"I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library" - Jorge Luis Borges

Monday, May 17, 2021

Reading: CHÉRI, MY DESTINY! - Okoge Mochino

1st Line: "'Hello, and thank you for dropping in!'"

Prose (Story): Kaoru, after studying the art of candymaking in France, proudly opens up Bisous, his own patisserie, in Japan, specializing in new and innovative flavors and creations. The store is a hit, Kaoru even more so as he is quite young and handsome; a good catch, for someone so young yet already operating his own successful business. Kaoru takes huge pride in all he's learned and accomplished - no more so than when he hears of a nearby patisserie, called Tatsuya, that's been in business forever and yet remains as popular as the day it opened. As Tatsuya only deals in traditional Japanese chocolates and sweets, Kaoru is even more dumbfounded about how the shop could rival his ... until he takes it upon himself to visit the store to size up the competition, and sees that the manager behind the counter is just as elegant, upscale, and breathtaking as the shop itself. Worse, Kaoru - who is bi - finds himself immediately smitten by the store manager, Sojiro, the insta-love throwing him completely off-course, and after trying unsuccessfully to reign in his emotions regarding the superiority of his own shop and sweets, Kaoru makes it his mission to create some new, even more innovative sweets ... for the sole purpose of bringing them over to Sojiro, who will then have to acquiesce to the superiority of Bisous and French sweets, even as Kaoru finds himself falling more and more in love with his shop's biggest rival.

Don's (Review): Run-on sentence above aside, I can hardly find room in my heart for the love I have for this incredibly sweet (no pun intended) male-male manga love story with a confectionary setting. Kaoru is so reminiscent of that one character (at least) in every anime - film or series - whose reactions are all overreactions; one minute he's adorable, in the next panel a bug-eyed, shrieking fiend with razor-sharp teeth because something minor has sent him over the edge. A talented pastry chef and smart business owner, yet at times very immature emotionally, whether it be falling in love so fast or having a serious freakout when Sojiro isn't immediately impressed with one of his confections. My worry was that these constant actions and reactions would make Kaoru incredibly annoying, very fast, but in truth somehow writer Okoge Mochino has in Kaoru created a character whose emotional outbursts seem to cover up a young man who's simply trying very hard to be successful in the adult world, even while maybe still not fully a "grown-up" inside. Indeed, instead of off-putting, as the story went on I found myself becoming more and more endeared with Kaoru, wanting him to succeed both in business and with Sojiro - and speaking of which, in Sojiro Mochino has successfully created a sensitive yet masculine, empathetic yet intelligent "hottie" that makes it easy to see why Tatsuya has such a large female clientele ... and why Karou falls in love. Not a lot of conflict here, in a pretty straightforward story, but if seeking a charming, simple, boy-meets-boy love story, you probably couldn't find anything in either Kaoru or Sojiro's patisseries that is any sweeter. I only hope Mochino continues, either via these boys or other standalones, with bringing characters so wonderfully to life on the page as a manga artist and writer.  4.5/5 stars

NOTE: I received a free ARC of this title from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

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