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Review: Neko Ramen, vol. 1: Hey! Order Up!

When Tanaka-san wanders into a new ramen restaurant in town, he’s stunned to see that the restaurant is owned and operated by a talking cat. But Taisho’s ramen skills leave something to be desired–namely taste and texture! He’s determined to succeed, though, and Tanaka-san can’t help coming back to the restaurant, just to see what will happen next.

Neko Ramen, vol. 1: Hey! Order Up!
Kenji Sonishi
Age Rating: T/Teen
TOKYOPOP, June 2010, ISBN 978-1-4278-1779-2
160 pages, $10.99

Neko Ramen is a yonkoma or “four cell manga,” like a comic strip in the United States, but told vertically rather than horizontally. As in comic strips, there is a set-up and a humorous ending. Unfortunately, that means that there isn’t much in the way of deep plotting. That’s not a bad thing–after all, Garfield isn’t the most introspective of works, either–but it can make for slightly tedious reading when you’re reading it all at once, rather day-by-day in the newspaper or online. The jokes are often of the “Oh my, Taisho’s a cat, but he doesn’t act like one!” variety and those can quickly get stale. Luckily, there’s enough of a storyline to keep things moving along and, much like Tanaka-san, you find that you want to see what crazy thing will happen next. Some comedic violence and a few mild curse words make this for middle school and up, but the humor isn’t really aimed at younger readers anyway.

Sonishi draws in a loose comic strip style which fits his loose story. Scenes are detailed enough to give you an idea of the setting and characters, but not burdened down by too much reality. He has an excellent grasp of just how to fill his small panels so that they tell the tale without being overly crowded. Additionally, TOKYOPOP has made sure to make this collection attractive. From the eye-catching cover and bright endpages, to the flip-art at the bottom of the pages, and the interactive website, they’ve insured that potential readers will want to pick this one up. Whether or not they stick around for volume two depends largely on their tolerance for rather repetitive talking-cat and bad-ramen jokes.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © TOKYOPOP.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.


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