Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Kitchen Princess, vol. 3

The story: After the events of the last volume, Najika is much happier now that Akane is better. While Akane and Najika are far from friends, they're no longer enemies. Unfortunately, it seems like Akane's friends didn't get the memo and are intent on taking away the lone place where she's comfortable—Fujita Diner. However, Najika wows the PTA crowd with her delicious food and they let her continue cooking for her fellow students. But, Hagio-sensei has fallen ill at the orphanage and Najika makes her way back to Hokkaido with Sora and Daichi in tow. While Najika momentarily wonders if Daichi is her "flan prince," she seems to be falling for Sora instead. Towards volume's end, it seems that Akane's jealousy is rearing its ugly head again and Najika is in for trouble.

Reaction: I liked this volume much better than the last, especially with Najika's humorous, yet touching, trip back home. I loved her way of playing with the kids and her companions' reactions to the large crowd. Of course, Fujita's big "reveal"—from his transformation to his employment history—is pretty amazing, too, given his prior representation in the story. But, there are lots of emotional complications in this volume and I wonder how the growing love triangle will eventually play out, especially with Akane's meddling.

Deep thoughts: As in every volume, Najika makes a couple of different dishes in this one. She makes some blueberry pancakes and curry with carrots. While she mentions that blueberries are good for the eyes, so are carrots. Lack of vitamin A, prevalent in carrots, can cause loss of vision, including night vision. As a kid, I ate lots of carrots in an effort to prevent myself from having to wear glasses like my mother and grandparents. Unfortunately, it was all for naught as I had to get glasses in sixth grade. Since then, my vision has gotten increasingly worse, despite all the carrot eating I do!

While the characters are nice enough, the real star is the food. Natsumi Ando does a great job of showing off the food; I also loved the picnic scene outside of Fujita Diner. But, the funniest parts came while Najika was back at her orphanage. From illustrating all the kids with its accompanying slapstick comedy, Ando captures the moment well. Unfortunately, I do have a bone to pick with the cover illustration on my copy—the highlighter orange color used for Najika's costume and hair are, at best, horrific. Thankfully, it's a small and easily ignored distraction!

The verdict:
Highly recommended. This volume made me laugh and, like always, hungry! And there's something just under the surface with Najika's mysterious flan prince. Will she ever meet him, or is it someone she already knows? I'm willing to find out. Kitchen Princess is available in the U.S. from Del Rey.

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