Monday, March 4, 2013

Manga Review: Ameiro Kochakan Kandan volume 1

It's hard to resist food metaphors for Fujieda Miyabi's Ameiro Kochakan Kandan (Chatting at the Amber Teahouse)- warming and relaxing as a cup of chammomile tea? Sweet as a pastry? A lot of people were happy when this series was licensed by ALC and JManga, and for good reason.

Sarasa, a serious, responsible honor student, works part-time at the Amber Teahouse because she is in love with its kind owner, Seriho. Inept as she is at managing things on her own, Seriho should be a character who annoys me mightily, but by some alchemy of writing, I like her. She and Sarasa go together like, well, a tea cozy and teapot, as Seriho notes in a really cute visual metaphor.

When Sarasa leaves on a school trip, she unwittingly gives her two best friends (and Amber Teahouse regulars) Haru and Hinoka endless opportunities to rib her for her "Seriho-withdrawal." For her part (thanks to an older lesbian couple who patronize the Teahouse), Seriho realizes that she cares about Sarasa much more than she expected to. ... Like, "stay with me for the next fifty years" caring.

Sarasa decides to attend a culinary school where she will learn restaurant management and become a pâtissière. She tells Seriho her hope to remain by her side at the Amber Teahouse, and she and Seriho look forward to a future working together. They haven't quite come to the understanding that they want to spend their lives together in a different sense by the end of this volume. Here's looking forward to that. ^^

This volume also includes a bonus chapter showing how Sarasa and Seriho met, the chapter in which Sarasa, Seriho, Haru and Hinoka hold a Tanabata event at the Teahouse to save it from shutting down, and a short in which Sarasa and Seriho take a look at some possible new work uniforms designed by the characters from Alice Quartet (a fun, yuri-ish series about four fashion designers by Ameiro Kochakan Kandan's author).

As I said above, this is a sweet series. For now, it's pretty much a slice-of-life focusing on the gentle, romantic atmosphere Sarasa and Seriho have whenever they're together. Despite Sarasa not knowing that her feelings are returned, there isn't much angst. It helps that Seriho mentions gender not being a factor in who she falls in love with, giving Sarasa some hope that she has a fighting chance.

Like many a romance, this series runs a heavy risk of inciting cynicism at points- arguably, more than most romance fiction. When I first read through this volume, I was in college and angsting over what I wanted to do, and thought it was really foolhardy of Sarasa to just know where she should attend school/what career to choose based on who she is in love with. Which it is. (Although, I know, easier not to project a future with more idealism than one normally might when one isn't besotted with someone. I'm reminded of one of the bits of advice that is given to the first-years at my old college dorm: "House booty is bad booty. Everyone thinks they're the exception.") But this is a fictional romance- as much a fantasy, in its own way, as Fujieda's Kotonoha no Miko to Kotodama no Majyo to (I mean, this is also a story in which one of the leads becomes a two time lottery winner, right when she needs it most)- and it's executed well enough that I can roll with it here, like I do for the handwaves in other romances I like. Maybe it's just because I'm not at the point in my life I described above, but I felt less cynical reading this volume this time around even though I know the handwavey aspects are there.

Anyway, if you want to read a feel-good yuri romance with an unusual premise (have to give Fujieda credit for always coming up with premises that haven't been done before in yuri, and doing them well), this is a strong choice. It will get better in the second, final volume, which made me tear up at one point when I previously read through it.

As usual for ALC's releases, the translation is strong. I appreciated the extra note explaining the history behind the bonus chapters, since the average person reading this release is less likely to know that history than the average person who bought this series in Japanese.

Story: B+
Art: B+
Overall: B+

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