Title: Ristorante Paradiso
Company: David Production
Format: 11 episodes
Dates: 9 Apr 2009 – 25 Jun 2009
Synopsis: Ristorante Casetta dell’Orso is a small restaurant hidden in the back-alleys of Rome renowned for the fact that its entire staff consists of older men who wear glasses. Lorenzo Orsini is the owner of the restaurant, and has been married to his wife, Olga, for several years, but Olga has kept a secret from Lorenzo all this time: the fact that she actually has a daughter named Nicoletta from a previous marriage. Nicoletta is now 21 and, still angry at the fact that she was abandoned by her mother at a young age, has come to Rome with the intention of exposing Olga’s secret.
Characters: Both charming and come with lots of depth.
Themes: More mature than the standard romance anime.
Music: Reminiscent of ARIA’s soundtrack.
Seiyuu: Good all ‘round, but Orikasa Fumiko shines in particular.
Noitamina has been around for about four years now and its influence is starting to widen. Originally set up as a showcase for titles aimed at a non-traditional demographic for anime, the ongoing strength of the timeslot has shown that there is an audience out there for anime with a more mature take on relationships and character development. Being a proud self-confessed member of that audience, what makes Ristorante Paradiso commendable in the context of Noitamina is that it has nothing to do with it. Four years of Noitamina have unearthed a legitimate audience for josei anime and Ristorante Paradiso is another addition to the variety of josei titles which have cropped up in recent times. This is an anime that wouldn’t be out of place in the timeslot, and, like many of the series within the genre for which Noitamina is the flagship, it’s even-handed, charming, mature and sophisticated.
I’d imagine that if Genshiken’s(1,2) Ohno Kanako ever did character designs for an anime, the cast of Ristorante Paradiso would be the result. There’s almost something gimmicky about a set of character designs that could have easily been used in a yaoi-ish reverse harem appealing to a niche fetish of older men, but, by maintaining a strong sense of gentlemanly charm, Ristorante Paradiso never comes close to degrading into such obnoxious nonsense. That, and the characters themselves have an incredible amount of depth. The show follows a fairly standard formula of giving each character approximately an episode in the spotlight, but almost all of them make the most of it, as their individual stories relating to love, marriage, divorce, death and family are revealed. These aren’t the typical teenage romance stories we see in anime; because these characters are slightly older, they’re much more experienced and restrained when dealing with their emotions, leading to greater subtlety and complexity within the respective dilemmas they must face. But that doesn’t make them more adept at handling these dilemmas: there’s an ongoing theme that, even with time and life experience, dealing with love and loss doesn’t become any easier. Another prominent theme is the idea that life is multi-faceted, involving several aspects of a work-life, social-life and love-life which all must be balanced. These are themes that are inevitably going to resonate more with mature viewers, which is why I’ve got no qualms calling this an anime for grown-ups.
The animation isn’t superb, but for an anime with so little in the way of “action,” it doesn’t need to be. The music, however, is great. It does an excellent job of setting a distinct atmosphere fitting of Rome. Fans of ARIA will probably recognize the music of ko-ko-ya here, which is heavily influenced by the Choro Club (who worked on ARIA) and Shigeharu Sasago, a member of both bands. The seiyuu work is also very good, particularly Orikasa Fumiko who brings charisma, sparkle and just a hint of naivety to the lead character, Nicoletta.
One of the few issues I had with this anime came from the fact that a lot of the characters’ stories were similar. This was done to allow for comparisons between the characters and the different ways in which they approached their problems, but it caused the stories to blend into each other and become a little difficult to discern. Sometimes it took a bit of mental effort to try to remember who’s a divorcee, who’s a widower, who’s into his second marriage, who’s single, etc. I also think the show could have used its time more effectively by focusing ever closer on fewer characters, rather than giving everyone approximately the same amount of spotlight. Nevertheless, these are relatively minor complaints. For anyone who wants proof that the josei genre still has relevance, this is one of the better recent examples that you could find.
The Rating: 8
Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun