Review by: Jeff Reid

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Avg Rating: 5.0
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Size: pages
Price: 10.99

I should not find Neko Ramen funny. First, it’s set in a ramen shop. I’ve barely been inside of a sushi bar in America, let alone a ramen shop in Japan. I don’t know udon from miso. The story is filled with a multitude of cultural references that I know I’m missing. This is, of course, due to the fact that this is a manga translated into English, but I know I’m missing a lot of stuff that’s going on.

However, I find plenty to laugh at with this book. The main character is Taisho, a talking cat who is running said ramen shop. The only person who finds this weird is Tanaka, Taisho’s regular customer and surrogate for the reader. No one else seems to find it weird that a small white cat is cooking their lunch for them. A strong reason that this odd premise works is that the book is almost entirely told in four panel stories, very similar to daily newspaper comics. Two four-panel strips are on each page. This keeps the pace frenetic and the jokes coming at you quick. If there’s something you don’t understand in punchline due to cultural differences, the next comic will be about how Taisho wants to put fancy catfood in a food critic’s ramen in order to get a good review. That kind of joke is just universal.

There isn’t much of an actual storyline here. Four panel jokes do have some plot progression, but it’s mostly about the insane things Taisho does to get attention for his shop, the fact that he’s a cat, and Tanaka’s reactions to it all. Occasionally, the four panel strips give way to longer stories which spread out over several pages. It’s at times like these where the reader is given a bit of Taisho’s backstory, which may be my favorite part of the book. It seems that Taisho’s father was an adorable cat model who wanted his son to follow in his legacy. Taisho rejected the superficial life of a model to strike out on his own and make his mark on the Japan’s culinary landscape. But he’s not above using his good looks to occasionally help promote his shop.

The art is very cartoony with characters made of as few lines as possible. However, when the food has to be drawn, Kenji Sonishi takes his time.

So, if you’re down for something light and fun, check this manga out. At the very least, see if your library has it. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Story: 5 - Excellent
Art: 4 - Very Good

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