Taisho was a former kitten model, who ran away from home and had a hard life on the streets…until the day he was saved by a kind ramen shop owner who later served as his mentor. Now Taisho takes pride in his noodles…and is easily angered when customers are dissatisfied! So step aside, Soup Nazi – there’s a new cat in town!

By Kenji Sonishi
Publisher: Tokyopop
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Comedy/Food
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★½☆☆

I’ve been trying to do a review of Neko Ramen since I first got it, but I just couldn’t get motivated enough to write it. But, when I realized this title fit not only National Pet Month, but also the current Manga Movable Feast, I decided to push through and finally get it done! The problem I’ve had with reviewing this title is, I just didn’t find it all that funny.

The whole hook of this title is encompassed in a single sentence on the back of the book. “A cat makes the ramen.” This wouldn’t be so bad if the jokes were actually funny. This book rarely got a laugh from me, and at most, all it got was an occasional snort. Maybe it’s just me, but so many of the jokes just fell flat. It was mostly the general food jokes, that could have been told no matter what Taisho was that didn’t really work for me. I was much more likely to be amused at the jokes where Taisho’s cattiness came into play. The rice sticking to his paws when he tried to make rice balls, his bathroom, and his problems with making sushi, could at least get a smile out of me. Mii-chan in “Serving Water”, and Taisho in “Delivery” got a smile because of the “It’s funny because it’s true.” rule.

Since this is a comedy, the ramen Taisho makes isn’t the best. If it was good, it wouldn’t be funny that Tanaka keeps coming back and eating it. And Taisho comes up with them strange concoctions, such as the Desert ramen made with milk, strawberries and noodles. Be careful if you order the Owner’s Special as Taisho adds some of his personal favorite food, and then there’s the special Neko Ramen noodles he had specially made, with tuna flakes and milk. Unlike other foodie titles, these are not meals you’d want to eat, and as the Mythbusters say “Don’t try this at home.”

Neko Ramen might be able to tickle other people’s funny bone, but it completely missed mine. Its 4-koma, or comic strip format does make for a quick read, but doesn’t help the jokes to hit the mark. I didn’t mind the simplistic art. The subject matter doesn’t need anything detailed, and the comic-y look fits the odd world built for a cat that makes ramen. Maybe it gets better as the series goes on, but I don’t think I’ll ever find out. With Tokyopop gone, and the fourth volume being one of the last before the company closed shop, finding volumes won’t be easy. It’s just not something I would want to spend a lot of time or money finding. But your mileage may vary. If you can find it and are curious, check it out for yourself.

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