Chapters Completed: Chapters 1 – 33
Author + Artist: Ukyou Akane
Version: English (Decadence scanlation project)
Decadence Online: Transcendence Scanlations
Baiyaku Cafe Online: Mangafox, MyAnimeList,
Genre: Romance + Comedy + Drama + Smut (some non-explicit sex scenes)
As regular readers are no doubt aware, I’ve been consuming a bit of Romance manga and anime recently. It has been fun revisiting old series as well as discovering new stuff, but most of all I am excited to see other writer’s deal plot and style romance in their own works. In this post, I will be reviewing a new discovery, the rather odd Biyaku Cafe as translated by Decadence scanlations.
The series begins with high school senior Kaoru stumbling across an odd cafe named The Aphrodisiac Night Retreat late one evening. She enters and meets Kagetsu, the gruff but attractive chain-smoking proprietor of the odd establishment, a teahouse without a menu. Drinks (not coffee) are prepared and served based on the traits of the customer. Kagetsu offers her a drink.
Kaoru wakes the next morning on the floor of the cafe, cognizant of the fact that she slept with Kagetsu. Upon discovering that the first tea that she drank was the only one that was free, she is “forced” to work off her minor debt for one of the most perplexing men on the planet. So begins a tale about the staff and the customers of the teahouse.
I decided to read this manga based on a search for Romance on Mangafox. What began as more of a curiosity turned out to be oddly amusing and highly addictive. It is an odd one because of how it weaves between the lives of more than the two central characters. I was somewhat impressed with how Ukyou Akane managed to tie the stories of the expanding cast (there is about a dozen characters) together in a coherent and entertaining manner.
The series makes good use of soap opera and anime romance cliches but doesn’t take itself too seriously. That being said, it still manages to offer commentary on how tricky relationships can be when people refuse to acknowledge their own feelings and motivations. This is all played out with solid dialogue and often self-created drama. “Self-created?” you say. Yes, a lot of the drama is created due to misunderstandings and people not being willing to express their feelings honestly. Although this is a mainstay of a lot of storytelling, I found Ukyou Akane’s take on human nature to be compelling. It does what it needs to do – give the characters a chance to grow because they are often forced to rectify their own problems and learn from these same mistakes.
Though the story does move occasionally to other people, there is still arguably a focus on the relationship between Kagetsu and Kaoru. As abrupt as Kagetsu is, we see an honesty to his behaviour and actions that are refreshing. He is the sort of guy that prefers to show people how he feels rather than talking meaningless gibberish. Compare this to the inexperienced Kaoru who spent most of her life having girls confess to her because they believed her to be a dude. (flat chest cliche – check!) She also overthinks things and tends to have a low opinion of her own attractiveness to the guy obviously going out of his way to show her how he feels. (So what if that usually involves heavy petting!!!) And of course, we see the ongoing silliness of the rest of the staff not bothering to confirm whether the two have been shagging on the floor of the cafe before entering the next day. (Seriously, you’d think that people would learn after a while.)
One issue that I did have with this manga is that some of the characters are way too similar in appearance to other cast members. This is not a game-breaker, not by any means, but it is a mild irritation for me as a reader. When you are forced to double-back in order to make sure that you are following the right character, it tends to decrease the level of immersion of the story itself.
I really enjoyed this manga and hope to see an anime adaptation sometime soon because it is adorable. However, I don’t recommend it for anyone that finds romance and/or anime romance cliches annoying. If you are good with that, be sure to give this one a read.