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Gente, Vol. 1


Gente, Vol. 1

Olga has been working too hard and it lands her in the hospital. Her husband, Lorenzo, is opening his own restaurant in Rome, and he decides to hire waiters who meet his wife’s aesthetic to make her happy. She likes mature, gentlemanly waiters with glasses. The Help Wanted sign even says it’s looking for “over fifty and farsighted.”

Some people are hired and the restaurant opens. From there, it’s a story about various people involved in one way or another with the restaurant. It’s a real people story—as the title might clue you in, since “Gente” means “people” in Italian.
The restaurant atmosphere and the attention to people over story reminded me a bit of Antique Bakery, but where Antique Bakery is zany and fanservice-y, Gente is serious and avant-garde. Despite the possible fanservice done with bespectacled men, as seen in some shojo manga, Gente doesn’t do fanservice. It’s more of an artistic and mature manga than that (which isn’t to say that fanservice is a bad thing, but that it works in certain types of manga and not so much in this type).
The stories are slow moving though not boring. They move gradually and don’t have any big drama like many other manga. In one story a waiter takes care of his grandchild for his daughter. In another story, a couple with marital problems tries to work it out and then goes out to eat together. I had some issues with a story centering on the waiter Vito. In it, he befriends a woman who lives with her sister and her sister’s abusive husband. While it’s shown that others don’t approve of how the husband acts, nothing is done to stop it. Maybe Ono did this on purpose to show how in real life abuse often goes unstopped, but I would have liked more to be done about it. I don’t like seeing abuse being covered up and ignored.
With the exception of that, I enjoyed Gente. It’s not going to be for everyone because of its slow momentum, sketchy art, and lack of a main plot. Nevertheless, there is something calming and interesting about it. Ono’s House of Five Leaves also moved at a similar pace, but I liked Gente considerably better. While House of Five Leaves could lag for me, I wanted to keep reading Gente.

Reviewed by Danica Davidson on March 23, 2012

Gente, Vol. 1
by Natsume Ono

  • Publication Date: August 17, 2010
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: VIZ Media LLC
  • ISBN-10: 1421532514
  • ISBN-13: 9781421532516