By Leroy Douresseaux
August 16, 2010 - 13:41
Rated “T+” for “Older Teen”
Earlier this year, VIZ Media published a single-volume manga entitled Ristorante Paradiso. It is the creation of Natsume Ono, the author of another stand-along manga, not simple. Set in Rome, Italy, Ristorante Paradiso focuses on 21-year-old Nicoletta, a young woman reuniting with her estranged mother, Olga, now married to the owner of a popular restaurant, Casetta dell’Orso.
Gente, Vol. 1 takes the reader back to the beginnings of Casetta dell’Orso, and the reasons why Olga’s husband, Lorenzo, opened the restaurant. The restaurant is staffed by older men – bespectacled gentlemen who are the restaurant’s real draw, although the food is good. So why does Lorezno require the staff to wear glasses? The readers get an answer to that question and also a peak into the lives and loves of the staff.
THE LOWDOWN: When I reviewed Ristorante Paradiso, I wrote that it seemed more like an American indie graphic novel than it did a manga and that if not for the publisher’s name (VIZ Media), few would guess that Ristorante Paradiso was a manga. The same goes for Gente (as well as for Ono’s not simple). Simply put, Gente is a character drama, a series of pleasant-to-read, told-in-a-relaxed-way stories that give the reader a spin through an ensemble cast.
Gente isn’t landmark material, but the characters are engaging and strangely likeable. Ono creates just enough of an air of mystery about them that the reader will become curious about the characters, even the “guest stars.” The setting – Rome and a small restaurant – is also a nice draw.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: Fans of Natsume Ono’s manga and readers looking for unusual manga character dramas may like Gente.