One of the strengths of this anime is the simplistic plot followed consistently through the series and fit around episodic back story and events. The central conflicts are whether or not Nicoletta will reveal her mother to her second husband, whom she left her for as a child, and potentially destroy their relationship and what will become of her crush. That she doesn’t immediately out her mother is her curiosity for the world of Casetta dell'orso, a restaurant in an idealised corner of Rome. Her interest about her mother’s life, a potential and surprising love interest and a revival of love of cooking, put on hold her wish for vengeance.
Distinguished by the mainly older bespectacled staff the restaurant is visited by women that find them very attractive, this is slightly uncomfortable side of the show, there is an element of fetish about them wearing glasses and the throngs of women there to stare at the staff skirts the line between romantic and disturbingly erotic, but then maybe I’m just a little conservative in this area. It is certainly a reversal of the dynamic I normally expect to see which I suppose gives it elements of reverse harem eve if they aren’t all after the main character. Nicoletta’s crush on Claudio who must be at least 20 years older, I actually tried to calculate this at some point, starts off horribly cringe worthy (picture yourself clutching a pillow wincing) is some how redeemed as the series progresses and made, cleverly, a less ridiculous outcome by the episodic representation of successful romantic links that are also often slightly unconventional.
A minor thing, and this might be my inexperience with this type of anime, but I spent the first few episodes expecting it to turn into a yaoi making Nicoletta’s crush made entirely comical. This was mainly because of the intense effort they made to make all the male characters attractive and graceful, along with the soft colours and style of the animation.
Generally lovely this is a soft lit, sparkly, fuzzy sort of animation that fills you with the warmth of small rooms lit by candles and warmed by other happy people. As a slice-of-life character based piece the animation was fine and the exaggerated facial features helped to express the emotions and differentiate the characters through their expressions pretty well. I liked the way older characters were presented and felt they successfully suggested age while maintaining attraction that was necessary to the setting. What actual animation there is mainly depicts food or the elegant and attractive movements of the restaurant staff and their various mannerisms.
However the cgi isn’t integrated very well, and often sticks out, taking your attention away from the characters to stare at a wine glass or some other object that shouldn’t be the main focus. I wasn’t very fond of the texture of clothes which was static while the characters moved and was very disconcerting. However it was interesting and I can see that these techniques with some improvement and finesse could work well if here I found them a distraction.
The savings they must have made on animation has been wisely spent on the music. That doesn’t mean that there are tons of flashy tunes that stick out in their own right but the music is high quality and married really well to the soft focus atmosphere of the anime. High production values (as in actual instruments that are played well, which I’m a complete sucker for, rather than synth ones) and consistent style make it the perfect accompaniment to a romantic slice-of-life, heightening emotion and illustrating the mood of each scene. The music goes a long way to construct what is an endearing if cliché representation of continental European sophistication. It is a little samey which I forgive it for but others might not. None of the voice actors struck me as being very irritating or particularly note worthy which isn’t a criticism.
Being older characters they each have a lot of important history outside of their childhood which is refreshing in an anime. There are lots of complex relationships here as well, the ex-wife that hangs about despite Claudio’s obvious feelings for her, the restaurant owner’s half brother Gigi related through brotherly and adulterous betrayal, the mother that selfishly chose her own happiness to the complete abandonment of her daughter and who is reluctant to confront the issue. Their motivations are generally believable and easy to empathise with, even the confused Nicoletta who despite herself is coming round to her mother. This seems mostly from the influence of her forgiving grandmother, although why she would forgive her daughter for leaving her a child to raise it isn’t clear.
Many of the character’s have historical ties or family ones and the large number of secondary characters are very likeable. My complaint is that overall they are too likeable and soft on each other, Claudio’s refusal to give up on his ex-wife is met with understanding and patience rather than the exasperation I felt. Even the critique of Nicoletta’s inept attempts at coming up with a new dish isn’t believably harsh.
This softness makes Nicoletta’s more excitable and impetuous character entirely necessary as a counter point, although she has an irritating tendency to blush at everything, not just the things she should really blush about. The anime is too short to really explore all the characters in depth but it does well to mix in mannerisms with back story that in large brushstrokes make all of them live a little, even then infuriatingly meek Claudio.
I am certain it is not everyone’s cup of tea; my partner gave up halfway through and would have much earlier if I hadn’t continued watching. Also nothing apart from the maturity of the characters struck me as being particularly original. It was sufficiently interesting to draw me in and after the curiosity about what direction the anime would take. The unlikely relationship won me over with along with the difficult reunion of mother and daughter. The straightforward and clear story held together what was a fairly ambitious number of characters. It is one of those series that on an intellectual level wasn’t spectacular but I was emotionally involved and touched by it. After considering it for sometime I have come to realise that my fascination with the anime is in having to confess that I enjoy a mushy romance more than I previously would have admitted.
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