Here you will find honest, intelligent manga reviews for shojo fans of all ages.

Jul 15, 2009

The Recipe for Gertrude Vol. 1&2- Nari Kusakawa

The Recipe for Gertrude by Nari Kusakawa is a short fantasy series that ran in LaLa magazine starting in 2004.

Synopsis: Gertrude is a 100 year old demon who looks sixteen, and is made up of various body parts of other powerful demons. He was constructed by a man named Claude, and brought to life by a recipe from an ancient spell book. While fleeing from some demons who are demanding their stolen body parts, Gertrude stumbles upon Sahara, a teenage girl who seems fearless of him. After he rescues her from the demons, the two form a friendship. Sahara then joins Gertrude on his quest to find the "recipe" and destroy it.

Review: After reading the first volume of this series, I almost didn't pick up the second. The paneling was confusing and at times I had to reread sections to figure out what was happening. Most of the story in the first volume was episodic and felt very choppy, making it difficult to follow the events. It is a good premise for a story, but the execution just starts out so poorly. I did like what little I could fathom of the characters, which is why I begrudgingly picked up the second volume. In the second volume, slowly, things began to improve. The storyline gets much better, the characters develop more, and the paneling is not as confusing. For her first series, it's as if Kusakawa was trying to learn to ride a bike and finally succeeded in not falling over, for lack of a better metaphor. After reading the first couple chapters of volume three, I can see that she's gotten the hang of it, and the story is coasting smoothly.

What I like about this series so far is the story. Kusakawa doesn't go for dark and dramatic when it comes to demons - it's more lighthearted and comical. The relationship between Sahara and Gertrude is built on friendship with the affection developing over time. I liked Sahara's matter of fact attitude and her sarcastic banter with Gertrude. The plot gets deeper in the second volume after the audience has discovered what actually happened to Gertrude's recipe. We find out how Gertrude and Sahara are connected, and who is behind the events occurring. Since there are three volumes of story left, I might as well see how it ends.

What I don't like about this series is the artwork. The character designs are too similar. Sometimes I could only tell Sahara and Gertrude apart by the hair color. The head shape, big eyes, wide mouths, and tiny noses often left the impression I was looking at frogs. (Seriously, in some images I was just waiting for a long tongue to flash out of Gertrude's mouth and swat a fly.) So, big fail on anatomy. At first the paneling is everywhere. It makes it difficult to follow the action sequences and dialogue. That slowly improves in volume 2 and by 3, the layout is much steadier and easier to follow, but nothing exceptional, just adequate enough to tell the story. Some scenes don't even have backgrounds, just toning, and not necessarily effective toning.

Romance Rating: Cuddly - best friends that eventually kiss? - yes, some sentimental scenes.

Media Status: The Recipe for Gertrude has been released completely in 5 volumes from CMX. Kusakawa has 2 other English manga, The Palette of Twelve Secret Colors and Two Flowers for the Dragon.


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