The four-volume series, published by Digital Manga Publishing, follows the various adventures of their lives with a subtle and humorous touch, providing a window into each character that is well worth taking a look through.