Kitchen Princess vol. 1 by Natsumi Ando & Miyuki Kobayashi
I feel a bit awkward reviewing this (if you can call my rambling a review), since I don’t really consider myself a manga reader. I mean, I plan to continue reading this series, so I now read a grand total of six manga series. There are teens who will borrow more than six manga at a time. Anyway…
As a child mourning her parents’ deaths, Najika Kazami meets a boy who gives her his flan and, in doing so, brightens her life. This being a manga, she swears that the next time they meet, she will make him the “most delicious dessert in the whole world!” But the boy has to leave, and she never sees him again. The only clue she has to his identity is a silver spoon. As the years go by, she continues to live in a Hokkaido orphanage. She loves her friends there and Hagio-Sensei, who runs the place. But when Najika discovers that the emblem on the spoon matches that of Seika Academy, she’s determined to leave the orphanage in search of the boy she once met.
Seika Academy is a pretty intimidating place (check out the panels of the exterior and Najika’s dorm room). Although Najika was admitted to the first year A class on the recommendation of the school director, she does not fit in. She’s left Hokkaido for a giant but prestigious school with 5,000 students, and her new class is comprised only of special students. “Special” as in a violin virtuoso, an artist, a famous model, and so on. Najika seems to be the only one without a special talent.
And so begins the story of our Kitchen Princess. In each chapter, Najika is faced with some sort of obstacle and cooking something is part of the solution. She is very much alone at Seika; she has no friends, and when first shown her dorm room, the first things she says is, “This is my first-ever room of my own!” But cooking makes her happy, and though she doesn’t know it yet, it’s her special talent.
Kitchen Princess is rated for 13+, but I would say it’s okay for 10+. There’s no violence or sexual situations. The story is pretty straightforward, and the only magical ability is Najika’s cooking. Also, it hasn’t turned into a soap opera (yet). There are two guys featured, Sora and Daichi Kitazawa, but so far, none of them really like each other. Najika is cute and innocent, but not on the same level as Kazuma in Yakitate!! Japan. If there’s one word to describe this volume, it’s “charming.” Predictable, maybe, but charming nonetheless. And there are recipes at the end!* One for each chapter.
It is beyond my abilities to analyze the art other than to say I liked it and that the characters are drawn more realistically than, oh, Sunako and the boys from The Wallflower (and I say this as a Wallflower fan). I mean, no one looks anorexic or overly, uh, squat. And no gratuitous cleavage, either.
For a more…professional take, Library Journal just reviewed it.
* Of all the Del Rey manga I’ve read, this one had the fewest translation notes. The second to the last note is for one of the recipes, explaining mochi, and I have to say, it’s one of the more ridiculous notes I’ve read. “Mochi is the Japanese word for ‘rice cake,’ and it is usually eaten on New Year’s Day. It is very sticky and elderly people often choke on it.”