Friday, September 7, 2012

Manga Review: Kitchen Princess (volumes one and two)

Yep, two food related shojo manga two weeks in a row, bit odd but considering that's what the library had that I was interested in it just happened (funny enough I checked out Honey and Clover at the same time but I won't be talking about that since I think I already finished reading the manga regardless). I'd heard some good stuff about the story but had put it off for years since it turns out I was confusing it with yet another shojo cooking title, Yumeiro Pastissiere which just sounded too young for my tastes. Bit of a silly mistake, especially since the titles sound nothing alike, but better late than never right?

Kitchen Princess written by Miyuki Kobayashi and drawn by Natsumi Ando
Summary: Najika Kazami is a young girl whose always loved to cook and enrolls in the prestigious Seika Academy not only to learn how to cook but to meet her "flan prince," a boy who saved her from drowning years ago and then gave her the best flan she's ever tasted. This is a school for the rich and talented however and when orphaned Najika shows up without any obvious talent to start with it's clear that she's in for a rough time while she finds her place.

The Good: The story has some unexpected dark aspects to it which, rather than feeling like an attempt to draw in older readers because of how "edgy" it is, feels like the genuine kind of darkness you find in a lot of kid's stories. Those moments work well and give Najika time to develop and Najika herself is a likable character who tries, succeeds, fails, and tries to give up at times which makes her feel more rounded than some other shojo I've read lately. She reminds me a lot of Tohru Honda from Fruits Basket actually with her determined cheerfullness yet breaks some of the time. It was a much more engaging story than I expected and if I came across more volumes, I'm regretting not grabbing more from the library when I had the chance, I would keep reading it. 

The Bad: I really couldn't find much wrong in this story after just two volumes. I would like there to be a slightly more central plotline, which I doubt would happen since that just doesn't feel like the manga's style, and I hope Najika makes some progress finding her prince soon (tvtropes accidentally spoiled who it was for me, although I had already guessed before the first volume was over). The series is at least eight volumes long so it seems silly to complain about stuff like that yet so I'll say it again, this was a much stronger series than I expected and if you like shojo, give it a shot.

The Art: The cover gives you a good idea what all the character designs look like (another reason Najika reminds me a bit of Tohru, they both have those extra huge eyes) and it has a lot of other normal shojo hallmarks as well. It's nothing new for shojo readers and will probably put off non-shojo fans a bit (if the premise doesn't already scare them off since it is a rather girly one) but it's consistent and detailed so it didn't bother me.

As I mentioned earlier the omnibus editions that are coming out now (by Kodansha I guess since Del Ray doesn't exactly exist anymore) are tempting me since it would be a pretty cheap way to collect the series, although I have so much other stuff to buy that it's going to be a while before I get around to them, maybe during a sale on TRSI next year. 

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