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November 16, 2011
 

Bento Bako Lite: Tesoro (MMF)

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: Tesoro
Author: Natsume Ono
Publisher: Viz Media (Sig IKKI)
Volume: One-shot, $12.99
Vintage: 2008 (as a collection) by Shogakukan, November 15, 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Slice-of-life, short stories

[This review is part of November’s Manga Moveable Feast, hosted at Manga Widget, paying tribute to the lovely Natsume Ono. You can check out the archive page here.]

Tesoro is a collection of short stories spanning Natsume Ono’s career (mostly early career). Most of the stories are about family bonds…or food. Ono seems to like writing about people eating food about as much as Fumi Yoshinaga likes eating food herself. Ono isn’t anywhere near as descriptive as Yoshinaga is when it comes to food in her manga, but it does serve as an element to bring people together. The stories are quite short, so I’ll just go through them really quickly with a very basic rundown.

“Una giornata fredda” (“A Cold Day”) – An adorable story, in muted color, of a bundled up bear searching for some pastry inspired comfort.
“Inside Out” – A man named Aki struggles to look after things while his wife is away visiting their daughter in Italy. A sweet story of a lonely husband working hard for his family, who gets some good news in the end. (From 2005.)
“Moyashi Couple” – A heartwarming story of an older couple concerned about their image in the community. The gentle wife is concerned over how their neighbors worry about them, so the awkward husband does his best to help her show off how happy they really are. (From 2005.)
“Three Short Stories About Bento” – Exactly what it says. It’s three little stories about lunch boxes. The first is about a group of coworkers who take turns ordering lunch from a local takeout restaurant, with each assigned a specific day. Things get a little crazy when one of the men decides he wants to switch days, and everyone starts forgetting to bring packed lunches on their former days. Another cute husband and wife story. The second story is about a widower and his son. When the son’s class has a cherry blossom-viewing party, the father decides to make a bento to look like anything his son wants. Unfortunately, the father’s desire to make his son the perfect looking lunch has an unintended consequence. The last story goes back to the older couple from before, as the man enjoys the lunch his wife made for him, after a day of chores. (From 2008.)
“Eva’s Memory” – A bittersweet story about an orphan girl who can’t remember her past (or rather, doesn’t really have one to remember). To make up for this, she spins various lies about her parents, often randomly claiming pictured authors or politicians she sees as her father. When she has a cheerful outburst at a politician’s rally, the man decides to pay Eva a visit and gives her what she most needs. Her experience also affects the life of her best friend, who despises politicians. (From 2004.)
“Senza Titolo #1” – A doctor depressed over the fact that his son is dying from an illness he cannot cure (he’s a mental doctor and not a physician), is delighted that his son has at least grown old enough so far to require reading glasses. (From 2003.)
“Senza Titolo #2” – A young woman at a bookstore falls for a distinguished looking professor who is a regular customer there, but is disheartened to hear that he lives only for philosophy. Which is why it’s strange when one day he comes in and walks right past the philosophy section, and instead goes to the romance section. (From 2003.)
“Senza Titolo #3” – A father discusses his own father with his son. They will be visiting him for the first time in eight years, because now that his wife has passed, the father wants someone to be with his son so he’s not home alone during the summer. (From 1998.)
“Senza Titolo #4” – A man whose wife wants a specific chef to cater their 30th anniversary party, kidnaps the chef who claims he is too busy when he finds out the “prior engagement” is going to see a classic film at a theater. He has second thoughts when he learns what movie the young man plans to see. (From 1998.)
“Senza Titolo #5” – Life turns into something out of a film when a young man finds himself being released from prison, and more than one car arrives to pick him up. More people love him than he would have though, despite his faults. (From 1998.)
“Froom Family” – A dad tries to help his son who is bullied by his older sisters, but his good intentions backfire. (From 2001.)
“Fratelli di Sandro” (“Siblings of Sandro”) – Monica has terrible luck with men, even her two brothers. The only man in her life who she views as a good man is her father. (From 2001.)
“Padre” – A series of short panel comics about fathers and their sons. (From 2001.)
“Galleria di illustrazione” – A selection of illustrations spanning Ono’s career (dating back to 1996).

The stories in this book are quite short, but they all have a certain charm. A lot of them deal with the bonds of family, whether it’s a man lonely for his wife, a son bullied by older sisters, or a girl who makes up her own family. They’re also mostly about strengthening family bonds, with tragedy bringing a father and son closer together, and an older man making sure everyone knows he and his wife are still happily married. Due to the page count of each story, I’d normally be justified here by saying that the stories lack depth, or they’re far too short for anything meaningful to happen. The only think true about that statement is that the stories are far too short, because I want to read more about some of these characters. Ono packs a surprising amount of depth of story and character into each of these stories, whether they run for six pages or sixteen pages. There’s nothing to be disappointed by here, other than a lingering desire to know more about these characters. They’re all well self-contained, with a beginning and an end, though one or two of them do use the same characters. Tesoro is a very pleasant read, a nice heartwarming book for a cold day. There’s a lot of love in these pages, both between the characters and in Ono’s careful crafting of each page. I prefer the more mature designs of the Ristorante Paradiso books and House of Five Leaves, but her sketchy and spartan drawings work perfectly in this book. There’s not a whole lot to say about this book. I loved all the stories, though I do have some favorites. I could go on and on about the familial bonds in the stories, but I think I’ve said what needs saying. These are all beautiful, charming stories, that seem to flow effortlessly from Ono’s pen. The book is also quite well designed and printed by Viz Media. And unless my allergy addled eyes deceive me, the entire book is printed in a really nice sepia ink tone. It creates a muted, wintery feel, though I’m not sure if that’s the intent. Natsume Ono fans should definitely pick this one up, and won’t have any regrets. And if you’re in the mood for some uplifting stories about family and friends, and the warmth of people’s hearts, then get Tesoro when it hits shelves this week.

Kris
kristin@comicattack.net
@girlg33k_kris

Review copy provided by Viz Media.

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