I've always avoided this franchise. This is its fifth season, amazingly, but I suppose it's cheap to churn out two-minute episodes. The show's plot goes as follows:
- Season 1 = pretty boys run a cafe
- Season 2 = pretty boys run a cafe
- Season 3 = pretty boys run a cafe in Hawaii
- Season 4 = pretty boys run a cafe
- Season 5 = pretty girls run a cafe
I caved in for the girls. What I found, surprisingly, was that this season's early episodes are pretty good. Each one's only 90 seconds long, plus the title sequence, but it's interesting to see actual storytelling being compressed into this minimal screen time.
The later episodes go downhill, though. That's when they're actually running the cafe, which is less interesting.
Our cranky heroine is Youko, but her attitude is understandable. Her dad's a deadbeat who'd promised to take her to Kyoto, but is about to break that promise and swan off to Hawaii instead. He's also secretly acquired a pet that Youko will have to look after while he's away. When he springs these little surprises and she breaks a vase after recoiling in shock, he exploits that to make her spend her summer holidays running his cafe for him. (Had he been planning something like that all along? Probably.)
Interestingly, though, he also has a flash of caring dad-ness. He's doing it for her sake. He wants her to learn about becoming useful to people. That's just one angle, though, and he's basically human garbage.
Anyway, Youko (red hair) begs her friends Non (pink hair) and Marina (yellow hair) to help her. Non agrees happily and Marina reluctantly. Everyone gets characterisation, which is impressive in their near-subliminal screen time. Then, in addition, we have two snobbish-looking rich girls from another school (Keito and Ikumi), who have a knack for winding up Youko even though they don't seem bad people really. (Ikumi tends to be apologising for Keito.)
All that was good. I liked it. I'm impressed by how much they've fitted into four micro-episodes... but, after that, the girls are running the cafe and the show becomes formulaic. The girls dress up in sexy outfits and have tame wardrobe malfunctions. A small girl begs them to find her missing cat, with a slightly unconvincing line about "what if she gets hurt?" (It wouldn't be impossible for a child to say that line, but it came across to me as a clumsy attempt at characterising the Token Tiny Girl as flawless and selfless.) The girls then approach cat-searching in a dumb way that begs multiple questions.
I don't regret watching this show. How could I, at that length? It's a negligible time investment. It had four good episodes, after which things drifted downhill while still being good-natured and soothing. The show's trying to be about something. Youko learns about being helpful to people. It's hammered home without an ounce of subtlety, but that's better than being about nothing at all. I definitely won't be catching up on the earlier seasons, but I didn't hate this one.