Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Neko Ramen, vol. 1 Hey! Order Up!

By Kenji Sonishi
Published in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline: Not realistic in that no cat work around that much water.

While on his lunch break Tanaka decides to try out a new ramen shop and discovers it has the strangest chef he has ever heard of.  It is not that the ramen chef Taisho is particularly skilled (in fact, he does not seem to be very good) but instead that he's a cat.  Taisho ran away from home, determined to not be like his cat model father who specialized in being too cute for words.  After his dream of being a sushi chef fell through (he snacked on the fish) he turned to ramen noodles. Taisho swears that he plans to become a famous ramen chef, but his ramen never really improves and he seems to be more interested in fame than anything else. Strangely he ignores his quickest route to fame for while Taisho knows that he is a cat, he refuses to act like one and ignores that others refuse to do the same.  You can find most of the humor of the series coming from either Taisho's ineptitude or the face he is a cat in a chef's world as Tanaka tries to be the voice of reason.

Neko Ramen is another 4-koma but like many other 4-koma collections, there are several short stories in the volume that are not. Unlike many other 4-koma collections, the shorts work very well and continue story threads that were begun in the 4-koma. A lot of the humor derives from jokes about ramen noodles, so on occasion there are gags that lack punch because they rely on knowing more about ramen noodles than one would normally know outside of Japan. That being said, most of the jokes come across without any difficulty because they rely on standard comedic situations such character obliviousness. The strongest source of humor comes from Taisho's inability to accept that a talking cat could be unusual, and while it could have gotten monotonous, those gags are broken up with enough other kinds of humor that it never does.

Neko Ramen, vol. 1 Hey! Order Up! is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

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