Manga Monday #6 | Ristorante Paradiso by Natsume Ono

Ristorante Paradiso (Gente, #1)Ristorante Paradiso
By Natsume Ono
Original Title | Ristorante Paradiso (リストランテ・パラディーゾ)
Published in America on March 16th 2010 by VIZ Media LLC
Genre | Josei, Slice-of-Life, Romance, Drama, Comedy

A charming tale of a mother/daughter reunion, a burgeoning romance, and a little restaurant in Rome. In exchange for playing “the daughter of an old friend,” Olga offers Nicoletta a place to live and an apprenticeship at the restaurant. Nicoletta fits in well among the vibrant personalities at Casetta Dell’Orso. She gets along particularly well with the kindly headwaiter, Claudio, a divorced man who, after years, has still never taken off his wedding ring. As Nicoletta’s feelings for Claudio become complicated, she finds a sympathetic ear in Olga, leading the estranged pair to form a friendship neither expected. But as they grow closer, the pressure exerted by the secret they share becomes too much to bear. (Courtesy of Goodreads)

Once upon a time, I watched the anime Ristorante Paradiso and fell in love with the series.  I was surprised at how much this anime has made a good impression on me because, at the time, I primarily watched shōjo and shōnen anime which are made for the younger demographic. I adored the story for being simple, sweet and touching. So when I found that Viz Media had published the Gente series as a lovely Viz Signature I went out and bought the first volume.

Review |★ ★ ★ ★

Imagine a quaint little restaurant located on the charming streets of Rome. Inside the tables are occupied to maximmum capacity and appetizing Italian food are catered by handsomely mature bespectacled gentlemen. This is the kind of restaurant Nicoletta waltz into in Ristorante Paradiso.

When in Rome…This manga is a nice slice-of-life romance about a young woman named Nicoletta who travels to Rome in order to confront the man her mother remarried. As a young child, Nicoletta’s mother her left to be raised by her grandparents with this as her reason: “There’s a man I’m destined to be with. But he’ll never marry a divorced woman”. (This is not really a spoiler because this is explained within the first few pages). Now at age 21, Nicoletta travels to Rome to meet her mother’s husband, which is why she finds herself outside of Casetta dell’Orso and where our story begins.

Like mother, like daughter. Nicoletta’s relationship with her mother is interesting to say the least. After basically being abandoned as a child, it’s easy to understand Nicoletta’s resentment towards their mother. Due to some circumstances, Nicoletta doesn’t outright say she is he mother’s child and instead plays the “daughter of a friend” role. I appreciate that this story isn’t all about hating her estranged mother, but instead mother and daughter trying to rekindle their lost relationship.

image

“Most of our guest are here for the waiters. Our customers share a particular weakness for handsome gentlemen.”

Left to Right: Furio, Teo, Claudio, Luciano , Gigi and Vito

Ladies, eat your heart out! The story is set primarily in the ever popular restaurant, Casetta dell’Orso. This restuarant is popular for two reasons: 1) The food. 2) The staff. Now I think one of the selling points of Ristorante Paradiso is definitely the abundance of charming bespectacled gentlemen. While I wouldn’t call this story a reverse harem (all the guys don’t fall for the female protagonist), the readers could easily pick out a favorite if they wanted to. I would say that Ristorante Paradiso is the Ouran High School Host Club equivalent for older woman. What’s nice about this manga is that we do get some insight on all the characters (some more than others). Everyone has a personality and story behind them fleshing out their character.

City of love. Now, I know that Paris is typically the city of love, but after reading this manga I think it would be nice to fall in love in Rome. Nicoletta falls in love in the insta-love kind of way, but being a short romance prequel manga to the series I didn’t really mind. Like her mother, Nicoletta feels with her heart, but she also doesn’t act rashly on it. She is constantly trying to understand if what she is feeling is simply an attraction or real love. To me, when Nicoletta acted for the sake of “love” she did it in a way that was confident and reflects how sure she is of her feelings. I really admired her personality because of it.

Would I recommend it?

I loved the anime and love being able to carry the manga with me to read whenever. So yes, I recommend it. This is a nice light read if you want to stray from the typical shōjo romance manga out there.

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Manga Monday #5 | Gurren Lagann Vol.1 & Vol.2 by Kotaro Mori

Gurren Lagann, Volume 1Gurren Lagann Vol.001
Story: GAINAX, Supervisor: Kazuki Nakashima, Art: Kotaro Mori
Original Title |Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (天元突破 グレンラガン)
Published in America on May 5th 2009 by Bandai Entertainment
Genre | Shōnen, Action, Adventure, Comedy, Mecha, Romance

In his skyless cavern of a village Simon toils daily, drilling holes to expand his stifling little world until one day he makes an extraordinary discovery: a small glowing drill-bit and the man-sized mech it activates. Before he can give it a second thought Simon’s dragged into a plot to break through to the surface by the local gang leader Kamina, only to have the ceiling come crashing down on top of them under the weight of a giant monster! It somehow falls onto the boisterous Kamina and cowardly Simon to defend their village, but once they defeat the monster what awaits the duo on the surface world? Get ready for buxom babes, beastmen, and giant mechs as only GAINAX can provide them! (Courtesy of Goodreads).

Review | ★ ★ ★ 1/2

Gurren Lagann has been around for a few years. Created in 2007 as an anime by studio GAINAX (the brains behind both Neon Genesis Evangelion and Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt) which later became adapted into a manga illustrated Kotaro Mori. I have yet to see the anime, so my review is solely on the first two manga volumes of Gurren Lagann.

The story begins with a bang, quite literally. Volume one of Gurren Lagann is consistently action packed, where there is never a dull moment. There seems to be a monster-of-the-week kind of format where enemy robots, called “gunmen”, appear and our heroes go kick butt. All in all, this series contains explosions, fighting robots, and heroism all around. That being said, it did take me a while to even understand what the heck was going on in the story. The pacing of the story goes by extremely fast. Any type of character back-stories or world development are briefly mentioned and do not get addressed further until much later in the volume.

While reading, I had a real need for plot that this volume didn’t provide. The premise of the story contains so much potential. In this futuristic world, humans are forced to survive underground. The surface is dominated by intelligent creatures, called beastmen, that pilot the gunmen to eradicate humans. Our two main characters are virtually clueless to the world above, allowing the reader to discover new information along with the characters.  Unfortunately, plot mainly fell to the wayside in favor for action and humor.  In fact, I felt that volume one valued action and funny one-liners over any real world building.

Team Gurren

Top: Gurren Lagann

Bottom (Left to Right): Kamina, Boota, Simon and Yoko

Kamina is the crazy, boisterous character that comes up with the team name, Gurren. Unsatisfied with living underground, he’s always coming up with schemes that manage to tick off the village chief. His main goal in life is to break through the “impenertrable ceiling” and reach the surface just like his father. He comes off as the “cool older brother type” that often incites to do the impossible with his crazy antics. Kamina is my absolute favorite character because he’s hilarious and comes with the best lines 😀

“Kick logic out and do the impossible!! That’s the way Team Gurren rolls, remember?!”

Also, my favorite line:

“Listen to me, Simon. Don’t believe in yourself. Believe in me! Believe in me, who believes in you!!”

Simon is the youngest member of Team Gurren and “soul brother” to Kamina. He’s a timid young man whose sole job is to expand his underground village by digging. It’s not a glorious job by far, but Simon finds pleasure in the little changes he makes to his village; sometimes resulting into unexpected treasures. Unlike Kamina, Simon isn’t heroic at all. Rather he has cautious and often fearful nature that stems from the trauma of his parents death.

There are more characters are introduced in this volume, such as Yoko, Leeron and the Black Siblings. But I feel that only Kamina and Simon were the primary focus in volume one.

Gurren Lagann, Volume 1Gurren Lagann Vol.002
Story: GAINAX, Supervisor: Kazuki Nakashima, Art: Kotaro Mori
Original Title |Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (天元突破 グレンラガン)
Published in America on August 25th 2009 by Bandai Entertainment
Genre | Shōnen, Action, Adventure, Comedy, Mecha, Romance

Review | ★ ★ ★ ★

Volume two picks up exactly where volume one left off, with an epic combining of the Gurren and Lagann.
GurrenLagannI actually enjoyed reading volume two much more than the previous volume. Past plot complaints aside, I just went along with the flow of the manga and found myself appreciating this volume more. The slapstick comedy of the earlier volume multiplied ten fold in volume two, creating many memorable laugh out loud moments. If the covers of the first two volumes didn’t tip you off, you’ll realize that the characters have a severe case of lack of clothing. The clothing choice is not because of the hot climate of the Gurren Lagann world, but a purposeful character design by the creators. You never actually see anyone’s naughty bits, but this series is chock full of cartoon-like violence, skin exposure, bouncy boobs, and sexual innuendos (the obligatory hot springs episode, which is a common anime trope, is featured in volume two). This type of comedy may not suit everyone’s taste, but is definitely something to consider, especially since the humor is so ingrained in Gurren Lagann.

The problems I had with volume one were completely rectified this time around. Here we are able to explore another underground village, different from village Kamina and Simon came from. It was interesting to see the social constructs of this new village, and get a sense of what being forced underground has done to humanity. I also liked that we were being shown snippets of what it’s like on the villain’s side. Overall, this volume had some character development, the budding of a potential romance and a constant influx of new characters being introduced.

Would I recommend it?

Gurren Lagann may not be for everyone, but if you’re looking for something crazy and action-packed give this a shot.

Manga Monday #4 |Magic Kaito Vol. 1 by Gosho Aoyama

Magic Kaito Vol. 1 by Gōshō Aoyama

Original Title | Majikku Kaito (まじっく 快斗)

First published in Shogakukan’s Weekly Shōnen Sunday in 1987

Genre | Shōnen, Comedy, Drama, Crime

Yesasia

After an 8 year long disappearance. the mysterious Phantom Thief Kid makes a sudden return with a new heist–his target, the magnificent Century Gem.  Meanwhile Kaito Kuroba, a normal teenage boy, discovers the truth about his late father’s death as well as a shocking family secret.

Review | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

I’ve been really failing this month’s Tadoku Contest, but I did manage to finish reading the first volume of Magic Kaito! If you have ever read Gosho Aoyama’s more well-known manga, Detective Conan/Case Closed , the charming Phantom Thief Kid makes numerous appearances in a lot of Conan’s cases.  Magic Kaito was made before Detective Conan and is kind of like the origin story for the infamous phantom thief.

This manga was so much fun to read! Every page was filled with so much action and comedy, that I really enjoyed reading it. However, there wasn’t really much plot progression in this volume and I felt like I was reading mostly about the misadventures of Phantom Thief Kid.

The main character, Kaito Kuroba, is absolutely adorable and I adore him to pieces. He’s charming, goofy, a bit of a pervert, but you can tell he’s a good kid. Kaito is a magician just like his father, and uses his magic for pranks–pranks his childhood friend, Aoko Nakamura doesn’t put up with ;). He and Aoko have a bickering relationship, the kind where they can trade insults and where it’s perfectly acceptable for one of them to try to hit the other with a mop during class.

By the end of the first chapter, Kaito inherits his family’s secret and adapts to it pretty well. He really shows his  resourcefulness and cleverness at moments when he really needs to. I just wish there was more information or motive given about Kaito’s family secret since it’s such a crucial part of the plot. Hopefully this would be explained further in the series.

All in all, Magic Kaito is a very fun light-hearted read. I will most definitely be reading the next volume.

Would I recommend this?

For now I only recommend this manga for those who can read Japanese because sadly this series is not licensed in English. (;_;) But, if you like crime stories and light humor this is the manga for you!

Manga Monday #3| Umineko WHEN THEY CRY Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch vol. 1 by Ryukishi07

Umineko WHEN THEY CRY Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch

Story by Ryukishi07, Art by Kei Nastumi

Original Title | Umineko no Naku Koro ni (うみねこのなく頃に)

Published in America on November 2012 by Yen Press

Genre | Seinen, Mystery, Horror, Thriller

WARNING EXTREME GORE 

Goodreads | Amazon | Yen Press

Each year, the Ushiromiya family gathers at the secluded mansion of its patriarch, the elderly Kinzo. It has been six years since Battler joined his cousins at the annual event, but their happy reunion is overshadowed by worsening weather and an eerie premonition from his youngest cousin—not to mention their parents’ feud over the inheritance. Battler doesn’t hold much stock in dark omens, nor does he believe the tales of the witch rumored to have given his grandfather a fortune in gold…and who walks the halls of the mansion to this day… But when the eighteen family members and servants are trapped on the island by the raging typhoon, the grisly events that follow leave Battler shaken to his core. Is one of his relatives desperate enough to kill for the family fortune? Or is this the work of the Golden Witch? (Courtesy of Yen Press)

Review | ★ ★ ★ ★

Packaging 

I was absolutely ecstatic when Yen Press decided to license Umineko WHEN THEY CRY series into English! I’ve seen both the Japanese anime and read a few scenes from the original sound novel game and really loved the story and its characters. So when I went to place my order for this manga, much to my surprise I was greeted with a MONSTER of a book. This manga is probably twice the size of the average American published manga and three times the width. But there is a reason for this…Umineko WHEN THEY CRY Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch is actually an omnibus bind up of two manga volumes. So really, you’re getting two for the price of one bind up.

While publishing this manga as an omnibus is probably a better business move for Yen Press and more economical for the consumer, in my opinion it’s a pain to lug around in my bag if I want to take it with me to read. I would have preferred to have this series published in the smaller standard size, even though it would cost me more to complete the series. However, it is nice to have most of the story in one convenient bind up.

Besides, as a die-hard Umineko WHEN THEY CRY fan I would still buy this series no matter what.

Plot

On October 4th, 1986  the esteemed Ushiromiya family gathers to the island of Rokkenjima for their yearly family conference. What starts off as a happy family gathering quickly escalates to a battle over the family inheritance and the legendary Ushiromiya gold. And if a feud within the family isn’t bad enough, a raging typhoon is expected to come bringing misfortune along with it…

If you have ever read Agatha Christie’s famous mystery classic And Then There Were None,  the plot to Umineko WHEN THEY CRY Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch is very similar. You have a family stranded on an island cut off from the rest of the world due to a terrible typhoon…but there’s a twist. A witch is supposedly living on the island as well, and she’s there to wreck havoc.

This manga does an excellent job in mixing mystery with fantasy and horror. What makes the story so unusual is that is makes you question whether it is a mystery or a fantasy. By the end you’ll wonder if the culprit human or if the witch real?

Artwork

I like that Kei Natsumi’s style can really capture a character’s emotions really well. If a character is feeling extreme frustration or sorrow, that emotion is clearly displayed and adds to the storytelling. Also, his depiction of horror and gore are definitely not for the squeamish. My only issue with his art style is the odd figure proportions he draws for his characters.

Would I recommend it?

I recommend this series for those who like mysteries and thrillers, as long as you don’t mind the blood and over-exaggerated breasts.

Manga Monday #2| Skip Beat! vol. 1 by Yoshiki Nakamura

Skip Beat! vol. 1 by Yoshiki Nakamura

First published on February 2002 in Hana to Yume 

Published in America on July 2006 by Viz Media

Genre | Shōjo, Romantic Comedy

Goodreads | Amazon | Rightstuf | Viz Media

Kyoko knows she’s not plain and uninteresting, no matter what Sho says. With the help of a little makeover, Kyoko’s ready to exact her revenge. But first she needs to land an audition, and she sets her sights on the agency where Sho’s lead rival works. Her persistence pays off, but her broken heart turns out to be a disadvantage. Kyoko has lost the will to love anybody, let alone fans she’s never met. Can the agency see past this problem to Kyoko’s true star potential? (Courtesy of Viz Media)

Review| ★ ★ ★ ★

Plot

The plot is simple and straight forward. Kyoko Mogami is a young girl out of junior high school who has devoted herself to her “prince” and childhood best friend, Sho, only to be left and abandoned. This serves as Kyoko’s driving motivation to enter into a world she really had no prior interest in–show business.

The steps Kyoko takes to trying to get into show business is very interesting to read about, especially when things get a little absurd. I can’t help but root for her throughout the entire manga.

Characters

Ah Kyoko…I would have probably turn a blind eye to this series if it wasn’t for her. She starts off as the typical shōjo heroine–innocent, good natured, earnest for the sake of love–but once Sho’s true nature is revealed the shock unlocks Kyoko’s Pandora Box releasing her darkside. Kyoko is a very determined girl from the start–running away from home, working two jobs to pay rent–and once her focus shifts from being subservient to getting to her revenge, we get to see how far she is willing to go for her goal. Despite how fierce Kyoko can be, her heartbreak and vulnerability brings out a quality that readers may relate with. In short, she’s a very unique character yet very relatable. I just love reading about her.

Sho Fuwa, Kyoko’s childhood friends. He’s a jerk and I hope he burns in fire.

Ren Tsuruga is the currently most popular actor in show business and Sho’s make believe rival. He’s a pretty smooth operator, but not really on Kyoko’s list of favorite people. He’ s not that predominant in this volume, but I get the feeling that he will be an important character later on.

Mr. Sawara and Lori Takarada both work at LME, the company that Kyoko is trying to work for. Mr. Sawara is basically Kyoko’s first obstacle into getting into show business. I found it hilarious how he puts up with Kyoko’s crazy antics (She was basically stalking him. I would just call the cops at that point). Lori Takarada, on the other hand, is the eccentric LME president. I love him because everything he does is so outlandish (his introduction came with exotic dancers. How cool is that?).

Kanae “Moko” Kotonami introduction in the manga just screams out “Kyoko’s rival”. She’s a talented actress looking to work for the LME just like Kyoko. She comes off as a bit snobbish, but then again most rivals in shōjo manga are. It’s interesting how Kyoko’s nickname for her, “Moko”, stems from how she says “mō” after everything she says. “Mō” was used as an interjection in the original Japanese and the “ko” (子) at the end is what is commonly used to make names feminine.

Artwork

Yoshiki Nakamura’s art style in Skip Beat! is basically her take on the shōjo genre. What makes her style unique from the rest are the dewy eyes she makes for her characters. She also mixes up her drawing style by switching from very expressive faces to chibi style.

Would I recommend it?

I would recommend this to shōjo manga fans looking for a funny Rom-Com with a strong female protagonist.

Manga Monday #1| A Bride’s Story vol. 1 by Kaoru Mori

A Bride’s Story vol. 1 by Kaoru Mori

Original Title | Otoyomegatari (乙嫁語り)

First Published by Enterbrain in fellows!

Published in America on May 2011 by Yen Press 

Genre | Seinen, Historical, Romance, Slice of Life

WARNING MILD NUDITY

Goodreads | Amazon | Yen Press

Acclaimed creator Kaoru Mori (Emma, Shirley) brings the nineteenth-century Silk Road to lavish life, chronicling the story of Amir Halgal, a young woman from a nomadic tribe betrothed to a twelve-year-old boy eight years her junior. Coping with cultural differences, blossoming feelings for her new husband, and expectations from both her adoptive and birth families, Amir strives to find her role as she settles into a new life and a new home in a society quick to define that role for her.

Crafted in painstaking detail, Ms. Mori’s pen breathes life into the scenery and architecture of the period in this heartwarming slice-of-life tale that is at once both wholly exotic, yet familiar and accessible through the everyday lives of the rich characters she has created. (Courtesy of Yen Press)

Review | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Packaging 

Before I go on talking about the actual story of A Bride’s Story I want to mention the amazing packaging Yen Press did for this manga series. Yen Press went all out and actually published this series in hardback, including a dustcover with Kaoru Mori’s amazing artwork. I’ve never seen a hardback manga before and this gorgeous, sturdy edition is a wonderful collection to my shelves.

Plot  

In terms of plot there is at least one overarching story line, but that is not the main focus, rather each chapter can be read as a mini story of its own. In the first chapter of A Bride’s Story the new bride, Amir Hagal age 20, is first introduced to her new young husband, Karluk Eihon age 12, and his family. The story centralizes on a melding of culture as we are lead into the lives of Amir, Karluk and their families. Each chapter has its own endearing story. By just exploring the daily lives of the many different characters, I am constantly learning more and more of the kind of society that exists in 19th century Central Asia as well as the characters themselves.

Characters

To me every single character in A Bride’s Story is fascinating and enjoyable to read about. Amir is such an adorable character. Despite being the much-too-old bride in her culture, she is depicted as a very youthful, vibrant and maybe slightly naive young woman. Amir is very much a humble, caring, quiet spoken woman, but her cool side shows in her skills with hunting with a bow and arrow. In my opinion Amir as the very cool older sister type, but still childish at the same time.

Moving on to the young husband, Karluk is very mature for his age. It is very clear that he has settled into his role as a fully realized man, yet his boyish nature still comes out every now and then. His chemistry with Amir is very cute and they definitely give off the vibe of shy newly weds. They are such an adorable couple! I would love to see how their relationship progresses in further volumes.

In this volume we are also introduced to both Karluk’s family and Amir’s familiy. Both of different cultures and both with very distinct characteristics. Towards the end there is some drama between these two families, but what’s a historical manga without some good drama?

Artwork

Kaoru Mori’s art style is absolutely stunning. She pays an enormous amount of attention to detail creating diverse characters, intricate clothing designs, patterns and breathtaking landscape. The moments in A Bride’s Story that standout for me are the pages without any text because they are are drawn in a way that is so expressive. These are the pages that to come to life without any use of words or sounds. In these instances, I can just look at the page and envision movement, imagine the sounds thumping of hooves on rough gravel or smell the incense right off the page. Kaoru Mori’s talent is just that great.

Since this manga is set in 19th century Central Asia, a lot of attention was given to the cultural influences. Embroidery and craftsmanship are a big part of Amir and Karluk’s heritage and culture and this is very evident in Kaoru’s drawings. The way she draws landscape, animals, architecture, textiles and facial expressions are breathtaking. Really my review of Kaoru Mori’s art style doesn’t do her any justice. You just have to see what I’m talking about by reading her manga. 😉

Would I recommend it?

Most definitely! Fans of Kaoru Mori’s previous work, Emma, might also enjoy this series. I recommend this to people who like reading about new cultures, history, and romance.

Manga Monday Meme Coming Soon!

Manga Monday is a weekly meme originally created by Alison @ Alison Can Read in order to explore the world of manga (Japanese comic books). Every Monday I will make a post dedicated to manga (reviews, discussions, etc). One of the great things about manga is that there is a plethora of genres–ranging from humor to romance to action/adventure to horror and so much more. Manga contains such a broad spectrum that not only can kids enjoy reading it but so can adults.

There are 5 categories of manga aimed towards different age groups of people:

  • Shōjo Manga is aimed towards young girls. Often involving romance, and coming of age elements.
  • Shōnen Manga are primarily written for young boys. Often containing hero adventure elements, action, and slap-stick comedy.
  • Josei Manga are written for young adult women, ages 18-30. These have a more realistic romance than shōjo manga. Also contains more mature, sexual themes.
  • Seinen Manga are mainly for the young adult male crowd, ages 18-30. These emphasize story line and character development rather than action. Also contains more mature, sexual themes.
  • Seijin Manga contains sexually explicit content. Also known as hentai.

American Manga Publishers

When I do manga reviews it will be primarily manga translated from the original Japanese into English. Some American manga publishers include:

  • Tokyo Pop | Originally founded as MixxMedia in 1997
  • Viz Media | Publishing manga in America since 1987
  • Yen Press | A division of Hachette Book Group; founded in 2006
  • Kodansha Comics | A subsidiary of Kodansha, Japan’s largest publisher established in 2008
  • Dark Horse Manga | A division of Dark Horse Comics; publishing manga since 1987