Entry #9: Ristorante Paradiso (SoA 2016)

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This almost became more fourth drop of the Summer, but I thankfully pulled through. I don’t want to use up all of my drops before I’ve even reached ten anime!

However, there was a reason why I wanted to drop this, which is my ultimate complaint with the anime: it’s really boring… at first. I’ve watched quite a few anime during the Summer and a good number of them have been slow-paced. But this show? It may be the slowest of the bunch. By episode three, I was genuinely cursing the show mentally for being so unbelievably diluted and hollow. Nothing happened, or nothing I saw that was of any importance was happening. It wasn’t until episode nine that I started to appreciate this show’s sense of patience, but by that point, the giant scar of monotony had already made its mark, and I can’t simply disregard it because it all finally clicked for me.

Ristorante Paradiso is about a twenty-one-year-old girl named Nicoletta, who comes to Italy to find her mother and reveal to her husband that she is his wife’s daughter. After some pleading from her mother, she decides not to say anything, but stays within the boundary of a mysterious “ristorante” that her mother’s husband owns, where all the employees are older gentlemen with “spectacles.” And when I say “older,” I mean in their fifties. Points for uniqueness within the very premise: this anime is about an adult girl, surrounded by men in their fifties, and the setting is in Italy. What other anime can say that?

Now, this anime is classified as a “Josei,” which I have very little experience with. It seems to me that this classification is the result of a central female character being the subject of “attention” by many good-looking men. Only the entirety of the cast are well past the age of high-schoolers and can control their emotions and hormones. And aren’t stupid. Or sadistic. Or whatever male tropes anime and manga seem to think girls are into now-a-days. You would think that with all this in mind, I would eat this show up like a pepperoni pizza, right? Yes and no. As I said before, it took me a long time to really find myself fascinated with this show. By the way, this show has eleven episodes. I didn’t start getting into it until the third to last episode. What I feel Ristorante Paradiso has with an intriguing premise, it doesn’t do well within its execution. There is really no flash, no “spectacle” to this series that makes it immediately drawing to viewers. Maybe to women who are into hot guys, but I’m a heterosexual who isn’t into hot guys, so I found myself searching for anything to really latch onto, unsuccessfully. This anime is very dull to me, at least it is for a certain extent. Nothing really happens, one could say.

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What this anime is at its core is a character study. With each passing episode, one or more characters are presented as the main focus of said episode, making the series almost episodic. It highlights their past, their relationship with others, and their goals and whatever else may be significant to their character. There are quite a few characters, too, so the episodes have a lot to pave out. But this also provides an issue: once certain character’s episodes have passed, they’re regarded as existing by others, but don’t serve much point other than to provide their services in the ristorante. This anime tends to play favorites with its characters, with strong fascinations being shown to Nicoletta, the female lead, Claudio, Nicoletta’s love interest and server at the ristorante, and Nicoletta’s mother. All others have their fun in the sun, but ultimately serve as placeholders for certain personalities. Vito is playful and flirty. Teo is rough around the edges, but witty and caring. Gigi doesn’t talk. Etc., etc.

I like the series for at least doing a good job of developing the characters present, because they do to a satisfying extent. I just wish it did a better job of making them important for more than one episode, or tried to incorporate a story that gave each character an opportunity to present a problem simultaneously. Claudio’s desire for his ex-wife goes on for a good portion of the series, and is presented maturely and paced well. I only wish they would have, say, Vito have an argument with his wife or something happen during so, so that the viewer could process more than just “This is Claudio’s episode,” and so forth. It feels plastic and mechanical, the way it’s set up.

Mood is another thing that I believe made this series so hard to bear during its beginning portions. The viewer hardly knows the characters, hardly knows what makes them tick or makes them unique. Yet they continue the series in a light-hearted manner as if everyone’s an established family member and everything’s all good. There is a lot of flashbacks and backstory to this show, so beginning the series with (almost) everyone already developed from a personal standpoint leaves the viewer lost in translation. They simply need to wait for everyone’s personality to be broadcast. Episode after episode. So, they decide to focus more on Nicoletta during the first few episodes, which is smart… except I think she’s the most bland character of the bunch. It’s not that she’s unlikable, she’s just bland. There isn’t much to her other than that she’s “the kid” of the ristorante’s family. Using her as a template for the viewer to experience all of these phenomenons of each character with her is nice, but again, it feels almost mechanical and alienating. I think this anime would be better served for a visual novel. Not to mention, there’s very little conflict within this show. It’s smooth sailing, for the most part.

Once I did start to get into the show (because everyone had been showcased properly), I felt it had a lot of potential to continue onward. I would gladly welcome a second season to this show, but with seven years passing, I doubt it’ll ever come to be. The characters are decently developed and likable in their own merits. They feel like human beings and have a good amount of charm. Even Nicoletta has her moments. I only wished that this appreciation of its quirks would’ve come sooner than episode nine.

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The art is also something I suspect is very Josei-like. The mouths have very long lines, the bodies are slender, and the eyes, contrary to most, are more traditionally symmetrical with the face (mostly on the men), while others have eyes that are almost perfectly circle. Though, there are some characters (like Nicoletta) who don’t have pupils, which looks odd to me. It’s just the whiteness of the eye itself and the variously-colored corneas. The style itself is refreshing for someone not used to the Josei-style, but the animation was very lackluster. Very minimal overall movements, while basic actions looked clunky. For those of you who watch the show in the future, watch people drink wine. It’s really stiff. Really stiff. Speaking of wine, whenever wine was shown being poured into a wine glass (this happens a lot), it cuts to this 3D presentation style… which looks really bad. And pretentious. But mostly bad. This series has a strange fascination with wine. It’s like I’m watching Bartender all over again.

It’s good, but it’s hard to get into if you have no real reason to watch it. Admittedly, I watched this as a substitute after dropping Elfen Lied, but I had it marked as Plan to Watch beforehand. It’s a series that really takes its time, and is really into presenting the beauty of gentleness and exquisite cuisine. If it had been more upfront, I’m sure it would’ve showcased all sorts of Italian landmarks and traditions, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I feel the show is worth the watch by series’ end, and I’d definitely watch more if they were to decide to continue it. However, for those who can’t find anything to enjoy past the first couple of episodes, I’d entirely understand. Just know that this is a series that gets better as it progresses, much like wine gets better with age. But I wouldn’t know. I don’t drink it.

Personal Score: C

Critical Score: B-

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.