Out with a whimper.
And here it ends, the final omnibus of Kitchen Princess, covering volumes 8, 9, and 10 of the original release. At this point its just as well, as the melodrama spike I criticized in the previous omnibus is back with a vengeance and then some, making some of the more crappily-executed melodrama moments of that omnibus look like Shakespeare by comparison. It honestly feels here like the end came about more because the wheels were swiftly coming off as opposed to because the author felt like it was time to end, although it does end in a fashion that feels proper, as irritating as some of the elements are, instead of as if the author was forced to toss something together. Although, honestly, maybe the author just was hoping for it to end, too – the entire thing had degraded to the point where she didn’t seem to have any ideas other than that giving tragic deaths to characters and having characters fall ill suddenly is always the answer when one feels their story is flagging.
In this volume, we find out yet another person’s parent died tragically, the TRAUMATIC return of some long-forgotten memories, and Najika’s guardian falls DESPERATELY AND MAYBE FATALLY ILL for about the twentieth time. Najika also discovers who her Flan Prince really is, but not before thinking it was someone else completely since the author can’t think of anything else to stall for time. And that whole cooking thing and competing in cooking? Yeah, lol, stuff that noise! Food continues to play a role, but so much time is spent sweating over stupid romantic complications and crying endlessly over TRAGIC stuff that one would be forgiven for not noticing.
I think my biggest issue, though, was in how utterly un-subtle Kitchen Princess is. Two of the characters go to visit a grave, one of them Najika, who clearly has something she wishes to communicate to the deceased. She confesses something to them while standing at the grave, and instead of leaving it at that, the dead person apparently responds. And they tell her that what she just confessed is TOTES OKAY and its just argh why why why, you could’ve just left it as her telling the dead person and we would’ve gotten that it was ok! We didn’t need some stupid thing with a supernatural ass-grab!
And maybe it is irritating, too, that once in a while the story gets it completely and utterly right. An antagonist is reformed here at last, and it doesn’t just feel like the usual shoujo “everyone has to be friends!” thing – the reason for their change in attitude is well-supported and understandable, even to the point that Najika doesn’t look like a total dolt for ignoring the bad ways this person treated her in. But this approach never wins the day, and it all sinks back into utter mediocrity within mere pages.
I doubt I’ll be re-reading Kitchen Princess, and I’m already looking to unload my omnibuses. This series is the very definition of B-list shoujo – perfectly inoffensive, featuring bland, depth-less characters, and addicted to a level of melodrama it cannot truly support. While the manga isn’t available in English, one would be far better served with watching Yumeiro Patissiere instead if one likes shoujo stories involving cooking. If you can pick up the omnibuses used for cheap and you like shoujo, fine, go for it, but full price? There are far better shoujo series available out there to devote your money to.