Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Despite what everyone else can see, Komomo and Natsu are adamant that they're not in love with each other and just want to remain as friends and co-workers at the Confiserie. But it turns out that while Komomo is truly unaware of her feelings, Natsu has been hiding his for a very different reason, and with the return of Komomo's family fortunes, it all becomes clear. Will Komomo go back to her old life and arranged marriage without a hitch? Or is it time for her to finally stand up and prove that she's more than the princess Natsu thinks she is?
Over the course of its five volumes, Maki Minami's Komomo Confiserie has touched on many of the various tropes that make shoujo manga recognizable – from the abusive love interest to the fanciful fashions to the Cinderella storyline. That in itself isn't particularly remarkable; these things are called “tropes” for their very commonality. What ultimately sets this series apart is the way Minami has used the basics of her genre to show progression in the characters, making it clear that Natsu played his early role because he had to, developing Komomo beyond the spoiled princess to ground the romance in actual character development.
As readers, we recognized from the start that Natsu and Komomo were the central couple, although Minami tried to divert our attention with storylines about the shoemaker and Natsu's friends from France. Things came to a head in volume four with the appearance of Komomo's betrothed, Mitsuru, and now he finds out that the girl his father has been pushing him to meet is in fact Komomo. Essentially, this is the catalyst for Komomo's life to be uprooted once more – her father “returns” and summons her home, locking her in her room when she expresses her wish to go back to Natsu and the confiserie. It quickly becomes obvious that the family fortunes were never in danger, so all of this was orchestrated in order to force Komomo to learn about the working world, with Natsu hired to play the part of cruel employer. With this revelation, it also becomes clear that the mythological framework Minami works in is not “Cinderella,” but rather “Patient Griselda,” a reverse Cinderella fairy tale about a woman punished to see how good and pure she really is, where its heroine is stripped of her good life at the behest of her prince. Komomo's dad is the one doing the plotting here, but the similarities are otherwise clear.
This is where we really get to see both Komomo and Natsu overcome the story they've been put into. In the “Griselda” tale, the heroine meekly returns to the man who caused her torment, gratefully taking up the mantle of queen once more. Komomo, however, rebels – she now sees her life in the mansion as an elaborate dollhouse that encouraged her worst behavior, allowing her to shun real life. Not only does she enjoy being with Natsu, who has been getting kinder towards her as the story goes on, but she also likes working and learning how to do things for herself. She enjoys having friends who like her for who she is rather than for her father's position. Simply put, she can be herself rather than her father's daughter, and no amount of gilding is worth going backwards. This is a huge shift from volume one, where Komomo came off as more of a stereotypical ojou-sama character, and while she will always retain vestiges of that princess personality, we can see that she's no longer just the princess.
That's the biggest triumph for this series, although watching Natsu be unable to maintain his harsher treatment of Komomo is another big plus. He never fully breaks out of his prickly ways, but it becomes more a piece of his personality than its sum total, putting him ahead of where he began as a traditional cruel romantic interest. He denies his feelings because he knows he'll have to give her back to her father, and it's a measure of how little both of the men understand her strength that neither of them count on Komomo being able to make up her own mind about who she wants to be with, much less that she will stick to her guns. In some ways, this series turns out to be just as much, if not moreso, about Komomo coming into her own than about the love story.
If you've been following Maki Minami's works prior to this series, you'll already have noticed that her art is much cleaner and crisper than even the final volumes of Voice Over, the series that preceded this one. While there's still something slightly odd about the eyes-nose-mouth ratio, particularly on the guys, expressions are clearer and more varied, and little details are more defined. Pages are also less crowded than her previous works, and a reduction in the use of tone makes the volume easy to read. (Equally importantly, the sweets look divine.)
Komomo Confiserie is a nicely compact series of only five volumes, and this final book wraps things up very sweetly. People hoping for more mushy stuff may be disappointed, as there's not even a kiss, but at the end of the day, this is more about the characters relationships with themselves than the romance between them. Komomo may start out as a Patient Griselda, but she finishes as a Cinderella in the emotional sense, and that journey is worth taking.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B
+ Character development really shines through, art and layouts have improved from earlier volumes, Komomo comes into her own
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