Shogo Ban, a college student from Fukuoka, likes to cook. Thanks to the owner of the restaurant where he works part-time, he finds himself working at the line of Roppongi's best Italian restaurant, Trattoria Baccanale, and discovers that the real deal isn't quite as easy as he'd thought. The manga follows Ban as he struggles to keep up with the hectic workload and his co-workers, along with issues outside the kitchen like his relationship with his girlfriend Eri, who he left behind in Fukuoka.
Bambino! is a seinen manga about the nitty gritty of the culinary world as seen through the eyes of a young man looking to find who he is on the threshold of adulthood. The story is fairly simplistic at the offset, with Ban struggling to juggle his ambitions, his relationships, and the tangibility of his dreams as he sets off to become a great chef. It will strike a chord with many young adults with similar dreams, especially in creative fields like cooking. Therein lies the primary theme of Bambino!: having the heart -- or the ambition, the drive, the optimism, the
spirit -- necessary to follow one's dreams, no matter what.
Ban's sheer idealism may be grating after a while, especially once the story picks up some more slightly ridiculous/out-of-the-way plot elements, but it is motivating. There's a lot of emphasis placed on Ban's ability to succeed not because of his prodigious talent, per say, but rather his sheer force of will -- Ban is willing to go the distance, work as hard as possible, and also happens to (luckily) be a likable and affable person. He's honest, stubborn, prideful, and temperamental -- the perfect vehicle for a young man's fantasies of personal achievement.
The art for Bambino is fairly well done, with a lot of technical prowess displayed in drawing figures from interesting angles with an excellent sense of movement. It would easy to make a cooking manga where everything is static, if finely drawn, but Bambino! succeeds in communicating the sheer physicality of cooking. Tetsuji Sekiya makes good use of the brush pen for more stylized and dramatic moments, creating theatricality where there would otherwise be none. Bambino! makes heavy use of splash pages, exaggerated angles and close-ups, changes in brush strokes, and deep contrast to create atmosphere to great effect. This is not a visually boring manga, by any means.
Characters are well-designed, unique-looking, and memorable. The story relies on Ban's character development and so other story elements and character conflicts remain merely satellites to his narrative, but they do stay with you despite this. Other characters tend to come and go within Ban's life, some only appearing for an arc before disappearing completely, but there's a real sense of humanity behind these other characters -- something sometimes difficult to achieve in a non-ensemble story. It's very easy to care about these characters in of their own merit, and though the story fails to tie up the loose ends of some of these characters by the conclusion, they still feel like very real people in a very real world, even as they exist alongside our protagonist. They're funny, hard-working, clever, cruel, honorable, petty, loving, sarcastic, pathetic, uplifting, complicated people who contribute to a dramatic slice-of-life story that goes well beyond its settings in the hot kitchens of one of Roppongi's greatest restaurants.
In the end Bambino! isn't merely about cooking, although it does a tremendous job with that. Descriptions are lush, and the level of technical knowledge applied to some of the dialogue is impressive. If you enjoy cooking (or eating) it's very easy to get swept up in the sheer excitement and enthusiasm the characters (and the author) seemingly have for the culinary arts.
At the heart of Ban's story however is the drive and desire which fuel the dreams of young people. Ban meets several characters throughout the course of his journey who have at various points had to make compromises or sacrifices for the sake of their dreams. He's consistently faced with the consequences, both good and bad, behind a path driven by almost single-minded idealism -- but as noted by several older characters within the book, there's something charming, interesting, and romantic about Bambino's dreams, about the dreams of youth. The narrative neither condemns nor uplifts one fate over the other, but rather pays tribute to a very specific type of abstraction: a youth dreams of the future, dreams of passion, and of freedom, and so changes the world around them.
When people say "cooking anime/manga", the first thing people think of is Shokugeki no Souma. And for most, that's the best cooking series that they've watched/read. I also thought that way until I read this series, Bambino!. Don't get me wrong! I like Shokugeki. But... This isn't just a cooking battle shounen series like Shokugeki.
It's about life, motivations, dreams and how to overcome hurdles.
I would compare this series to Tetsuwan Girl (a sports seinen about freedom, virtue and liberation; one character in Bambino reminds me of the MC in Tetsuwan) and Honey & Clover (a slice of life josei about finding your raison
d'etre). I, myself, am struggling to find where I should go in life and reading this series was something I really needed. Now, for the actual review...
I think that one of the strongest things about this series are the distinct, real characters. Usually, side/recurring characters in fiction are just one-dimensional stereotypes that are used to make the main character look better but in this manga, they're real people with struggles, hopes and dreams just like our main character. They all get a time to shine some time in the series and the thing I really like is that the arcs feel very natural! In a lot of Anime/Manga, when they try and squeeze in a lot of side characters' arcs, sometimes, it can be a hit and miss. Like, one person's arc may be super boring while another's is very interesting. In this manga, all the arcs were interesting and captivating. I wanted to cheer all of them on.
I finished this manga in two days because of how good it is. It makes me want to keep reading because I want to know what will happen next. Everything feels like real life. Another Anime/Manga that do this well are Space Brothers and Major. They're all about adults doing real things. It's not idealistic or wish fulfillment at all.
Another thing I really like is that that main character, Ban, is talented and hardworking but he doesn't get all the spotlight and still has to work hard to get where he is at the end. In Shokugeki, the main character is basically the best cook in the entire series right from the start and keeps on "pwning" everyone in every single battle. Ban in Bambino! has lots of flaws and struggles a lot which is why I enjoy reading his story. He feels real. When a character starts out weak, it makes it easier to cheer them on because it's like putting yourself into their shoes.
Other aspects: The art is very rich, exaggerated, detailed and realistic which is fitting for this series. The pacing is done exceptionally well as I finished this in two days. Chapters are typical 20-page length which is perfect if you want to take a breather in between although, it's such an intense manga that you won't want to put it down. Despite being a prequel, the ending wasn't too rushed and still felt like a solid ending, even though it was an open ending.
If you want something life changing, exciting, fresh or just want to learn more about food/cooking (Italian dishes!), I really recommend this series. It's very fun, refreshing, and powerful to read especially if you're bored of the typical high school LN magic harem bullshit.
Howdy folks. Today I'd like to talk about a series I really enjoyed as I have always had a personal interest in the culinary world called Bambino!
Surprisingly there isn't a whole lot to say about this story. It's about Ban's journey through young adult life having to make adult decisions while trying to progress through his choice of career: culinary. It's really just a more serious, realistic (within the world of anime and manga) take on a cooking centric story if you ask me.
There are other characters, chefs, cooks and
couples including a nemesis for our boy Ban here that I found fairly interesting. A lot of the story focuses on quite a few different character's lives and dreams, and what one has to endure to try to realize them.
What is there to say about Bambino! Well, while it was being translated it would be one of the first series I would check for updates then read before the other twenty or so series I'd be checking out. I am a slice of life cat, but let's talk a little bit about how it's different from other cooking centric stories. Ban is not some genius prodigy, he does not have some hokey special power or trait that benefits him with cooking. Ban's just a normal young man who's got to do things the good old fashioned way and hey, you know what, for me that works a lot better for me than what the majority of other cooking centric stories focus on: some kind of magical taste that snobbish judges are constantly being wowed and articulating in at least what comes off to me in a pretty silly manner. I suppose it's necessary to some extent as it does happen a bit in Bambino!, but Bambino! is thankfully not above a character describing a flavor (or their efforts) simply as "it's good."
The other thing I am rather fond of from this series is naturally as a slice of life story, it is very philosophical. Many facets of Ban's career, from the way different peers of his view him to how much he's thought things through are reflected upon by himself. Even Ban's professional relationship with his arch nemesis becomes rather interesting because the closure to their story arc. Charming ideologies such as "a restaurant is a place of once in a lifetime meetings," are to be found within said story.
Recommended for: Well if you like slice of life stuff, this one ain't so bad. Also if you were more curious about what trying to become a professional waiter, cook or chef might be like, this is a good story to check out. Not completely realistic, but it's a lot stronger on that aspect of the culinary world than any other cooking centric series I've checked out has been. If you've ever worked in a restaurant then Bambino! might be something you'd enjoy.
Recommended against: Well really..if cooking ain't your thing I'm not sure why you've read this far into the review. There isn't really any epic battling, even the cook offs are generally not super high stakes. They become that way once or twice in the series but nothing like say Yakitake!! Japan. There is a little fighting though, which I'd imagine happens in that career field. Lord knows I came close a handful of times in my stint working in a restaurant kitchen.
If you find Bambino! to your liking, there is actually a follow up series called Bambino! Secondo which currently has eight volumes. Also if you like live action, there was a live action show of Bambino! which I'm gonna check out soon myself. It apparently aired in Puerto Rico, Canada and surprisingly America. Huh..wonder when that happened. Well anyways, eleven episodes, give it a looksie if you like Bambino! or Asian live action shows.