I expected Ristorante Paradiso to be something like a second Bartender. It’s a quieter, slice-of-life type anime set in a restaurant, and it’s got more mature looking art like Bartender did. The show is set in Rome (which is quickly drilled in by the high number of times the phrase ‘grazi’ is used) and the main character is a girl in her early 20s. Her parents divorced when she was young and her mother left her with her grandma since she was six, trying to keep her a secret until she can get remarried. She decides to introduce herself to her mother’s new fiance, owner of an extremely popular restaurant in Rome. While this all serves as a set up, it does not however seem to be the plot focus. That is something much more frightening.
Watching the first episode was kind of akin to watching Takashi Miike’s Audition, where everything starts off pretty normal and innocent, but then signs of creepiness start slipping through until the ending when the whole thing goes batshit nuts (a reviewer described it as ‘a swan dive into a pit of needles and razor wire’, a line I stole for my Pandora Hearts first ep review.) However, Ristorante Paradiso is far from a horror anime. It appears to be some sort of romance.
You pretty much figure things out at the same speed as the main character does. When she arrives at the restaurant, the man who greets her is an older gentleman wearing spectacles. She sits down at the table with her mother (who is pretending she is someone else’s daughter for her date’s sake) and her fiance. Their waiter arrives, and is another handsome, easily-40 gentlemen wearing spectacles. It’s around this time that she starts to notice that most of the women in the restaurant are middle-aged women. It’s gotten a little weird.
Then she heads to the bathroom and meets the chef and her waiter who introduces them. The chef, too, is a gentleman in spectacles. the girl decides to inquire ‘why does everyone working here wear spectacles?’ then the first shocking truth comes out. The chef shows that his spectacles are fake. They are required to wear spectacles there. The explanation: ‘because oku-sama likes it that way.’
For those who don’t know, oku-sama/san translates usually to ‘madame’ and basically refers to a wife. In this case they are referring to the owner’s wife-to-be directly, who apparently instated the spectacles rule, but it’s easy to see that everyone in the restaurant is an oku-san. SO BASICALLY ITS A FETISH CAFE. This is later admitted by the owner himself ‘most of the customers come to hit on the waiters.’ It’s sunk in. I am watching something completely aimed at the most frightening form of fujoshi.
The next day, the main girl is walking around town and she runs into her waiter. He is an incredibly kind gentlemen and the girl starts finding him attractive… and starts swooning a bit. Uh oh. He invites her to have lunch with the whole restaurant staff, and she does, meeting all of them and making conversation. She asks them about things like which of them are popular and so on and they talk about how each of them has things that women like about them (you know, their ‘moe points’) Then we find out that three of them, including the one she likes, ar married. Ouch.
However, as the episode goes on, we see her falling for him harder and harder… and then there’s the next episode preview. She pushes him onto a chair. BLushing, she climbs on top of him. She undoes to of his buttons. He places his hand on his head and, in true bishie fashion, cries… “I musn’t!”
That was it. I felt as if I’d been run over by a truck. A truck called ‘old man moe’. Please kill me now. I might be gay.