Manga Village

Go back to the beginning, when the owner Lorenzo was just opening Casetta dell’Orso. His wife Olga’s particular preference for a certain bartender inspires Lorenzo to hire an entire staff of gentlemen in glasses. Watch the cranky-but-kind Luciano juggle babysitting duty and the advances of an amorous customer. Witness handsome playboy Vito meet a healthy young college student who will eventually become his wife. All this and more awaits you, just beyond that discreet restaurant door…

By Natsume Ono
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Drama
Price: $12.99

Most of the men you see in manga are young and good-looking, almost to the point of being beautiful, in order to appeal to girls and young women. But what if your tastes run toward the older, more “distinguished” looking man? Then this is the title you’ve been waiting for.

Gente is a sort of prequel/sequel to Ono’s previous work, Ristorante Paradiso. Gente tells the story of how the bespectacled, older gentlemen came to work at Casetta dell’Orso. It starts with Lorenzo finding and bringing the men together to work at his restaurant, and then each successive chapter tells a tale feature one of the gentlemen, inside and out of the setting of the restaurant, leading up to the celebration of the its first anniversary.

I enjoyed Gente. I have to admit a fondness for older gentlemen, and this title fed that fondness perfectly. I really liked all of the gentlemen. They all have great personalities that are very different from each other. This volume seems to concentrate on opposites as it has stories about the dour Luciano and the playful Vito. I particularly enjoyed Vito’s nosiness as he helped the college student and indirectly the couple who were having marriage problems. I also really enjoyed how connected the seemingly stand alone stories were. The chapter “One Couple” ended up connecting to “The First Aniversary” and Gigi, the Sommelier at the restaurant.

Ono’s art is a little peculiar, and may be a little difficult to get used to at first. But it works well. Her distinguished gentlemen aren’t bishonen, but do have a palatable charm, even the frowning Luciano.

You don’t have to read Ristorante Paradiso to enjoy this title. It starts with introducing the characters and the premise of the restaurant. Though, knowing the backgrounds of the characters might enhance the reading of Paradiso. This is a slow title, as it’s more about the characters than any action, but it never gets boring, even after subsequent reads. Older teens and young adults will enjoy this more than teens who are looking for melodrama or action. Gente is a solid and enjoyable read.

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