Hit the “Random” button and see what comes up! In this feature, we take a look at whatever manga the Random Number God decides to throw at us and find out if it’s worth your time.
This time: Bambino!, by Tetsuji Sekiya
You’ve seen this setup before. Ban is a small town guy, a regular college student, but his true passion is… cooking! He works part-time at a local Italian restaurant, but dreams of more, as anime protagonists are wont to do. So does he go to some weird culinary academy like in Soma’s Dinner Drama, or create ridiculous psychedelic recipes via self-study like in Yakitate Japan? Nope! He goes and trains at an actual restaurant like an actual person training to be a chef. Crazy, right?
The realism factor was what drew me to Bambino! in the first place . Realistic culinary training (as opposed to weird cooking battles) is almost unheard of in cooking anime, as is a lack of the slice-of-life elements we may have come to expect. Perhaps it’s because Ban is an actual adult instead of a mere teen entering high school? Who knows?
While it is a cooking manga, Bambino! focuses more on the actual business of running a restaurant than strictly on the preparation of food. Ban starts off as a kitchen assistant – washing dishes and preparing ingredients – and works his way up from there, giving the reader a glimpse at several facets of the restaurant industry. He has to adjust to all the Italian food terms being thrown around, learn to be a proper waiter who can provide top-notch service, deal with the massive crowds of the Saturday dinner rush, and learn to cook the signature dishes. Do any other cooking manga depict the job behind the chef?
Of course, the realism also arguably hurts Bambino! The kitchen is a quick and ruthless place, and while the main characters acting like regular people is endearing and relatable, it’s also infuriating. Ban is ridiculously stubborn, sometimes to the point of idiocy, leading to his nickname of “Bambino”, meaning “baby” in Italian. Katori is enough of an asshole that it’s almost a wonder why he hasn’t been fired, and Asuka stays with her deadbeat boyfriend for no good reason. All of their actions make sense when considered as real people, but press up against the edge of suspension of disbelief.
Verdict: Al Dente
Even though I didn’t read the entire thing, what I did read of Bambino! was rather enjoyable. It’s by far the most realistic, hardcore cooking manga I’ve read, and that’s definitely a good thing in a market where “cooking manga” conjures images of super baking techniques and bread that transports people through time. If you want something that really gets into the nitty gritty of the career of a chef, give Bambino! a shot.