Yumeiro Patissiere Professional

Brief Overview: Ichigo and her friends are now entering high school, polishing their pastry skills in the quest to become true patissieres.

Episode Summary: Ichigo Amano returns to Japan from a stint in Paris to once again attend St. Mary Academy. She's disappointed to find, however, that several of her beloved classmates have either skipped grades, or have made the decision to leave school early and attempt to begin their careers as pastry chefs. Of course, Ichigo is only lonely for a short while, before making friends with two new students, a girl named Lemon Yamagishi, and a boy from the United States named Johnny McBeal.
Ichigo is soon summoned by Henri-sensei to an unfamiliar address.  At the destination is the palace-like entrance to a town consisting of many future sweets-shops. After arriving inside, Ichigo meets with Johnny and Lemon, and finds out that their mission is to work together to open up their own pastry stores in this new environment.
Thoughts: Apparently more a continuation of the previous Yumeiro Patissiere series than a sequel, this episode of Professional dives right in, assumes some audience familiarity with the story, and speeds along on its way. There are a few rapid-fire character re-introductions - the members of Ichigo's close-knit group from the earlier series are paraded in front of the camera long enough long enough to go merrily on their way into the land of careers and adult responsibilities - but for the most part this seems like nothing more than fanservice to the first season's dedicated viewers. There's unfortunately little explanation of anything else, which isn't a hugely heinous crime considering the relatively simple premise of the show to begin with, but it does make the whole ordeal feel a bit slap-dash and cheap. Speaking of cheap, how about that animation quality? I'll grant that this show has gone on for quite a while, as far as anime goes. 50 episodes and counting is certainly a milestone, and one certainly can't expect a production staff that's forced to cough up an episode per week to also do so while attaining an inhuman level of quality. All the same, this is the first episode of a new season, there are some new characters to introduce, and Ichigo herself looks a bit more grown-up than she did in the first episode of the previous season, so why not splurge a little bit and perhaps make things look a little nicer? Unfortunately, the animation quality is something one might normally expect to find in some middle episode of a typical show; boringly staged, shoddily quality-controlled and clunky as all get-out. I think the only good thing that I could say about the visuals are that the depictions of all the pastries is especially good. I'm luckily not cursed with a sweet tooth, but all the cakes and pastries that Ichigo orders in the restaurant look good enough for me to eat. If I got the impression that the show were more focused on that sort of material, I might be more convinced to stick with it (*cough*AntiqueBakery*cough*).
The episode sets up a new set of companions for Ichigo as well as the premise for a new story arc, both of which leave something to be desired. While Lemon Yamagishi doesn't get much screen time, the comically-outgoing American transfer student, Johnny McBeal, gets paraded around much more than my sanity level can bear. I'm not offended by his character in particular; while he's certainly a caricature (and not exactly a flattering one) of straightforward, noisy Americans, it's not necessarily that fact which irks me.  I'm more annoyed that the quirks he's given as an American, for example his touchy-feeliness and his very limited grasp of the Japanese language, is pulled from ye olde bag of tropes and his presentation lacks creativity. So far he seems like just about any other American character from any other comedy anime which has had them, and it's boring. It's the same sort of "all gay men are effeminate cross-dressers" school of thought that's just tired. The story's premise is just as far-fetched; somehow, a gigantic model village was constructed in the middle of Japan, all for the purpose of selling sweets. While watching anime is enerally He's so... American! an exercise in suspending one's disbelief, the first thing that I thought when the location was revealed was along the lines of "how in the world did anyone find the space in Japan to build that huge thing?" While I suppose this show could technically fall under the "fantasy" header (having fairies aiding the main characters is kind of a tip-off in that respect), that doesn't, in my opinion, give it license to completely and utterly defy all logic at every turn. Having a random castle appear in a heavily-populated nation is really pushing things. This show is pure fluff, not a crime itself, but it lacks charm. There's the seed of a good coming-of-age tale here; the story of Ichigo going from average school girl to accomplished pastry chef could have, if handled properly, been uplifting, even pretty good. Unfortunately, this telling of that ageless tale is bogged down with goofiness and annoying characters. This might be interesting for the people who followed along with season 1, but as someone who wasn't really charmed the first time around, another dose of the same medicine isn't doing it for me

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