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: Now Available
Like a fine meal, this manga is a delectable treat well worth savoring.
When we were introduced to the handsome gentlemen waiters of the Casetta dell’Orso, we got to see them through the eyes of a young woman just as infatuated by them as the clientele of the eatery. The first volume of Gente took us away from the restaurant to get to know these men better and in Volume 2 we find ourselves caught up deeper into their lives in the events that lead up to Ristorante Paradiso.
In the first chapter of this second volume, we find handsome Claudio feeling poorly on the floor of the Casetta dell’Orso. He suddenly gets some broth from Furio, one of the chefs, and this act of kindness reminds Claudio of the time they first met so long ago when Claudio was a clumsy young waiter. While Furio doesn’t remember this, Claudio’s memory is good enough to recall the events vividly.
You see, Claudio had a rather clumsy start in his career as a cameriere but since he was handsome even back then his clumsiness was forgiven by the female clientele of the restaurant where he worked. In one occasion, he was even seduced by one of the regulars. However, management didn’t find his work forgivable and because of the stress he would feel woozy at work. That was when he met Furio, a chef at the same restaurant who gave him something to drink to calm his stomach.
In the same restaurant he meets a beautiful young woman who also takes an interest in Claudio but not in the same way as the female customers. She calls herself Angela and she tells him that while he’s still green he will get better since his reasons for becoming a cameriere are good ones. Even when Claudio tells her that he would like to be like Furio, she assures him that both of them are different in their own way and that makes both men very unique. As it turns out, Angela has a connection to Furio and – now in the present – she actually recognizes him right away.
The volume also follows Teo, the other chef in the Casetta dell’ Orso, as we take a look back at his relationship with former head chef and his mentor, Vanna. As all the cameriere on staff wonder if Teo and Vanna’s relationship is something more. As it turns out, they’re right. Vanna believes that Teo sees her in the same light as his overcritical father but there’s more to it than that as we can see from their interaction. Teo comes to rely on Vanna’s criticism and learns much from the older woman.
One of the highlights of this volume is watching Vanna and Teo’s relationship become something even more meaningful than mentor and pupil. Teo genuinely cares about Vanna to the point that – when she announces that she’ll be heading to America to work in her daughter’s restaurant – he finds himself not liking the idea and misses her when she finally leaves. One day, he is paid a great compliment from a customer that turns out to be somebody special to him.
Interestingly enough, the volume also tells a story of Olga, a friend of the owner of Casetta dell’Orso as she finds herself depressed that everyone around her is happy and enjoying a great love life. Then she encounters an equally depressed young woman who has been stood up by the man she was engaged to so she sits in the restaurant waiting for him. It is Olga who takes the young woman in and shares a good meal with the woman as well as good conversation.
The restaurant sees many women and a big part of it has something to do with Lorenzo’s wife who insists that all the cameriere wear glasses. With Claudio being the most popular with women and Luciano finding himself juggling his daughter’s problems and women flirting with him, it is Vito who makes a decision with his young girlfriend. There’s even a chapter where Luciano leaves his grandson in the hands of the quiet Gigi.
Volume 2 of Gente continues the fascinating character study that made the first volume such a joy to read so if you really liked the first volume then you will find yourself loving this one as well. Natsume Ono is a delightful writer and interesting artist and thus making her work unique enough to make her manga really stand out in a way that could appeal to regular comic book fans.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Not feeling well, Claudio remembers a time when he first started as a waiter that he wasn’t as smooth as he is now at the job and he also recalls first meeting Furio. Then we learn more about Teo and his complex relationship with Vanna who might be critical of his work but when she gets an offer she can’t refuse the young man reveals exactly what she means to him. We also get a glance at Olga’s life as well as what a day would be like spending it with Gigi.
Like it or hate it, Natsume Ono’s art is original and works wonderfully for this series despite the fact that some characters tend to have similar looking faces. Still, it’s not hard to recognize the main cast. On the negative side, I wish Ono did a better job drawing the Italian dishes.
Still very much a refreshingly unique kind of manga, Volume 2 of Gente is yet another achievement for Natsume Ono. It’s the characters that made the first volume of Gente and Ristorante Paradiso a truly delightful read and this one is no different. Consider this another Must Read manga title.
Review copy provided by VIZ Media