Najika is excited to be attending prestigious Seika Academy, where she hopes to find the mysterious boy who saved her life just after she was orphaned.  However, if all she can do is cook, will she be able to fit in with the talented students at her new school?

Kobayashi’s story is as light and airy as any sponge cake, but just as sweet and if it isn’t terribly original, at least it is enjoyable.  Most of the characters are mere background elements.  The focus is on Najika, two estranged brothers named Sora and Daichi, and the school’s queen bee, Akane.  Najika is mostly the type of always-cheerful girl who shows up in a lot of shojo manga, but she does have moments of backbone and her wish to feed everyone into happiness is endearing.  The brothers are standard character types for romantic stories, with Sora as the perfect older brother, always calm and in command, and Daichi as his grumpy younger sibling who denies his obvious feelings for Najika.  The two of them are the romantic elements of the story, though it’s not immediately apparent which one Najika will end up with.  The weakest element is Akane.  She’s stereotypically beautiful and vain and suffers from an eating disorder.  That storyline could have been an interesting plot, but it is resolved in a wholly unbelievable way. Adults are few and far between, making the school setting feel more of a fantasy realm.

Ando’s art will be familiar to anyone who has read her previous work, Zodiac P.I. She favors huge eyes, wide-open mouths, and long flowing hair, which makes all of her characters seem rather ageless.  She also loves sparkly backgrounds and action filled panels, but she manages to keep her art from feeling crowded on the page and the story flows smoothly.  Del Rey Manga, as usual, does a nice job with presentation.  There are notes on honorifics at the beginning of each volume and translation notes at the end.  The covers are colorful and fitting to the story and the bindings are sturdy. One nice element is the inclusion of recipes, one for each chapter of the book.  They are fairly clearly explained, however some of the ingredients might be hard to find for the average American.  Some of the techniques assume a familiarity with cooking, so they aren’t all for beginners.

Overall, these first three volumes are a tasty beginning to a fluffy little story.  They don’t have any violence, language, or sexual situations, so they are appropriate for middle school and up.  (Del Rey has them rated “T” for 13+)  A nice choice for readers looking for a sugary shojo title, especially if titles like Gentleman’s Alliance +, Beauty Pop, and Yume Kira Dream Shoppe are favorites.

Kitchen Princess, vol. 1-3
Miyuki Kobayashi, Natsumi Ando
Vol. 1, ISBN: 978-0-345-49620-1
Vol. 2, ISBN: 978-0-345-49659-1
Vol. 3, ISBN: 978-0-345-49660-7
Del Rey Manga, 2007

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