Each chapter focuses on a different convict and the meal they have chosen. After a very promising first chapter which showed how Shunsuke the main character ended up in prison in the first place and set up the plot revolving around the competition for the rest of the series it is disappointing that the story falls flat on its face in the next two chapters. It is very difficult to stay interested in a manga which just has characters describe food. None of the stories which the characters tell are particularly hard hitting or dramatic. However I accept that I’m not really the market for which this manga is aimed at, I’m not a food otaku (if there is such a thing) and I’m not really that interested or knowledgeable enough in Japanese food. However considering that it was published in such a popular seinan magazine (Weekly Manga Action) and even got the live action treatment its clear that there is an audience for this title (I’m just not included in this audience).
Its hard to make a statement about the art work. Yes its good and often incredibly detailed but something about the artwork suggests to me that’s its just a typical seinan style. One of the main problems I have with it is that often the characters all look so similar (due to their convict hair style) I find it difficult to tell who is who.
However I’m so early in that my opinion could still change. Maybe I’ll be hit by the drama which the live action trailer promises me. Maybe I’ll get more of a feeling for Shigeru Tsuchiyama’s art work and I’ll actually be able to tell characters apart.
Note: I’ll add future reviews as I buy more chapters
Gokudou Meshi Volumes 1 and 2 are available on Jmanga.com http://www.jmanga.com/gokudou-meshi/1
Wanting to take up his fathers career and curious about the circumstances surrounding his disappearance, Mitsu takes up a job cleaning the windows of the huge ring like structure orbiting the earth which all humanity now inhabits due to the Earth having been turned into a nature reserve. Mitsu soon finds that his new job enables him to take on an outsiders view on the strange world of Saturn Apartments.
Whilst many parts of the story can’t be argued to be groundbreaking, the way in which Saturn Apartments society is divided holds the story together and makes each new client more interesting. Rather than focusing on society as a whole Hisae just looks at individuals making it interesting and creating a much more character driven story. She also doesn’t spend too much time explaining parts the world she has created in the narration (Though sometimes Mitsu and other characters do have out of place lines explaining how the world works, however they are few and far between), this makes the ring much more mysterious and I found it allowed me to piece details together for myself. However it’s the art work which really brings the story into its own. Hisae’s unique art style gives each panel character. She has also used light and darkness in an ingenious way: the lower levels of the complex are filled with darkness which bring out the despair of many of the characters who live there, the light on the second level gives the impression of hope and immense brightness of the rarely seen upper levels really show the prosperity and wealth belonging to its inhabitants. Hisae’s drawings of space and the Earth itself are all genuinely beautiful and do create a hypnotic sense of aw and beauty reminding me of the reactions to the first photos of Earth that captivated humanity when they were taken in the late sixties.
All of the characters are constantly striving to have more. The vast difference between what those of the lower levels and those of the upper levels want suggests that Hisae is really trying to make a statement on both society’s many social issues and how we can never accept our lives as they are – no matter how privileged.
Whilst Saturn Apartments’ storyline isn’t groundbreaking its art style is where it really shines and it’s the art style that often makes the book itself more interesting and keeps the pages turning. Overall I would thoroughly recommend this book to any reader who has become tired of the clichés of the average shonen/shojo art style and wants to find something more original and inventive or a reader who has left manga for a while and would like to read something mature but isn’t quite sure what title they should pick up.