It Came from Japan – Ristorante Paradiso
Ristorante Paradiso: Complete Series DVD
Publisher: Lucky Penny Entertainment
Like a fine wine, Ristorante Paradiso has aged a few years before receiving a release over in the United States, the debut release of RightStuf imprint Lucky Penny Entertainment. Ristorante Paradiso is based on the manga of the same name by Natsume Ono, and tells the story of Casetta dell’Orso, a restaurant “on the corner of Rome” known for its great food and attractive spectacled staff. Nicoletta is the newest member of the staff, the 21-year-old estranged daughter of the owner’s wife, who abandoned her to hide the fact she was a divorcee. Now while that would make a good source of conflict right there, the show spends very little time building upon it, instead focusing on the day-to-day workings of the hole-in-the-wall restaurant and its employees. In fact, it goes into great detail on both the history of the restaurant and how its staff came into the picture, making this more than just your average slice-of-life anime.
What really sets Ristorante Paradiso apart is its colorful cast of characters. Besides each seasoned staff member suffer from a ocular stigmatism (though we find out shortly that some simply wear glasses “for show”), every one of them has a unique story that sets them apart and drives their passions. Even the soft-spoken sommelier Gigi has a complex (and frankly dark) past that ties him to the restaurant.
The art style, while nowhere near as colorful as the characters, is absolutely stunning. While the show rarely detracts from very natural earth tones, I found myself marveling over the visuals. Backgrounds looked as if they were pulled straight out of a painting, while not drawing the eye too far away from the characters. The fine Italian cuisine was recreated spot on using stylized CGI that not only matched the rest of the show perfectly, but was hunger inducing. It certainly made the chicken parmigiana I ate prior to popping in the first disc look like a plate of Spaghetti-O’s. If I had one complaint about Ristorante Paradiso, it would be with some of the early episode animation. Occasionally, when showing a character in a side profile, their eyes appeared to protrude from their face, resulting in some hilarious frog-like characters.
If you are looking for an anime to get even the most stubborn anime naysayer into, then Ristorante Paradiso might be just the anime to sway their opinion. Sure, the series is listed as josei (anime for mature women), I only learned of this after completing the series. The fact I didn’t turn it off immediately and switch to something with a little blood and guts should be a testament to how gender-friendly the entire experience was. I highly recommend this series to those not afraid to get a little in touch with their feminine side.
Reviewer was provided a DVD review copy.