Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Kitchen Princess Omnibus 2 & 3

Kitchen Princess Omnibus 2
Kitchen Princess Omnibus 3
Natumi Ando (art) and Miyuki Kobayashi (story)
Kodansha Comics, 2012/2013
$14.99/$19.99, Softcover
978-1935429456 / 978-1612620640

Genre: Graphic Novels, Realistic, Romance, School Story
Age: 10+
Description: Volume 2 opens with Najika questioning whether or not Sora or Daichi could be her Flan Prince, the boy who saved her as a young child from drowning and then, to calm her down, shared his flan with her. He left behind a Seika Academy spoon which lead to Najika striving to be the best cook she could be and attending the school in hopes of finding her prince. In this volume she faces an evil classmate who tries to use her father’s connections on the school board to close the diner on campus that Najika works at, Najika returns to Lavender House when she hears that Hagio-sensei is ill, she faces Akane’s jealousy again when Daichi appears interested in Najika and buys her a new watch which Akane steals causing Daichi to be mad at Najika, Daichi kissing Najika, and a Kitchen Princess special involving a ghostly girl who cooks for her love to help him move on. In the third omnibus, Najika has to deal with the fact that Daichi seems to like her while she’s in love with Sora who she is certain is her Flan Prince. Najika finds out that Sora and his father, the director of Seika Academy, are in cohoots together (Sora against his will) to make Najika the sob story of publicity for the Academy which she wants none of. The director forces her to participate in a national dessert contest and if she fails she’ll be forced to leave the school. Unfortunately, right before the final stage of the competition, Sora is involved in an accident and HUGE SPOILER HERE actually dies. Losing her sense of taste from shock, Najika barely finishes the competition and, while she ranked high, she doesn’t win. Daichi, because he loves Najika, makes a deal with his estranged father—he will fill Sora’s footsteps and be the director’s heir as long as he lets Najika remain at the school. While Najika is happy she has to deal with classmates that think Sora’s death is her fault and a new student—Seiya—is nothing is not annoying as he is called in to take Najika’s place as the spokesperson for the Academy. Seiya is arrogant and bossy and, unfortunately, looks like Sora’s identical twin. Things get more complicated in their “hate at first sight” relationship as they are constantly pitted against each other in cooking competitions and Sora’s last message before dying to Najika—“it was someone else who saved you”—begins to point to Seiya as her Flan Prince.
Opinion: Volume 2 collects the original volumes three and four while Volume 3 collects the original volumes five, six, and seven. I really like this series! Looks like Volume 4 of the omnibus editions will be the final if it includes volumes eight, nine, and ten (as the series was just ten volumes). I still keep forgetting that Najika is only 12/13 years old! She seems so mature but that might be because she grew up as the responsible one in her orphanage. The most shocking element of the series was in volume six when Sora dies from complications of getting hit by a car. The authors mention in side notes that when this happened they had enraged fans going, “How could you kill Sora? Why? I hate you!” However, they mention that this decision was made long before when the manga was first plotted out. This makes it a very interesting twist to traditional shojo manga which is all about the romance. Very rarely do we see such a dramatic plot element as a main character dying. It puts a whole spin on everything—readers are 100% sure that Sora is the Flan Prince and only to find out that Sora and Najika’s love will be cut short by an accident and that Sora wasn’t the one who saved her is shocking! I totally didn’t see it coming. Clearly, Seiya is her Flan Prince (unless we find out Daichi was blonde when he was young!) so it will be interesting to read the final volume and see how it ends as these two are bitter enemies and rivals. I highly recommend this series to all manga readers (including young ones even with Sora’s death which is handled in a very respectful manner). My only word of warning to libraries—with Volume 3 and (potentially) Volume 4 combining three volumes of the series these books are nearly 600 pages long which puts some major stress on the flimsy binding. Thus, not only is it rather hard to hold and read for the first and the last half of the book for libraries where it will circulate a lot you might need replacement volumes.

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