La Sommelière and Naruto Crossover?!

Scott Green of AICN Anime posted on his twitter account an image of Uzumaki Naruto with apprentice wine specialist Itsuki Kana from my favorite wine manga La Sommelière (not that I’ve really read any others). The image is done by the artist Matsui Katsunori, and is in celebration of Naruto‘s 10th Anniversary.

Now this is a crossover I can get behind. I bet much like Wolverine, Naruto can take a lot of alcohol due to having an unusually powerful self-healing ability.

If you want more information on the series, I’ve previously reviewed the first three volumes of La Sommelière.

Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3

I’ve most recently picked up Volume 11, though truth be told I haven’t really been reviewing later volumes as once you get the sense of the first two or three you’ll definitely be able to tell if you’ll like it. Later volumes introduce some new characters and still have the same fantastic wine stories, but somewhat like Golgo 13 once you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all.

And if you don’t know Naruto, well, I’m sure someone on the internet will tell you very quickly.

La Sommelière

Teaching Japanese People French Profanities: La Sommelière Volume 2

You know a woman is passionate when she eats dirt for fun.

With her soil-sampling quirks and love for wine La Sommelière Itsuki Cana continues to adjust to life in Tokyo. Last volume found our intrepid wine-serving heroine working at L’espoir, which is a French restaurant and certainly not some kind of creepy boat. Naturally, Cana is still helping others work through their respective problems by conveying messages via wine where words simply fail.

I should point out two mistakes I made in the previous review, and you just saw one of them. I had previously spelled her name as “Itsuki Kana” thinking that “Kana” written in katakana was just them being cute. But no, Ms. Itsuki actually has a foreign name, and it’s a reference to the place where Jesus turned water into wine. The next mistake is that I didn’t say where she was from, and the answer is France. Cana is Half-French, Half-Japanese with a biblical name.

Volume 2 of La Sommelière expands greatly upon the supporting characters, comprised primarily of Cana’s fellow staff members at L’espoir. In one chapter, Cana finds herself acting as a mediator between the restaurant’s chef and her estranged mother. In another chapter, an innocent lie forces the waitress Minami into assuming the role of Sommelière, with Cana there for backup. New characters are also introduced, namely THE MOST RENOWNED WINE TASTER IN JAPAN MINOSHIMA RYOUICHI. Not only is he THE MOST RENOWNED WINE TASTER IN JAPAN but there’s some antagonism between him and L’espoir’s supervisor, and on top of that Minoshima has a connection to Cana’s past.

Volume 2 also begins the trend of having special bonus chapters in each volume showing what Cana’s life was like in France.

The artwork in Volume 2 is consistent with Volume 1, emphasizing the beauty of people and wine of all shapes and sizes. Minami the waitress is drawn particularly well here; with a drunken Minami looking incredibly cute. Cana meanwhile is as gorgeous as ever, with stylish new outfits in addition to her already snazzy Sommelière uniform. Panel flow puts great emphasis on the emotions and wine, and adds to the romanticism of the whole situation. There’s only one small nitpick with the art, and it has to do with one particular image where it looks like Cana’s head was cut out and the body drawn awkwardly around it. It’s only because the rest of the art is of such nice quality that this error stands out.

Volume 2 of La Sommelière is really more of the same as in Volume 1, but that’s exactly its selling point. It’s a romantic portrayal of a girl from two different cultures who brings love and understanding to those around her through the power and majesty of wine. Characters old and new bring with them ideas as to what it means to enjoy and recommend wine, and the volume even ends on an interesting note that leads directly into Volume 3.


Introducing the Bratender: La Sommelière Volume 1

Forgive my misogynistic title. I just couldn’t resist.

Araki Joe is a man who Knows Alcohol. Readers may know Araki from the anime adaptation of his manga Bartender, which tells the story about a man whose mixed drinks brighten the lives of his patrons. He’s also responsible for Sommelier, which tells the story about a man whose wine-serving abilities bri- well you get the idea. Don’t confuse Sommelier with La Sommelière, though, as there’s a world of difference between the two.

And by world of difference I mean the fact that the main character is a woman.

Itsuki Kana is a young woman with a passion for wine. Having studied the art of winery in college, Kana lives on a vineyard with a kind old lady and a group of orphans and spends her days growing grapes and making wine. When a slick city folk kind of hombre (omubure) appears with a message from a mysterious benefactor, “John Smith,” Kana sets off to Tokyo to find Mr. Smith, her only souvenir from home being a bottle of white wine produced by Kana and the orphans, a wine which she proudly labels as the “World’s Best.” Kana begins work at an upscale restaurant as a Sommelière, or Wine Waitress. Her love and comprehensive knowledge concerning wine allows Kana to (say it with me) brighten the lives of her patrons, but also learns a thing or two about wine herself.

The artwork in La Sommelière is incredibly clean, with sophisticated character designs, elegant if traditional panel layouts, and an emphasis on the beauty and versatility of wine. The most detailed drawings are always wine-related, and when it comes to tasting the wine, the characters are drawn with facial expressions that can be summed up as “a very sophisticated and high-class Yakitate Japan.” As for Kana herself, her devotion to wine, enthusiasm, and pleasant demeanor make for an incredibly endearing and attractive heroine.

At the end of every story is a detailed explanation on a wine featured in that chapter. I personally have very little experience with wine (or most alcoholic beverages for that matter), so I cannot verify the accuracy of the information given. It really doesn’t matter, though.

Going into this manga, I was worried that the emphasis on wine would be reliant on certain universal factors dictating which wines are better than others, but I’m glad to say that isn’t the case. There’s one universal truth in the world of La Sommelière, the truth that context is queen. The context in which the wine is made, the context in which the wine is served, the frame of mind of the drinker, everything contributes to the idea that any wine can potentially be the “best ever,” even a white wine produced by an intrepid Sommelière and a group of orphans.

La Sommelière is not out in English, and as a seinen title it’s not the easiest read for people beginning their Japanese studies. Even if you are fluent, French words are being thrown around constantly and it can become daunting to decipher the mysterious world of wine. Still, even though I hardly know the first thing about wine, I can recommend La Sommelière simply for its pleasant atmosphere and strong, elegant art style.