Review by: Ai Kano
Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Natsume Ono
Genre: Graphic Novel (VIZ Signature)
MSRP: $12.99 US
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Release Date: Available Now
Yet another serving of la dolce vita in the Casetta dell’Orso.
As I said before when I reviewed Natsume Ono’s different-yet-tasty shoujo offering, Ristorante Paradiso, I have a healthy appetite for the traditional but also a serving of something that’s uncommon. Volume 1 of Gente is like a breath of fresh air for the genre and a delectable prequel to a manga that was easy to pick up but hard to put down. Let’s just say that I had fun sampling this story.
Gente takes place before the events seen in Ristorante Paradiso and re-introduces us to the sexy gentlemen waiters of the Casetta dell’Orso before the lovely little restaurant opened. As I mentioned above, the story serves as something of a prequel as we find Lorenzo tending to his wife, Olga, who is in the hospital for anemia. As we saw in the Ristorante, Lorenzo is a kind man who has always been accommodating to his wife’s needs as well as her fondness for older gentlemen.
In fact, he often takes his wife to a nice little cantina because Olga is utterly fascinated by the barista who – according to the establishment’s owner – is no longer working there. However, Lorenzo has a lead as to where he could find him and there’s a reason for this … he wants the handsome gentleman to work for him at his new restaurant that he calls the Casetta dell’Orso. His idea is to have a restaurant where all the staff are older gentlemen who – upon his wife’s request – would wear glasses.
One of these gentlemen is Luciano de Luca, a handsome older man who happens to have been the barista that Olga found fascinating. Lorenzo offers him a position as a cameriere (a waiter) in his new place but Luciano kindly declines mainly because he is currently enjoying a schedule that allows him to watch over his cute grandson, Franc. While it might not appear this way, Luciano enjoys caring for the boy when his daughter goes out with her husband but the thought of being a waiter again is far too appealing to turn down so he does accept.
In the chapter, Luciano begins working in Casetta dell’Orso as the current kitchen staff begins to understand the appeal of a restaurant with older gentleman on staff. He watches as the young chef of the establishment quits with a promise to return when his eye go bad with old age. Luciano also sees how the restaurant starts becoming appealing to women, especially one regular who takes a liking to him that she hands him tickets to a classical music concert as well as an open invitation to attend the concert with her.
One chapter finds a neglected wife of a philandering husband turn to Olga, who happens to be a lawyer, for a possible divorce when she discovers a few things about love when she hangs out with Olga and her friend. She also finds herself enjoying the company of Gigi, another waiter from Casetta dell’Orso who happens to know a lot about wine. The result of his wife going somewhere with another man somehow makes the cheating husband realize that it doesn’t feel good when the role is reversed.
We also get to know the playboy named Vito who – we know from Ristorante Paradiso – is married to a college girl. It is here were we get to see how he met the young woman who not only goes to the same gym as him but is charming enough that the ladies man sees her in an entirely different light. We learn that the young woman has a sister who is in an abusive relationship and suddenly comes to realize that Vito is the type of man who would never hit a woman or treat her badly.
Gente takes us through the party celebrating the restaurant’s opening as well as catch a glimpse of the divorced Claudio who is in good terms with his ex-wife that just so happens to be friends with Olga. Still, Claudio makes the best as part of the kitchen staff. As one of their own retires from the kitchen and becomes a regular, the new chef might not be a very social person but he does make the best dolce in Rome.
Like a fine wine that accompanies a satisfying meal, Gente might not be as surprisingly fulfilling as the first story but it does leave a good taste in your mouth after you finish. It’s characters are still wonderfully handled and the art is different and different is definitely good. I just wish the stories in this volume contained some of the sweetness and humor of Ristorante Paradiso.
A delightfully enchanting and beautifully written story, Volume 1 of Gente is a manga that even North American comic readers can really sink their teeth into and enjoy the exotic flavor of the story. Filled with great characters, elegant dialogue and decent artwork, Natsume Ono brings us yet another great manga story you should definitely not miss.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN
In this prequel to Ristorante Paradiso, Lorenzo first opens Casetta dell’Orso as well as selects the older gentlemen that makes up the staff that turns this quaint little eatery into something of a sensation with women. We also catch a glimpse of the lives of the gentlemen themselves.
Natsume Ono’s artwork isn’t the most elaborate nor is it incredibly detailed but it is original and if you’re a fan of her work you can definitely recognize her artwork immediately.
Once again, Natsume Ono continues to impress with her brilliant storytelling that made Ristorante Paradiso such a rare and wonderful manga gem. Gente is not only great manga but a great piece of literature that deserves to be read. This one definitely deserves to be among your collection.
Review copy provided by VIZ Media