English, Please!: Heartbroken Chocolatier
March 23, 2012
I have a confession to make: I think I like Setona Mizushiro better than Fumi Yoshinaga. While Yoshinaga is a master at portraying the small moments of life in the most entertaining way possible… I seem to connect to Mizushiro’s stories more. Their stories rarely overlap (Mizushiro has done a lot of more fantasy-oriented work and more blatant BL), but the ones that do, like Heartbroken Chocolatier and Antique Bakery… well, while both of them are really great, and very much worth reading, I prefer the slightly demented twist to Heartbroken Chocolatier, and Mizushiro’s stories in general.
On a different note, it’s difficult to convey just how impressed I was by After School Nightmare. Not only was it a fun and completely addictive ride all the way through, it subverted my expectations and had one of the most mind-blowing and cosmic endings to any shoujo manga I’ve ever read. I’ve read it three times, and I’m still not sure I like the ending, but I’m impressed by the masterful twist every time.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of Setona Mizushiro’s work remains untranslated. After School Nightmare is tragically out of print, and the only other series available in English is X-Day, a very strange 2-volume story about people that want to blow up their school. That nothing else has appeared in English is absolutely criminal, because her knack for crafting strange and interesting stories with believable characters seems a cut above most other shoujo and josei mangaka. Be they vampire princesses or Chinese gang members, her characters are always believable, and she writes some of the most sincere romances I’ve ever read, even while the weirdness pervades them.
I’d read anything in English by her, honestly. She’s written dozens of series, and all of them sound wonderful, be they for young or old audiences. The one I want the most is actually something else, but that’s a special story for another day. But for a classy lady with mature taste like me, Heartbroken Chocolatier is an absolute must.
Souta is absolutely head-over-heels for his girlfriend, Saeko. He worships the ground she walks on, and would literally do anything in the world she asked. He fell in love at first sight, but is so shy that it took him four years to make a move and officially go out with her. In fact, after graduating high school, he took exams to get into confectioner’s school because chocolates are her favorite things in the world, and she’s a true connoisseur. He’s a sweet guy who is completely and utterly devoted to Saeko.
You can see where this is going. The Valentine’s Day after they officially start dating, he makes a date with Saeko and slaves over the perfect chocolates to give her, pouring his heart, soul, time, and effort into each piece. But Saeko won’t see him on Valentine’s Day, and when she does agree to meet with him, it’s to dump him and tell him she’s been two-timing him with her old boyfriend, and he was simply a dalliance while her real relationship was on the outs.
A boyfriend won’t stop Souta, though. Because Saeko prefers the chocolates from one particular, very exclusive, French boutique, he flies to France and wrangles an apprenticeship in the shop. Four years later, he returns to Japan a master chocolatier and opens the branch boutique that Saeko always dreamed of.
Turns out, in the four years he was away, Saeko became engaged and is getting married. Oh, and will Souta please help with the reception and custom-make her wedding cake now that he’s a world-famous chocolatier?
A husband won’t stop Souta, though.
My description is a fairly accurate outline of the early plot of the series, and reading it, the story sounds like a comedy. It isn’t. As creepy as Souta sounds, his devotion to Saeko is nothing but heartfelt and pure, and his maniacal drive to impress her is both genuine and impressive. And Saeko isn’t demonized, though she keeps breaking the main character’s heart. She’s simply turned him down, and even the fact she was “cheating” on him is questionable, since they were only dating for a month and… uh, that relationship may have simply been in Souta’s head.
Saeko’s a nice girl, and Souta’s in love with her. It’s very simple, really. As I mentioned earlier, Mizushiro has a knack for sensitive characters, and Souta comes off as extremely sad and desperate here. It’s clear he has no chance, but you still have to root for him simply because he wants it so bad and believes so completely he can win Saeko’s heart, no matter what. And you really have to admire the lengths he’s willing to go to in order to impress her. It’s the stuff addictive romance manga is made of.
Also, Antique Bakery-like, there are heaps of descriptions of gourmet chocolate, along with lots of interesting commentary about how it’s made. It’s agonizing. It makes me want to run to Vosges and bankrupt myself.
Aside from the porn-like chocolate descriptions, the other over-the-top thing this series offers is the fact that Souta is willing to break up Saeko’s marriage in order to get the woman he wants. Few series seriously advocate this (outside of BL, anyway), and I love that it’s portrayed so positively here.
I’ve only read a little bit of Heartbroken Chocolatier, so I’m not entirely clear on what direction the series takes. There’s another possible romantic interest for Souta in the first volume somewhere, but it remains to be seen whether he notices her or not. I’m curious to see if it develops beyond Souta bettering himself until Saeko falls in love with him, though that would be enough for me. And I do want to know whether Souta actually does break up Saeko’s marriage, or if he eventually impresses her. It’s possible it could go to ugly places, too, as Mizushiro has definitely shown skill at avoiding the perfect happy ending.
The series is four volumes long, and it looks like it was on hiatus and recently restarted… I think? It runs in josei magazine Flowers, I believe, which makes it a Shogakukan series and firmly in Viz territory. Viz… doesn’t do this kind of series, unfortunately. No English publisher really does, though I wish they did. Though the Shogakukan thing makes it unlikely, I can always dream that DMP or Yen Press will get ahold of this someday.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, Vosges is about ten blocks away and I have something I have to do now.