Neko Ramen, Volume 1: Hey! Order Up!

Kenji Sonishi, Author
Kenji Sonishi, Tokyopop, $10.99 paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-4278-1779-2
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In this solidly funny collection of 4-panel strip comics, a cat runs a small ramen restaurant. The cat, named Taisho ("Boss" in Japanese) has only one loyal customer, Tanaka. Many of the jokes are from Tanaka's point of view, as he puzzles over Taisho's existence, a little like the conflict in the Pixar film Ratatouille, with the caveat that Taisho isn't a great chef. Sonishi gets a lot of mileage out of Taisho's species confusion—Taisho uses a scratching post and pays his employees in milk. The best humor comes from surprise; Taisho impresses a gourmet critic with his ramen, despite the presence of canned cat food topping. Sonishi's simple line-drawings provide just enough art tell the jokes. A few longer narrative sequences are surprisingly well composed, despite the minimalism. Readers unfamiliar with Japan's ubiquitous ramen shops may not get all the jokes. The back matter includes a cute interview with Sonishi, a word from the translators, a letter from the editor, and four pages of ads for the series' Web site. Fortunately, most of the jokes are broad enough to make even non-Japanophiles smile. (June)

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