FEATURE: Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog: “Ristorante Paradiso”

What’s “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”?


Finding a new anime to watch may not be as difficult as finding true love, but nonetheless everyone could use a little guidance now and then. “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog” is here to help. Each week we provide additional information and cultural context to help anime fans decide whether or not they’d like to take an unknown series for a test drive.



What’s Ristorante Paradiso?


Ristorante Paradiso is a 2009 TV anime with direction by Mitsuko Kase and animation by David Production. The series is based off the manga by Natsume Ono, which was serialized in Manga Erotics F, a now defunct magazine known for its experimental and avant-garde titles. Crunchyroll describes Ristorante Paradiso as follows:



“Rome, Italy. When she was a child, Nicoletta was taken in by her grandmother so that her mother could remarry. Now grown up, she leaves everything in the countryside behind to visit her mother and her mother’s second husband, a ristorante owner. To her surprise, her stepfather did not know his wife had a daughter! Delicious food and dreamy gentlemen await at the ristorante, casetta dell’orso. For everyone who works there, a tender connection to the hearts of each visitor is spun, and the curtain raises on a story about these first-rate Italian gentlemen in spectacles.”



Ristorante Paradiso is a low-key drama about the daily lives of the people who work at a high-class restaurant in Rome, as well as the lives of the customers they serve. The series interweaves an intricate set of connections between the characters, all the while exploring what romance and family mean in a grown-up context.


Adult Perspectives, Adult Problems.


Natsume Ono primarily publishes her works in seinen anthologies, and so titles like Ristorante Paradiso are aimed at an older audience than the average mainstream anime and manga. As a result, Ristorante Paradiso deals with many aspects of adult relationships – such as parenthood, infidelity, and divorce – and it does so with style and grace.



It’s a pleasant change of pace to encounter a series where adult women are treated as independent, sexual beings. It’s also fun to watch Nicoletta chase after Claudio, despite the difference in their ages. Instantly smitten by his sense of poise and his gentlemanly demeanor, Nicoletta pursues Claudio with all the subtlety of a starving hyena devouring a pork chop.



A True Slice of Life?


The term “slice of life” is frequently misused with regards to anime, often describing series that would more properly be categorized as school drama or situational comedy. Originally, the term described works of theater and literature that tried to replicate a small segment of an ordinary person’s daily life in painstaking detail. “Slice of life” works thus generally don’t have a typical narrative structure. They often lack character arcs, plot points, or even a sense of resolution.



Ristorante Paradiso closely resembles this definition of “slice of life”. The series is more about quietly examining the perspectives of the various characters than in playing out any huge, dramatic moments. For example, the two largest conflicts in the series are whether Nicoletta and her mother, Olga, will reconcile, and whether Claudio will remove his wedding ring, which he still wears even though his marriage ended in an amicable divorce years ago.



Food, Glorious Food and David’s Visual Design.


No anime set in a high class restaurant would be complete without lush visual depictions of haute cuisine. As Nicoletta trains as an apprentice chef, the audience receives a feast for the eyes comprising numerous dishes, from appetizing antipasto to enticing main courses to delectable dolce for dessert. It’s the kind of food one could photograph to share on social media.



Ristorante Paradiso is the first major animated work by David Production, a studio that modern fans might know better for their efforts on JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. As with those later productions, Ristorante Paradiso uses a mixture of 2D animation for the characters and 3DCG for the backgrounds, although here this blend is in a more nascent form. The production has a somewhat flattened appearance, similar to the panels of a manga.



Seating is Limited, Reservations Required.


Crunchyroll currently streams Ristorante Paradiso in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the United States Minor Outlying Islands. The series is available in the original Japanese with English subtitles.



The Next Course.


Ristorante Paradiso is also available on Region 1 DVD from Nozomi Entertainment under their Lucky Penny Label. Additionally, an English language version of the original Ristorante Paradiso manga and its sequel series, Gente, is available from Viz Media.



The mature flavor of Ristorante Paradiso may not suit the palates of every anime fan, but if you’re in the mood for an understated drama that celebrates the finer things in life – food, family, friendship, and fulfilling romantic relationships – consider giving Ristorante Paradiso a try.



Is there a series in Crunchyroll’s catalog that you think needs some more love and attention? Please send in your suggestions via e-mail to [email protected] or post a Tweet to @gooberzilla. Your pick could inspire the next installment of “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”!


Paul Chapman is the host of The Greatest Movie EVER! Podcast and GME! Anime Fun Time.