La Taverna di Mezzanotte Vol. 2, the review

La Taverna di Mezzanotte Vol. 2, the review
After talking to you about the first volume of La Taverna di Mezzanotte, the work of mangaka Yaro Abe and published in Italy by BAO Publishing for the Aiken series, now it's time to talk to you about the second chapter of this Slice of life manga miniseries. We remind you, in case you didn't know, that La Taverna di Mezzanotte, thanks to its huge success in the Japanese market, has also become a very popular live action series available on Netflix entitled Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories.

La Taverna di Mezzanotte Vol. 2: new and old characters come into contact

We had left the first volume of La Taverna di Mezzanotte with the awareness of having met a small and welcoming restaurant located in a charming alley in the district of Shinjuku in Tokyo. The peculiarity of this little place is that it opens at midnight and closes at seven in the morning, a completely unusual time that makes it attractive to very ambiguous and particular people.

Some of these are habitual, while others enter a time and they never come back. But everyone is aware of finding a menu consisting of a few, but tasty dishes prepared with love and with the ingredients preferred by customers. After all, food represents the point of contact between the lives of customers and the anonymous and good listener cook. We get to know both regular customers and occasional customers and their stories refer perfectly to the food on the counter which also gives the title to the various mini-chapters into which the work is divided.

In this second volume there are twenty-eight new stories, between characters who return almost unexpectedly and new acquaintances, who come and go in the middle of the Shinjuku district in Tokyo. The cook always maintains his clarity and attention while people from all walks of life and professions enter and leave the place. We observe, in fact, the entry of escorts, directors, gangsters, artists and simple employees who finish working at prohibitive hours. All of them are united by the pleasure of good food and the desire to leave behind the monotony of everyday life trying to find peace, tranquility and maybe a chat while enjoying a delicious dish made just according to their tastes.

Fra the most popular characters certainly find Ryu, a Yakuza gangster with very brusque and few words manners who gets excited while tasting the red sausages cut in the shape of an octopus. His protective barrier is scratched by the meeting with Kosuzu, the elderly owner of a gay bar also known in the first volume: first their meeting appears completely unexpected and useless, but then the two get closer and begin to re-emerge ancient memories and past loves.

Among the characters, however, we can also include Hitomi, a chilly girl who seeks warmth from the young students who populate the city, the plump and sweet Mayumi, a surly couple who alternates moments of joy with scenes of unprecedented jealousy and also an ambiguous man so fond of eggs that he can eat seven at the same time. Furthermore, for the first time, we find two oddities, one linked to the dishes and one to the stories told by customers.

An unexpectedly and positively distorted narrative

As regards the first, we find unusual requests of dishes out of Japanese culture such as beef stroganoff. As for the stories, we now find more urban legends linked to different paranormal characters, such as a hypothetical vampire, who add a touch of mystery and fantasy to the story.

Despite this, the second volume of La Taverna di Midnight always maintains its realism as even the strangest aspect is linked to the daily life of many people. After all, we too can recognize ourselves in some character or in the situations told, given that we often happen to tell potentially unrealistic urban legends, but which are part of popular beliefs or stories of old ancestors.

The fil rouge of every single story, however, continues to be the food that not only arouses memories and emotions, but reconciles tranquility and love. Although some traditional Japanese dishes are replaced by international dishes, a symbol of globalization present in a metropolis like Tokyo which also affects small city restaurants, all the characters have a dish that describes and characterizes them.

If so far the stories shown in the first volume of La Taverna di Mezzanotte were anthological, in the second volume they are almost all linked by a common thread that in addition to food is composed of the theme of love. A courageous choice, but one that never falls into cliché or dull events thanks to the coldness of the author Yaro Abe who prefers to characterize the characters in a raw and natural way rather than playing with the feelings of the reader. For this reason, issues considered taboo for Japan are discussed such as bullying, sexuality, prostitution, organized crime and marital betrayal.

Each client, therefore, carries fears, hopes, desires and regrets in his heart , but when they order the dish and taste it, its scent and consequent flavor can make people more sincere with themselves and with the other customers with whom they exchange a few words. Furthermore, for the first time, the owner of the restaurant loses a small part of the mystery that surrounds him and we also see him in small moments outside the room, where he becomes the protagonist and not just a storyteller. Food is given such great power that it also triggers important, unusual, forgotten encounters capable of changing the lives of some characters both for good and for bad, with courageous or extreme decisions.

Art style which outlines the real protagonists of the story

It is not only the narration and the story that change, but also the artistic style which is now more stylized and simple, especially as regards anatomies. What instead acquires more detail are the facial expressions and the food that places an evident dividing line between one chapter and another, but also the setting with tables no longer relegated solely to the interior of the small tavern, but which also show the exterior with characters that so far we would not have expected to see outdoors such as the aforementioned owner of the venue.

The editorial point of view

From the editorial point of view, BAO Publishing has succeeded again to pack an engaging story within a volume of sublime realization. The paper weight is excellent, but the most satisfying aspects are some color plates that embellish the volume and the opening page in white silk-screened parchment with paper dust jacket. Only by sight and touch does one really want to read the wonderful story contained within the volume.

Conclusions

La Taverna di Mezzanotte Vol. 2, in conclusion, reconfirms the beauty of this story making the reading engaging and light recommended both for comics and manga fans and for casual readers or for newbies to the genre. The story takes a completely new turn thanks to the skill of the author Yaro Abe who decides not to monopolize the story on a single track and courageously manages to overturn the narrative bases without falling into clichés or melodramas. Food continues to be the main element in the life of the characters who are now not limited only to Japanese dishes, but also show their multiculturalism by pursuing very Western issues considered taboo in their land. In short, a work as courageous as it is functional that shows all the mirrors of everyday life.

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