In a comment, Danielle Leigh said the following about Fumi Yoshinaga’s Flower of Life:
“(which I think is even better than Antique Bakery by some act of god or Yoshinaga)”
It sounds kind of like madness or blasphemy, but after reading the first two volumes of Flower of Life over and over and giggling like a fool, I think I would go so far as to say the series is as good as Antique Bakery, though in different ways.
Flower is certainly funnier. The comedy might lack the degree of nuance of Yoshinaga’s work in Antique, but jokes come thick and fast and are entirely successful. I don’t think I’ve ever been as tempted to scan and post sequences from a book, and the only thing stopping me is the fear that I would spoil Yoshinaga’s carefully constructed punch lines. I can’t remember the last time I’ve laughed out loud reading a comic as often as I have with Flower, particularly throughout the second volume. The jokes don’t just work – they work over and over.
Flower doesn’t quite have the emotional weight of Antique. That makes sense, as the characters are younger and have accumulated fewer scars. Their feelings are much closer to the surface, sweetly and hilariously so, which makes for a comparatively raucous affair. Their enthusiasms are so numerous and so fluid that the book moves along at an amazing clip.
The lack of accumulated emotional baggage also makes Flower less structurally complex than Antique, with its carefully placed callbacks to earlier moments that gain depth and resonance as the characters reveal themselves. But the clearer canvas also allows Yoshinaga to play with youthful emotional extremes, and the characters ping off of each other in surprising, endlessly appealing ways.
And Flower’s teen-comedy trappings really bring out Yoshinaga’s gifts as a parodist. Much of the second volume is devoted to that classic scenario, the school cultural festival, but Yoshinaga layers it with so many overturned expectations that it might very well feel like the first time you’ve ever seen one in a manga. But if Yoshinaga’s instincts for comedy have never been on better display, she’s just as generous with character development as ever.
While Antique Bakery offers deep, often unexpected pleasures that reveal themselves over time, Flower of Life piles almost everything right on the surface, and it’s an absolute joy. They’re different animals, but they’re equally, distinctly delightful.