Manga Chapter of the Week: Bambino 36 (Primo Piatto)

I’ve wanted for a while to do more with manga on this blog, but the manga I typically read are weekly things, and it’s hard to come up with something to say about every chapter of them. Instead, I’m going to borrow from my time at shonenbeam again and simply do manga entries abut the best chapter of manga I happened to read this week. This week’s main dish is a spectacular chapter from a delicious manga, Tetsuji Sekiya’s Bambino.

So Bambino is a manga that split the 2007 Shogakukan Manga Award with scammer manga Kurosagi. This is a series about a guy working to become an Italian chef, and dealing with the more general struggles of career advancement. It’s the kind of super-motivational series that almost makes you want to have the main character’s job despite showing how wicked hard it is.

And this particular chapter focuses on the importance of a good waiter, as the male lead has recently been working as one and can’t seem to get it together. The important points that will help your understanding going into this scene are as follows: 1) the guy is coming from a restaurant where he noticed the obviously crappy service, 2) he’s with a female co-worker, and 3) he doesn’t know her that well, so their trip to the restaurant was filled with awkward silence.

So he gets to the good restaurant, and finally gets a conversation started up with the girl. Meanwhile, their waitress is swapping out dishes like a freaking ninja, dishign out each new course with practiced skill. So the flow of the conversation isn’t broken, and the meal is accented to an astounding degree. The point of the scene is that good service is something the diners don’t even think to notice. Two key pages of the scene are shown below.

Bambino36-12_13

The thing about this scene that was so great is that it’s the kind of scene you need manga to work. The conversation needs to appear natural, but you need to see the waitress at work at the same time. In text, that sort of scene would have to choose between breaking the flow by spending a line or two on the fact that the table was being waited, or else not say anything and risk making the scene confusing. Thanks to Sekiya’s cinematic touch, though, there are only a few brief panels where the waitress is present, and the pages are built to make the conversation the subject of the reader’s focus. Thus, the scene where the waitress blends into the background of the diners’ experience blends into the background of the reader’s experience. It’s simply beautiful, poetry in motion, a slam dunk, or whatever else you call free-form success. I read this and I think; “This is why I read manga.” So yeah, I’m pretty happy with this as my inaugural chapter of the week.

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