May 13, 2018
BlueKite (All reviews)
Bambino is a frustrating reading experience that had me feeling all sorts of emotions. I don’t mean that in a negative way. You see, it’s always a tendency that success is always the objective of the story when it revolves around an empowered character. They have their own share of struggles, but they immediately overcome it through the power of plot convenience. Bambino, however, is quite different.

The road to success is not a smooth route that can be achieved by just having talent. The manga attempts to slap the harsh truth to our main character Ban Shogo. He is not as great as he thinks he is. He may cook good food, but can he maintain that quality when put under constant pressure? It becomes apparent that he is just a naïve amateur who thinks he can be like one of those overpowered shounen MCs that can take down any opponent because he is the rising star of the story. While this realization comes as a gut punch, he slowly accepts this reality and swallows his own pride, proceeding to improve the weaknesses that he never realized before.

This is where most of my personal frustrations materialize. Reading the early chapters made me cringe a lot due to the endless streams of embarrassment the main character receives every chapter. I initially thought this would be a laid-back comfy cooking manga with a highly determined main character, but boy that first impression was wrong. This is not Shokugeki no Soma where you are a newcomer chef who thinks he is hot stuff and still manages to dominate because who doesn’t love seeing underdogs triumph? Bambino, on the other hand, knows how to put its main character in his place and let him develop and mature by letting him taste hardship. Every time the main character feels like giving up, I relate to that. Because I understand what it feels like thinking you know everything but then you find out you still have a long way to go. You then harden your resolve for self-betterment and fight against the things that are holding you down.

An aspect of the story that I appreciate very much is that it lets the main character go through the various sectors of the restaurant. Every time he is transferred to another work station, it would come as a shock to him to adjust. But with these difficulties that are placed on him, he can gain more experience and see cooking in different perspectives. Cooking is not just tossing a bunch of ingredients in a fry pan; it’s a delicate form of art that requires both passion and skill. Also, it also gives you a realization that cooking is not everything. Bambino teaches us that serving great food also requires great service. This includes from how you serve your customers to how you leave a strong impression that goes beyond the food. It’s not only about the ones making the food, it’s also about those who receives the food.

While the initial story puts Ban in a series of challenges that tests his determination, it slightly devolves later into a set of predicaments that you can predict that he will overcome. The stakes are still there, but you no longer feel that sense of uncertainty of whether you get a pass or not. It could be due to how he has accumulated experience over time that tempered his character, but I find myself relaxing that he can hurdle through any obstacles thrown at him with guarantee. To be honest, this is the only issue that’s holding me back on giving this manga the 10/10 that I was eager to give early on. It’s certainly a personal nitpick of mine, but I want to give this review a subjective edge to it.

This review wouldn’t be complete if I don’t at least say something about the art. The centerpiece of this manga is not really the food as it’s just a medium of how the story progresses. However, I can see the effort put into drawing them into gorgeous and savory meals. They don’t feel too perfect, but they look like a labor of love. The character designs are alright, albeit I get the impression that they are inspired from the shounen demographic despite the manga being a seinen. The paneling is impressive, I had no difficulty at all devouring every page of every chapter. They seem to flow very efficiently although very chaotic at times, just like the atmosphere of a cucina.

Despite only being a prequel with no conclusion yet, Bambino is a fantastic yet underrated manga that everyone should read. While I do also love the more popular cooking titles like Shokugeki no Soma, Bambino deserves the same amount of attention. Not only it’s more realistic, but it has actual development going on. It might only stick with Italian cuisine but fusion with other cuisines happen from time to time. I still feel like it hasn’t used up all its potential and I’m excited to see what happens next with the sequel. The question is, when the hell is it going to be fully scanlated? Give this the acclaim it deserves, and we might see that fulfilling conclusion.