Friday, April 17, 2009

First Impression: Ristorante Paradiso

The series has old people in it. If that doesn't catch your attention, then maybe the unusual art style will. I know that one got me into this series in the first place, and I must say the first episode did not disappoint.
EPISODE 01: Nicoletta
More Screencaps from Ristorante Paradiso 01
OP: Marigold (orange pekoe) [YouTube]
ED: Suteki no Kajitsu (Lisa Komine) [YouTube]

Our lead character, Nicoletta, is in Rome, looking for a particular restaurant which her estranged mother and her new husband own. The restaurant turns out to be populated by a waiting staff of middle-aged guys all wearing glasses. Nicoletta takes an immediate liking for the graceful Claudio, the head waiter. Olga, Nicoletta's mother, who has not told her new husband about her daughter or her first marriage, strikes up a deal with Nicoletta by offering to pay for the latter's apartment while she is there in Rome. Nicoletta reluctantly agrees but soon finds herself returning to the restaurant and gets acquainted with the staff in the process.
From the onset, Ristorante Paradiso is a very strange anime. I am not unaware of other similar-themed titles, of course (NOTE: Antique Bakery and Bartender), but I have never watched those, so Ristorante Paradiso is, for all intents and purposes, my first time watching a show that's about the wait staff of a restaurant. Not only that, the characters are also older than what I'm used to. I mean, Haru (Real Drive) was old but an entire harem of old people is definitely out there. But hey, who knows, maybe this is going to spawn a new kind of otaku culture. Moe is out and old people in! LOL

I don't find it bothersome though. It's not realistic to have an entire wait staff composed of older people. But I guess it's not impossible. Besides, the episode itself explains that this is a special kind of restaurant and one that particularly caters to those with certain tastes.
The animation studio responsible for this show is David Production. Who? One might ask. I've never heard of them but apparently they produced Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2. At the directing helm is Kase Mitsuko of SaiKano fame. I've never watched either show so there's nothing to compare, and besides from what I understand, Ristorante Paradiso belongs to a totally different genre. The anime is based on a josei manga (for older girls) of the same name by Ono Natsume, who is also credited as the original creator in the anime production staff. Her only other work is a lesser known manga called Saraiya Goyo (never heard of it either).
The premise of Ristorante Paradiso itself isn't very striking. This is only to be expected from a slice of life series. However, if you aren't immediately taken in by the story of a girl looking for her mom and finding herself surrounded by middle-aged guys instead, then the rather unusual art style might. Takeda Itsuko is the person responsible for the refreshing character designs of Ristorante Paradiso while Soejima Yasufumi is the dude behind the art direction (and I suppose the translucent, watercolor effect of the background). Takeda's repertoire includes Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Solid State Society and The Galaxy Railways while Soejima did the textile effect of the background in Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo. I can tell that both people brought their creative muscles to make this series really stand out, art-wise.

Ristorante Paradiso
is not your average, run-of-the-mill anime. Because it's josei and slice of life, it caters to a particular niche in the audience and is therefore not for everyone. But even if you don't necessarily gravitate towards this kind of anime, give this anime a try as it offers a refreshing change.

Ristorante Paradiso @ ANN
Ristorante Paradiso Commercial [YouTube]
Ristorante Paradiso Trailer [YouTube]