Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gente Volume 3

By Natsume Ono. Released in Japan by Ohta Shuppan, serialized in the magazine Manga Erotics F. Released in North America by Viz.

I had mentioned at the end of my review of the second volume of Gente that it led into the events of Ristorante Paradiso, and that this volume would be a sequel. Which is not quite the case. Yes, it takes place after that book, and Nicoletta is present throughout. But while her issues with Claudio are an ongoing small plot in the book, for the most part she's not the focus, and there's nothing approaching plot resolution here.

Nothing really changes or wraps up here as Gente has always been a series of vignettes. The end of the manga comes, and it doesn't so much end as stop. This is not to say that it's not an excellent volume, for those who don't mind that sort of thing. Several times as I read along I was thinking that I'd hit a lull, or a chapter that didn't work as well as the others, only to find by the end of it that I had been pulled in and was reading with rapt attention. Even the one-shot people I'd never heard of managed to make me interested in their lives.

My favorite chapters in the book were probably the two that dealt with the Rizzos, a middle-aged married couple who have lost whatever spark they had in their marriage, and compensate by having constant affairs. Signore Rizzo proved to be far more than just a womanizing jerk... while still not being terribly likeable. His conversations with Nicoletta, who thinks he's an absolute ass but can't quite stop talking to him, are fantastic. There's even some humor, as all the men in the Ristorante note how they'd like to have a daughter like Nicoletta... including Claudio, who immediately gets slapped down by them. (If you want cute Nicoletta/Claudio moments, you really should go read RP rather than this. Nothing really changes.) And we then get another ending showing that marriages, even ones where the love is lacking and the affairs are constant, are still marriages. It's sort of a bittersweet comfort.

The other chapter that really felt strong for me was the final one, dealing with a conflict of interest. Nicoletta's birthday happens to fall on the same day as the death of Gigi's father, and he goes to visit the grave every year... except this one, where he feels Nicoletta is more important. Unfortunately, Fate seems to want to kick him in the face for that. He goes the following day, and runs into a girl who says she's been watching him every year he comes by... and also that she's an orphan living in a treehouse. It's another chapter where very little happens, but seeing the little girl bond with Gigi and bring him out of his dour shell is quite touching, even if she does turn out to have been fibbing. (Also, Gigi goes from Rome to Turin in one day? That's quite a haul.)

And so the manga ends, pretty much as it began. There was little to no plot to speak of, but you enjoyed spending time with these people, and were surprised and pleased at how their lives interacted in the most interesting ways. Plus things are open in case Natsume Ono wants to return to the Ristorante later. If RP was the appetizer, and Gente the main course, what about dessert?

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