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August 23, 2010

Bento Bako Weekly: Gente 1 and House of Five Leaves 1

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Written by: Kristin
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In my attempt to clear out some backlogged manga, we’ll be looking at two new Natsume Ono books from Viz Media today – the mysterious outlaws in House of Five Leaves, and the handsome waiters of Gente, sequel to Ristorante Paradiso.  Both books are geared toward older audiences (typically women who want more mature reading material), but are rated (and safe) for older teens.  Gente came out…I want to say last week.  Five Leaves comes out about a month from now.

Title: Gente
Publisher: Viz Media (Viz Signature)
Volume: Volume 1 (of 3), $12.99
Vintage: 2007 by Ohta Publishing Company in Japan, August 2010 by Viz Media
Genre: Slice of life, romance

Gente is a sequel, of sorts, to Natsume Ono’s Ristorante Paradiso, which only totaled one volume.  That book introduced the characters you’ll see in Gente, but they’re presented again via flashback, as Lorenzo opens up the restaurant and chooses his staff members.  So it’s not necessary for you to have read Ristorante first (though I would recommend it if you like Gente).  Each chapter has a different focus, typically centering on one of the workers, or on a certain event.  The first chapter depicts Lorenzo in the past, setting up his new restaurant, Casetta dell’Orso, and hiring on a staff of older gentlemen with glasses to appease his overworked wife’s sensibilities (which are rather in line with my own).  The second follows one of the waiters, Luciano, as he juggles his job with babysitting his daughter’s son Franc, and rebukes the advances of a customer.  Next we get an interesting story about a husband and wife, whose troubled marriage is given a helpful lift through some advice from the waiters of Casetta dell’Orso.  Waiter Vito then gets the spotlight, as Ono follows him through an average day, until he meets a girl that may just change his playboy ways.  The volume wraps up with a party among the staff at Lorenzo’s house, celebrating the first year anniversary of Casetta dell’Orso.  A very short chapter at the end of the book shows a softer side to chef Teo’s usually gruff personality.

Gente is about as slice-of-life as you can get.  There’s no action to speak of, and not much linear plot.  Ono is simply telling various stories about this collection of gentlemen.  If you have no interest in any of the characters, then you won’t like this series at all, because there’s not much else here.  It’s a gentle, quiet, mature story telling style, that is an excellent break from the moe boom, and also excellent for women who happen to like their men bespectacled (like me).  The art is simple, though Ono’s characters tend to look rather weary (though in this case most of them actually are), and her unique style certainly takes some getting use to.  It’s a pleasant read, mostly calming, occasionally serious, and sometimes sweet.

Title: House of Five Leaves
Publisher: Viz Media (Sig IKKI)
Volume: Volume 1 (of probably 8; there are 7 now, but the manga ended its run this July, so there should be at least one more), $12.99
Vintage: 2006 by Shogakukan, September 21, 2010 by Viz Media
Genre: Period, slice of life, drama

Timid ronin (a wandering, masterless samurai) Akitsu Masanosuke (Masa) has been going from job to job, trying to make money to send back home to his family.  His pride and desire to be a samurai won’t allow him a job as a normal laborer, but he is continually fired from bodyguard jobs for his timid appearance and quiet demeanor.  He’s not at all intimidating, so no one wants him around.  One day he is hired by the mysterious Yaichi, the charismatic leader of a band of outlaws known as the Five Leaves, to guard him while he collects on a payment.  Yaichi initially hires him for appearances only, but Masa shows incredible skill when the deal goes bad.  When Masa learns the truth of the deal (that Yaichi was collecting a ransom for a kidnapping), he feels ashamed and is hesitant to accept payment or continue a relationship with the outlaws.  However, he sees in Yaichi the kind of man he wishes to become, composed and confident.  He hopes that by studying this mysterious man he will learn to have more of a presence.  His conscience initially holds him back, but Yaichi also has an interest in the ronin, and finds ways to draw Masa into the gang and deeper into their machinations, usually without Masa’s knowledge.

Ooooh, I love it.  This one still has a slice-of-life feel to it, but there’s more of an underlying plot here.  The characters are unique and entertaining, especially the languorous Yaichi.  Though the oddly innocent and shy Masa is not buried under the outspoken outlaws.  Each of the outlaws in the Five Leaves has their own mysterious motives, and it’s not always as simple as wanting money.  For example, the gang was founded when Umezu, a former thief and owner of a local restaurant, wanted to kill the son of his daughter’s employer who was mistreating her.  Yaichi stepped in and suggested they kidnap the son for ransom instead.  They’ve been in the kidnapping business ever since.  It seems chivalrous, as they often target corrupt families, but Yaichi insists he only picks targets of convenience and profit.  It’s easy to become as fascinated with Yaichi as Masa is, as Ono excellently weaves mystery about him.  There’s a bit more sophistication to the art in this period piece than there is in Gente, and the main characters are well defined; you can tell their personalities just by looking at them.  The book has a beautiful cover design, with a couple of color pages inside.  Viz kept some of the Japanese terminology, which is nice within the setting, especially since they also included a glossary in the back.  Volume 2 is scheduled for December of this year, and you can preview House of Five Leaves on Viz’s SigIKKI.com website.

Come back on Wednesday for short reviews of Nabari no Ou volume 1 and Sumomomo, Momomo volume 1 from Yen Press.


Review copies provided by Viz Media.



  1. Jade

    In House of Five Leaves, the nature of the on-going storyline and the emotions tied to it really gives an entirely different dynamic to the slice-of-life aspects. Masa finds the day-to-day minutiae both comforting and confusing; the story is maybe more vs. slice-of-life, haha.

  2. […] Worth Reading) Sean Gaffey on vol. 2 of Gatcha Gacha (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Kristin on vol. 1 of Gente and vol. 1 of House of Five Leaves (Comic Attack) Connie on vol. 1 of Icaro (Slightly Biased Manga) Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 5 of […]

  3. That’s true. Masa himself kind of enjoys the mundane. I’d love to see him explode.
    I should have mentioned though that Ono’s ability to draw action scenes leaves something to be desired. I couldn’t really tell what was supposed to be going on when Masa attacked those guys in the forest. Though it’s possible that was the point. Or she could just be bad at drawing scenes like that.

  4. Jade

    Hmmmmm…yeah, I think she’s probably bad with action. I really want to see Masa flip out too, now that you mention it though, hee.

  5. […] For my review of volume 1, click here. […]

  6. […] [Volume 1 review.] […]

  7. […] (ComicAttack.net): Gente vol. 1, House of Five Leaves vol. 1 Review House of Five Leaves vol. 2 Review Gente vol. 2 Review House of Five Leaves vol. 3 Review Gente […]

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