Spring 2009 Anime Impressions – Ristorante Paradiso

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One of the bigger questions of the spring season was how Ristorante Paradiso would turn out. Frequent readers of The Null Set have, most likely, realized that one of my favorite genres of anime is the slice-of-life show. Tell me Hal Film Makers or Brains Base is doing a new slice-of-life show and you can be sure I’m watching it. Ristorante Paradiso isn’t made by either; instead, it’s from a new company called David Production. As a result, I was wondering if they had the ability to make a good slice-of-life show and how would a show that featured a bevy of older men as the majority of the cast work out.

Rating: episode 1 – 8/12B+
Rating: episode 2 – 9/12A-
Rating: episode 3 – 10/12A
Anticipation Level: medium

The story follows Nicoletta, a young woman raised by her grandma because the mom was too busy for her and didn’t want Nicoletta hampering her chances of remarrying. Nicoletta decides to rain on her mom’s parade by visiting her step-father’s restaurant in Rome and telling him of her existence. The mom intercepts Nicoletta and bribes her with the offer of providing Nicoletta an apartment in Rome to live in if she remains quiet. Nicoletta agrees but she’s intrigued by her step-father’s restaurant and the all-glass wearing male staff. As a result of no having a job and tons of free time she starts hanging out at the restaurant and becomes interested in one of the employees.

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I guess the fact that there’s one female and a ton of males is a tip-off that this is a slice-of-life show aimed at least in part towards women but I don’t care at this point – it’s a very solid show that has the potential for being a great slice-of-life show.

Nicoletta is a very sympathetic main character; you can’t help but share her anger at her mom ditching her or her desire to get back at her mom. Add to that a slightly cunning nature tempered by a nice personality and she makes a great main character to build the show around. Around Nicoletta, there is a large number of male staff members. At this point they haven’t had time to do much more then display a few of their personality quirks but they all have an air of being interesting in their own way. So, for example, the one guy has a real gruff demeanor but I find myself liking him for some reason and intuitively feel that there’s more to him that meets the eye. And it’s not just the individual characters that have been done well, there’s good chemistry between everyone. Get the group of them together and it’s interesting just watching how they interact with each other.

Creating likeable characters so quickly in a show earns David Production a big thumbs up from me. Even established studios can drop the ball in this area. For example, I think one of the main differences in how Lucky Star and K-ON! are thought of by the fans at this point in the series (5 episodes in), is how long it took to like the characters. In Lucky Star’s case, it took me 8-9 episodes to start really liking the main characters but only one in K-ON!’s case. If you don’t really like the characters it’s hard to find a slice-of-life show interesting.

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One of the other aspects of the show that was an unknown was what would the animation quality and animation style of Ristorante Paradiso be like. Once you get to know a studio’s work, it’s often possible to know this before it airs but that wasn’t possible in this case. Three episodes in and I find it difficult to accurately describe the animation and it doesn’t help that I’m not reminded of any other studio’s work to compare it to. Probably the most interesting thing is the inclusion of a steady amount of CG elements. It’s never a lot but it’s more then what’s normally seen in a slice-of-life show. They’re not flawlessly integrated but somehow that adds to the style of the show. The characters are drawn to be more realistic and are not overly cutesy to look at which is a nice change of pace. I think the animation is merely above average but it has one of the most interesting animation styles of the season and makes me really curious to see how their future works will turn out.

That’s about all I wanted to say about Ristorante Paradiso: a very solid slice-of-life show that’s a bit different from most slice-of-life shows but the great characters make this well worth watching. A good first effort by David Production.

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