Gente Volume Three

Gente Volume Three by Natsume Ono

More than anyone else, Natsume Ono’s manga excel in creating an atmosphere and sense of place. While I love reading manga set in many different places, there are few that I’d actually want to visit in real life. If it was possible to visit Natusme Ono’s Italy, I’d love to go there. With Gente‘s emphasis on good food, friendship, complicated relationships, and quirky bespectacled gentlemen, it easily inspires the reader to start packing for an imaginary vacation. The final volume of Gente continues in the slice of life trajectory established in the previous volumes. There aren’t any resounding conclusions, just the chance to visit the people of Casetta dell’Orso once again and see that their lives continue as always.

The first story in the volume focuses on a politician and restaurant customer who has an unusual way of ordering his day. He listens to fortunes told by his little granddaughter because they always seem to come true. He comes to a crossroads in his life and makes a decision, helped along by a prediction and a good meal. A darker side of love is explored in “Singore Rizzo’s Fancy,” where the womanizing half of an estranged couple finds himself hopelessly attracted to a woman who is uninterested in him. Rizzo decides to try to arrange for the happiness of the woman who has inspired his affection, even as he continues his relationship with his wife where passionate love has changed into a combination of hostility and familial feelings. The closing image is of Rizzo and his wife sitting in different chairs, smoking and looking off in different directions. Nicoletta observes all these relationships play out at the restaurant while still nursing her love for the waiter Claudio. In some ways, this volume does feel like a closing volume for Nicoletta’s story that began in Ristorante Paradisio. She talks with her stepfather Lorenzo about the ways he serves as a father for her and for the family of workers at the restaurant. He’s starting to grow older, and might be turning into a bespectacled older gentleman himself. The mysterious Gigi supports Nicoletta and then goes off to make an unexpected acquaintance. While the ending might not be a Hollywood style conclusion where Nicoletta takes her relationship with Claudio to the next level, it is nice to see her in such an emotionally supportive environment (perhaps because her mother is absent). The bonus story at the end shows the staff getting together to celebrate young Franc’s birthday, which provides a nice festive way to conclude the series.

As always, I enjoyed Ono’s loose and unfinished drawing style. Just as the subject matter of her manga provides place where I’d want to visit to relax, her illustrations manage to be both lively and restful, with just the essential details portrayed.

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Review copy provided by the publisher

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