Story: The plot seemed decent at first glance. However, everything about this manga boiled down to a typical, generic shoujo storyline.
Trait 1: Plain average girl who is fairly kind but lacks any other distinguishing trait garners the love and attention from the school's hot shots aka the guys all the girls love.
Trait 2: She gets the mean eye from the model in class who's jealous of her because the love of her life likes the main female instead of herself.
Trait 3: Everyone, and I mean everyone, has to love the girl because she's just so sweet.
Yeah, the main line was extremely predicatable and unoriginal like 95% of shoujo and there were lame fillers galore. Since the series was predictable, the manga on-whole was pretty boring. The only exception was that this series included cooking and baking which I absolutely love. It was pretty much the only reason I kept reading the story till the end and gave it such a high score. I just loved all the food references. If it was not for the food, I would give this manga a 2.5/3 and that would be pushing it.
Art: The art is extremely sub-par. There are a ridiculous amount of flowers and sparkles and polka dots that are just so distracting. The side profiles made the characters seem very unattractive. The boys are supposed to typical bishies but I found only Daichi to be cute. Najika was generic looking like many shoujo girls. I guess it's supposed to fit her completely bland personality? The expressions were incredibly over the top. Whenever a character was supposed to look shocked/upset, they just wound up looking like zombies. Not a fan.
Characters: Nothing remotely special about the characters. I can easily summarize every one of them in a about a sentence.
Najika/Main chick: Plain, dense, clueless, but nice and can cook and who swoons for the Prince in the school at first glance.
Sora: Knight in Shining Armor who is kind and lives solely to make the main girl happy.
Daichi: Nice but jokes around a lot with the main girl and lives soley to make the main girl happy.
etc....everyone falls under a stereotype. There's the mean jealous girl, misunderstood dad, misunderstood chef boy, cute kids, loving/supportive grandma, and the list goes on.
Overall: Okay if you're into all shoujo fluff entertainment that completely lacks in substance and consists of predictable plots and two-dimensional characters or you really love food or both. However if you want something with substance where you don't get sappy moment after moment, not to mention a sickenenly sweet, cliche, predictable ending that can make you gag, don't even bother with this. Now the reason for the high score was because of the recipes at the end. I highly recommend getting the manga just to try the recipes. Instead of wasting your time reading this manga, make the food. It's a lot more satisfying.
The story is... fine. It's nothing too great, nothing too ground-breaking, although it handles many tropes better than I would expect from a series this average.
The art improves over the time but in the first volume the characters look somewhat jarring. The food is always good-looking, though.
I respect the character arc Akane went trough. It was wonderful to see a "mean girl" character growing out of the trope. Although (SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!) I did not like how they handled her bulimia. Bulimia is not something you "get over" with the power of childhood memories and good food. I wish she had gotten into therapy. Well, at least they made it clear that eating disorders are not a laughing matter.
Sora and Daiki were literally just cardboard pieces. Just two tropes in the form of anime boys.
Najika isn't much better, although she is at least competent at something, which raises her above most of the shoujo protagonists.
The recipes in the end are great, the onion soup recipe became my special recipe.
For some reason, I like cooking manga. I like how people draw the foods and the characters mangakas create that prepare/serve the food. Usually these people are very free-spirited, spontaneous, devoted, and ambitious people without acting too annoying. Almost all cooking and food manga --if not like Toriko, which deals with "fictional foods"--often has cooking tips and recipes sprinkled in the manga or is featured as an extra at the end, which is what Kitchen Princess did.
Onto my analysis/Review:
ART: I worried how this manga was going to pan out after seeing the first chapter. The eyes seemed too awkward and big for the main girl's body, everything was a bit..off... but art was soon improved by the 3rd chapter, so that rested my worries for a bit. The food was drawn well, as food in cooking manga SHOULD. Typical shojo effects, though sometimes the panels seemed a little out of place or squashed. Plus there were instances where the characters' profiles just seemed weird, like their nose and mouth and eyes were all wrong for the head that was drawn. Other than that, average.
Najika, the main girl, is an orphan who is one of those mother-bird, always-sunshiney kind of girls who loves to cook and make food for people she loves. She is accepted into a prestigous cooking academy and meets the headmaster's two boys named Sora and Daichi. Both boys are fawned over by the other girls at the academy, and because Najika is 1) an orphan, 2) a country bumpkin, and 3) garners attention immediately from Daicihi and Sora, they turn feral and attack Najika. Typical jealous schoolgirl trope. Honestly it's pretty common and kind of lame, because I would slap those bitches across the face and tell them to get a life.
Because of the previous three things I've listed that make Najika hated, she is also constantly at risk of being forced into unofficial cooking competitions in order to prove her worth as a real cook/chef/baker/etc. She almost never loses her smile and determination, and truly wants people to have fun eating what she prepares. It's her basic goal in life.
She slowly proves herself through her honest and kind demeanor and begins to gain allies and friends at the academy, including a former self-proclaimed rival for Daichi's love.
There is "tragedy" and "oh-no!!!" but it didn't hit me. It's been pink bunnies and sweet parfaits up until now, and then Daichi and Sora's "dark family secrets" are suddenly revealed? Seriously, who has been reading TV Tropes? This is a straight Darker and Edgier if I ever saw one. Too bad it fell through for me. I didn't really care. I just wanted food, not drama. The ending panned out flatly to me, as well. Just so sudden and ... uninspiring. Like, everything was there, but I like it when the final "end" is spread across a few chapters, not one big chapter (50 pages). There are elements in this manga that shouldn't be here because it simply doesn't fit. Things like "evil dad stops being an asshole" and "secret family tragedy". It just doesn't work for this manga and detracts from the main goal in mind.
Najika is a smiley-faced, naive country girl who simply wants to make food for people she likes. Although a bit dense when it comes to how people really feel about her, she truly just wants everyone to heal through eating her food. Nothing wrong with that, I guess.
Sora is Daichi's older brother and the first brother to receive Najika's silent love. Sora is one of those kind, gentlemany kind of bishies, a foil to Daichi's blunt and and generally grumpy personality. Very typical. Truth be told I didn't like Sora. It also didn't help that in the last fourth of the manga a new character is introduced who looks exactly like him (even Najika mistakes him for Sora). To me that's just "replacing" a character. Don't worry though; the dude was a pompous ass. His "character development" felt weak and kind of lame, actually. Same with the Headmaster/Daichi+Sora'sDad. From the very beginning he is deadset on making Najika quit school in order to separate her from his boys, and tries very hard to make it so she can't win a competition or make the restrictions (or whatever) very difficult, but she manages to pull through. After the "personal family tragedy" is revealed, he turns a new leaf, which really threw me off.
This manga is average, overall. Average art, typical shojo cliches in it, and some out-of-place elements that I feel aren't really suited for the direction this manga was supposed to go. The ending disappointed me simply because it seemed rushed and last minute and stagnated. The art is weird at first, but then becomes cleaner. If you want a shojo cooking manga, you should read this anyway.
I'm not the world's biggest food manga fan, and I'm not afraid to admit it. However, I decided to give this shoujo a try.
Story: Kazami Najika, an orphan girl living at a wonderful little orphanage called Lavender House, is accepted into the elite section of a rich-kid school. She goes to the school in search of the boy who saved her and gave her a silver spoon--her "Flan Prince." At the school she meets more rude girls than the people Yagami Light kills... but she also meets a kind pretty boy and his tsundere-like brother.
And, for half of the whole series, this is basically the premise.
Sure, there are multiple cooking competitions and some VERY-original-for-fluffy-shoujo-manga scenes (which are, honestly, the only reason to read this manga), but most of the manga is just cooking and romance.
Think of it as the manga version of that movie "Ratatouille."
The only reason it may NOT be the manga version of that movie? This manga has as many plot twists as "Bloody Monday," some of them just as dark. It makes for an entertaining an unique shoujo read, even if some feel forced.
Art: The artwork is pretty and sparkly, with big eyes and pretty bishounen, but it is as typical as artwork can get. The character designs are straightforward and uninspired. The food, while far from photorealistic, looks tasty. One complaint is that the mangaka seems to have trouble drawing the elderly (most of them look like younger people with lines on their faces), but this is a rather petty problem. While the art is by no means groundbreaking or original, it is pleasing to the eye (the small-by-comparison eyes of the beholder) and never enters true chibi territory. (Though, I will say, a few of the scenes are completely moe.)
A few pictures so that you can judge the art for yourself:
Characters: ... Interesting cast.
Here's the deal: I have trouble finding pictures for obscure manga.
Kazami Najika: She has a lot of talent, as far as cooking goes, and she is very passionate about the power of good food. (She also is a big eater, but some archetypes should not be mentioned.) Her philosophy is that nothing is so awful it can't be fixed with a good meal. She is basically the shoujo equivalent of Kurosaki Ichigo: No matter how strong a hollow or rival chef, Najika/Strawberry can beat it. Love and friendship can only make you stronger, and love conquers all. Najika is practically invincible; her turbinado sugar is her zanpaku-to and her oven is her bankai. Her backstory is rather lighthearted (though I think the mangaka wanted it to be tragic), her motivations clear, and with her handy-dandy whipping cream at her side, nothing can stop her! (Which is good, because this manga deals with some mature themes, like death and eating disorders.)
Kitazawa Daichi: He is nearly a tsundere, but I don't think this was intentional. As far as love interest characters go, he is quite stereotypical and bland, and this never changes. His development is weak and he is not a strong main character.
Kitazawa Sora: Without spoiling, what he experiences halfway through the series... well, let's just say I did not see it coming at all. Save for that shocker, he is as bland as his brother.
Kishida Akane: She is likely the only character in the series who undergoes development. Originally just another enemy to Najika, she transforms into a jealous frenemy (what do you expect? If a girl has a crush, she does some crazy things), and finally into a caring friend to Najika. Due to this manga's portraying food as many manga portray tears (namely, food and tears heal ANYTHING), Akane opens up to Najika after tasting some nostalgic food made by Iron Chef here. After I got over my initial hatred of her, I learned that a leopard can in fact change it's spots. Akane is a great character.
Mizuno Seiya: He is as close to Near and Mello as a shoujo character can get. (And if you've read the series, you just might understand why I said that.) His slight development mostly revolves around his evolution from just a stuck-up master chef to becoming Najika's personal playboy.
There are other characters, but most suffer from no development at all. All in all, the mangaka seems to be at ease when creating well-rounded female heroines, but might need to work on her male characters.
Overall: A much denser read than it seems to be, "Kitchen Princess" is a good manga for the people who want a shoujo but can't stand fluff. Yes, it does have some moe moments and too many fluffy scenes, but it is darker than most shoujo manga out there. For comparison, think of "Mars" or "Fruits Basket," but for a younger audience.
I am a sucker for a Shojo series even as a 28 year old woman, so when I found out who the real Flan Prince was it was very predictable, but I am also not a middle school girl would probably be more surprised than I was. For a Shojo series it tackled eatting disorders and greif for a cooking manga I did not expect that at all, so that was very refreshing. This seris has a lot of Shojo like vibes, so if that is your thing I would recommend it. I happen to come across this at my local libarary. I read this when I was going through a hard time and was very comforting. The art seems to be typical of its time. I really like the art for the manga covers and thought the ending was wholsome even though it was predictable. If you want a story with good vibes that isn't too terrible long only 10 volumes I would recommned this one.