In a small, friendly town, down at the end of the main street, in a spot just by the edge of the park, is a shop where you can sit and relax and have a cup of excellent tea. It’s called the Ame-iro Kouchakan, The Amber Teahouse, and the series is Ame-iro Kouchakan Kandan (飴色紅茶館歓談). This volume tells the story of this store and the people who make it so wonderful.
The store owner is Seriho, a sweet, somewhat helpless woman. Luckily for her, she is assisted in the day-to-day operations of the shop by one very intelligent young lady, Sarasa. Sarasa, it is soon apparent, has a second agenda. It is not just the tea shop she loves, but the tea shop’s owner.
This first collected volume follows Sarasa and Seriho as they wrangle with the complexities of running the tea shop and with their feelings for each other. The story of how Sarasa became an employee, originally told in the second [es] Eternal Sisters anthology is gathered here, as is the fateful story in which Sarasa and her friends forever change the destiny of the Amber Teahouse with a Tanabata special, that originally ran as a Yuri Hime extra comic.
Seriho seems to be a natural doofus, and one is never *quite* sure if she is aware of Sarasa’s feelings for her but, then, one is never *quite* sure what her feelings for Sarasa are, either. She likes her, that much is obvious. When Seriho comes right out and asks Sarasa to be by her side for 50 years, it’s really hard to know if she means it the way we think she does.
Sarasa is besotted, full stop. She changes her college plans to be by Seriho’s side for those 50 years. I think if they were to actually kiss, she might pass out. In fact, I really try hard to not think about that inevitable moment. I leave it in the future where it belongs. I did very much enjoy the part where Haru physically holds her back from using her free time on the school trip to run back to town, just to see Seriho. Also kudos to her parents for suggesting she stay out all night with her friend – Go Mom and Dad!
Sarasa’s classmates Haru, who runs the website Jinx, and Hinoka, are a not-quite couple. Hinoka seems to be sure that Haru has a thing for her, and Haru is just as sure that she does not. ;-)
The final chapter of this volume is the inevitable cross-over with Alice Quartet, so Fujieda can play dress up with his characters. A harmless little obsession of his that I forgive because he’s got good design sense.
This is quite possibly the most moe thing I like, and I chalk it up to Fujieda’s great characters because, let’s face it, the story goes like this – Seriho is cutely helpless and Sarasa helps her out. ^_^ However, the tension between them is undeniable (so much so that characters from other Fujieda series point it out all the time!) and while they are unlikely to share more than that damnable chaste kiss, I do not care one whit. (From the Anglo-Saxon wiht, for “amount.” Let it never be said that Okazu is not educational.)
Yuri in this series is a pervasive atmosphere, rather than a single event or couple. The teahouse may be called “Amber” but it is the scent of lilies that flows through the door onto the street. Despite their age difference, Sarasa and Seriho make a good couple and I look forward to seeing them getting together body, mind and soul, since they already have two out of the three covered. :-)
What was left undone in my review of these stories uncollected can now be done:
Art – At its nadir 5, at its zenith 8, but forever and always very moe.
Story – There is no story, but it’s an 8 anyway. ;-)
Characters – 9
Yuri – 8
Service – 2
Overall – 8 with a hope that future volumes push up to 9.
“At last” I said, and I meant it. It’s nice to have the whole story in one handful now, and not running about all over the place in pieces. ^_^