WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.
Kitchen Princess by Natsumi Ando and Miyuki Kobayashi (This covers volumes 3-4 and a bonus story at the end of book four)
Type: Cooking, School Life, Shoujo,
Basic Plot: Najika is still looking for a particular boy that she has loved for several years. Things start getting distracting when her cafeteria is closing and her guardian gets sick, though. Even though it is hard to find him, it appears that he might have found her instead.
Plot: 3 ½/5 Above Average: The plot is still a bit predictable, but I did not expect certain things to come out so soon. Most manga and anime drag on and on before a person admits he like someone, even to himself. The people in this series all realize who they are in love with quite early. I think the most unique thing of all is the cooking lessons inside. You can learn some fascinating things about cooking in the story and there are recipes at the end, so that is unique.
Graphics: 5/5 Excellent Quality: I love the graphics in this series more than any other manga I have read. I love the way the food is drawn. It looks delicious just to see it. My favorite drawings are the “splash pages” which are the covers to each chapter. Most that I have seen in other manga are not very fancy, but this artist’s splash pages are very well drawn and very detailed.
Moral: 2½/5 Good and Bad Morals: There are good and bad morals in these volumes, but there are more good morals than bad ones. One of the good morals is forgiving others. Najika is bullied a lot by a girl named Akane in the first two volumes, but she helps Akane get over her bulimic/anorexic issue at the end of volume two. After this they are closer and Najika does not seem bitter at all. In volume four they do get in one fight, but afterwards Najika decides to be kind to Akane even if she was mean and they become friends. Also there is a smaller lesson of understanding other people. In volume three Najika emphasizes with someone who is also an orphan, so this can teach that we should help others that have suffered like we have. The one bad moral teaches recklessness a little. After Akane and Najika fight and then make up, they admit that there both in love. Najika tells Akane that when you fall in love with someone that “you can’t be dignified” because there is not much chances that it is mutual love. She believes that doing things that are a bit crazy are reasonable in love because of this. This idea is not talked about long or very much, but the idea that you should be reckless and do things on a whim is not wise. This is idea may be talked about, though, because the Japanese people are very repressed and private. It may be a way of them trying to encourage more spirit and openness in the readers.
Overall: 3 ½ /5 Above Average: I think the plot is interesting for preteens and teenagers and the drawings are outstanding, but the plot would probably not entertain adults that well. Also some of the morals were negative this also lowers the quality rating. I still recommend it quality wise to preteen and teenage girls, though.
Official Rating: T
Sexual and Inappropriate Content: ½/5 Slightly Suggestive: When Najika tells her friend he needs to eat real food and instead vitamins, she says, “Certain body parts aren’t going to grow!” This leaves them in an awkward silence. A boy kisses Najka’s forehead and another one kisses her on the lips. Neither is done in an inappropriate way though.
Violence: 1/5 Very Little Violence: Najika gets shoved twice. Najika hits her wrist against the wall. A boy smacks Najika’s hand away. Najika bumps her head and gets a lump on it for one panel. A boy shoves his brother against a wall, but more in a firm way than a violent one. There are two accidents that cause death, but they are only talked about. Najika and Akane get in a fight. They splash water all over each other and Akane shoves Najika. The violence that is done in the book is very light and there is no blood at all.
Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: ½/5 A Little Misuse: “Geez” is used twice and “gee” is used twice. When the children hear they are going to make cake with carrots in it a bunch of symbols pop up to show how upset they are.
Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 1/5 Slightly Emotional: Najika is quite emotionally troubled because her guardian is sick. The manga talks about children’s parents dying, but it only speaks about it and shows a Najika in a hospital. The side story is very emotional, but not intense or disturbing. It talks about and focuses on a girl that has died, so young children may find that a bit much.
Religious Issues: 2/5 Suggestive: A girl comes back as a ghost in the side story. She looks like a normal person and does nothing weird. It talks about the belief in Japan and Korea that the human soul is on earth forty-nine days after the physical death. It says the ghost “went to heaven” at the end, but Japanese are almost all Shinto and Buddhist so heaven probably means something different to them.
Magic: ½/5 Slightly Suggestive: Najika is told that her “desserts have a magical power” and that they “have special powers.” Najika wonders if a boy knew she needed a new watch by magic. She also thinks his “words are like magic” because he knows how to encourage her.
Others: A bunch of girls want a certain boy to serve them at lunch, and he yells, “This is not a host club!” He says this because Japan has bars where you can have people of the opposite gender serve you food and entertain you (I’m pretty sure they do not do inappropriate things there though, at least normally.) Host clubs are places like this for girls. A man smokes at least four times in the manga and in a character intro he is smoking. When Najika comes back from a trip, she finds that the man in charge of the kitchen has filled the fridge with beer. No alcohol is mentioned being drunk, though.
Overall: 1/5: Child Appropriate: These two volumes do not have as much emotional stress as the first two did, so these are more OK for younger people (well, except maybe the side story). I do not think your child would not start reading in the middle of the series though, so this part is more so to assure you that the series is still appropriate for eleven and twelve year old children and older.