[This is a new running series where I share my thoughts on a different comic each Monday, sometimes Manga, sometimes American, Chinese, Korean or UK comics. I read a huge amount of comics and thought I’d start to highlight some of the more interesting ones.]
Series Name: Bambino!
Author: Sekiya Tetsuji
Artist: Sekiya Tetsuji
Tags: Cooking, Drama, Romance, Slice-of-Life
Target Audience: Seinen (Older Teen Boys)
Official Synopsis: Shogo Ban, a college student from Fukuoka, likes to cook. Thanks to the owner of the restaurant where he works part-time, he finds himself working at the line of Roppongi’s best Italian restaurant, Trattoria Baccanale, and discovers that the real deal isn’t quite as easy as he’d thought. The manga follows Ban as he struggles to keep up with the hectic workload and his co-workers, along with issues outside the kitchen like his relationship with his girlfriend Eri, who he left behind in Fukuoka.
To most people who know me, Bambino! would be one of the last manga they’d probably guess I’d start this series with, however I chose Bambino! for two reasons: 1) It’s a series I just read, so it’s fresh in my mind, and 2) it’s a goddam work of genius! Now, maybe it’s just because I happen to like cooking manga, but this is one of the best written and drawn manga I have ever read.
Bambino! is a classic Hero’s Journey/bildungsroman story about a boy going on a journey to be a man – in this case through becoming a chef of Italian cuisine. Ban is a likeable hothead who gets into cooking to impress girls and then discovers a love and passion for it as it goes from a hobby to being the central focus of his life. At the same time, we the audience are given a tour of the world of Italian cuisine, culture, and restaurant ownership through Ban’s eyes, which is something the author has both researched and drawn in exquisite detail.
And the author really captures the intense feeling of working in the kitchen as well…
Of course, it doesn’t skimp on the characters either, with the story itself being almost as much slice-of-life as it is a journey through life. The whole cast are (mostly) realistic collection of likeable characters who all have their own stories and reasons for being there and doing what they do. As you read the comic, you become part of the family of characters at the restaurant, and get to know each of them as Ban does. The ones you like like the head chef…
And his daughter…
To the ones you hate like Kotori, Ban’s tyrannical superior…
Although even Kotori’s story comes together eventually, and you come to understand him, if not like him.
After reading so many Shonen (young boys) comics, reading Bambino! was such a nice breath of fresh air for me – a comic that combines the best of the heroic journey with learning and realistic slice-of-life relationships. It’s manga at the best manga can be, and hits all the right notes in the right way. Yes, in an effort to push the drama it can go a little overboard sometimes (especially later in the story), but I can forgive it for the occasional dip into high drama in an effort to stay entertaining and keep readers turning pages.
I couldn’t put it down once I started, and I doubt you will either if you give it a try.
All Images Copyright their Publisher and used here for review purposes only.