Greetings Bento Bako readers! You’ll notice that I’m doing things a little differently today. Welcome to August’s Manga Moveable Feast! (For a list of previous Manga Moveable Feasts, please see the archive page.) This month I, your friendly neighborhood Comic Attack editor and manga reviewer, am very happy and proud to host a week long tribute to one of my favorite manga creators – Fumi Yoshinaga. So, welcome Manga Moveable Feasters from around the web! The Manga Moveable Feast is a monthly sort of book-of-the-month club, where bloggers and fans from around the web join together for a week to praise (or criticize!) a particular work, creator, or genre. Anyone is welcome to participate. For more information, you can join the Manga Moveable Feast Google group. If you would like to be a part of this month’s Manga Moveable Feast, you can email me links to your articles (or I can post them for you, if you don’t have the means) and I will add them to the archive.
Not every fan may recognize Fumi Yoshinaga’s name, though if you do not, I hope this week encourages you to seek out her work. Yoshinaga is not a mainstream American manga creator. She is mostly beloved by the manga blogging community, a critical darling on many websites. Unfortunately (VERY unfortunately), this does not transfer to sales figures like it should. Antique Bakery sells as well as Digital Manga Publishing’s top titles (matching the demands of the Vampire Hunter D books and Makoto Tateno’s Yellow series), as it’s a fan favorite (and has a recently released anime to back it up, now), but her yaoi titles sadly do not perform as well. Which is a real shame, because they include some of my absolute favorites. Yen Press has published one Yoshinaga title, Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy, which I can’t imagine sold very well, as it’s not much use unless you’re a hard core Yoshinaga fan, or a fan of Japanese cuisine. How this frequently nominated creator (and some time award winner) is rather ignored in America is beyond me. Yoshinaga has won the Kodansha Manga Award, was nominated for a Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize three times (with one win), nominated for an Eisner Award, nominated for the Manga Taisho award, won a James Tiptree, Jr. Award, and won a Shogakukan Manga Award. Yoshinaga is beloved for many traits and skills, several of which we will talk about here this week. Her simple but expressive artwork, the honesty in her storytelling, complex characters, beautiful period clothing designs, heartwarming and heartbreaking stories…. She deserves every accolade.
Yoshinaga’s American published repertoire is vast, and in terms of individual titles, is probably one of the largest here. As most of her series are one-shots or limited runs, she doesn’t match the top creators in terms of published volumes. Yoshinaga has thirteen individual titles published, resulting in a total volume of twenty-seven books published in English in America. She has one current ongoing series from Viz Media known as Ōoku: The Inner Chambers. Ōoku: The Inner Chambers and a series called Kinō Nani Tabeta? are Yoshinaga’s current ongoing titles in Japan.
If there is one thing we can gleam from Yoshinaga’s works about her personality (she is very private, so studying her through her works is about the best we can do), aside from her taste in men (which has popped up a couple times), and her love of Mozart, it’s that she loves food. Dare we call her a foodie? I think we safely can. With at least two titles dedicated to food, and several others that make food a central element or a storytelling device, her love for food would seem obvious. Add to that the detail she puts into drawing food in her manga, the very specific dishes her characters serve, and the way she takes the time to label the dishes she draws, and I don’t think there’s any doubt about this facet of Yoshinaga’s personality. So today, in honor of this blogger favorite, I give you – FOODIE YOSHINAGA.
The two most obvious mouth watering titles from Yoshinaga are Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy! and Antique Bakery, both of which I’ve reviewed on the site previously. Not Love But Delicious Foods… is a sort of restaurant review guide, where Yoshinaga takes her cast of characters (loosely based on people in her own life) into a series of Tokyo area restaurants and reviews the food through the characters. It’s definitely for the die-hard Yoshinaga fans and the foodies out there. Antique Bakery is a shoujo (with a little yaoi) series about four men who run a high class bakery, and follows their day to day lives at work and away as they grow into fine men and learn to accept or overcome their pasts. She has another food-centric title called Kinō Nani Tabeta? (What Did You Eat Yesterday?) that unfortunately is not currently licensed here. The plot summary at Anime News Network describes the title: “Kakei Shirou is a dedicated lawyer who juggles the crazy antics of his carefree boyfriend, his nosy parents and coworkers, and his own desires to cook a tasty meal every night.” Sounds delightful, honestly, and I hope it comes over to our side of the ocean someday (Someone? Please? Digital Manga, perhaps? Would it help if I begged every day for the next year? Because I would.). (I wonder if she has a thing for lawyers? She seems to use them frequently as well. No complaints here, though.) In each of these books (Kinō Nani excluded, as I have not read it, though I imagine it’s similar) Yoshinaga lovingly draws dish after delectable dish of food across the pages, looking delicious enough to make your mouth water over a black and white sketch on paper. She puts great detail into the drawings, and takes the time to label everything (or have a character describe the dish in lavish detail). You can almost taste it. And if you buy Digital Manga Publishing’s Antique Bakery volumes, you can smell it on their scratch and sniff covers. It’s not just the food itself that’s is interesting, however, but how the food affects those who make it or eat it. Characters make food for the ones they love, they meet and talk over a good meal, and a delicious meal lifts the spirits of those who are feeling down.
Yet given her nicely sized repertoire, just pointing out two or three titles isn’t really enough to make such a bold statement. So without further ado…. The Moon and the Sandals features a chef character in one of the primary relationships who eventually runs his own restaurant. One half of the second relationship in the series is also a food lover and enjoys cooking (and does so quite well). Ichigenme…The First Class is Civil Law features a character who lovingly prepares meals for his lover, and often wonders if his cooking is the only reason his beloved stays with him. In All My Darling Daughters, a family meal (or a meal with close friends) is a frequent stage for major story elements and a lot of discussion between characters. Yoshinaga’s characters are frequently found to be eating in her stories, and they’re always eating something scrumptious. Sometimes I wonder if Yoshinaga dreams of food in her sleep, then wakes up and draws the dish in her dreams in her manga. Heaven help her if she draws hungry, as I imagine detailing dishes causes an increase in appetite (it certainly makes me want to eat when I read her books), and difficulty concentrating.
Food fans, prepare to have your appetites whetted as I share some delicious looking pages. Mind the drool:
Please stick around throughout the week for more Fumi Yoshinaga love! And check back daily for articles and updates from around the web.
[Note: I have asked Linda of animemiz to help me out a bit this week. She has supplied her own bit of foodie love, as well.]
Foodie and Yoshinaga Manga
This is a fourth incarnation of an original post I wanted to write, but I definitely am honored to be writing alongside a blogging and manga loving friend, Kris, whom I have been speaking to via emails months before this MMF began. So the first post is going to be on Yoshinaga and food. (*¬*) For this I can bring to the table some thoughts and themes about a couple of Yoshinaga manga that I have read.
In terms of eating or sharing food around a table, All My Darling Daughters, Antique Bakery and Not Love But Delicious Foods (Make Me So Happy) definitely has those scenes. There is always a constant flow of conversation and dialog in this type of scene. If you want to read another manga that has the theme of eating and talking around a table, check out Ristorante Paradiso by Natusme Ono. [Note: I heartily agree. Ono’s works kept popping into my head as well while I was writing about Yoshinaga’s food books.]
Another aspect are the long descriptive details of food, which Antique Bakery and Not Love… is quite signature of. After re-reading volume 1 of Antique Bakery for this MMF, I decided to go and gawk at one of the closest bakeries, which sadly doesn’t have the amount of descriptions and produce that Keisuke [Tachibana] weaves for his customers. (sighs) Why does reality have to end up disappointing me? I also have some dietary limitations, so it is my mind playing games on me. I was recently placated by a treat a friend purchased for me via Paris Baguette, a green tea strawberry shortcake.
Not Love… has incredible dialogs that make me want to go and try the nearest alternative, but what makes it stand out is the process of detailing food experiences with taking photographs or introducing food sites, that web sites or books like Yelp and Zagat already do, but for Y-naga, the voice of Yoshinaga is for places in Tokyo. That is a first in English translated manga, unless you count Oishinbo [from Viz Media], another food manga that is available in English.
Another mention of food is the process of bringing food to someone, whether they are sick or not. Don’t say Anymore, Darling’s title story has a scene just like that. Even in Lovers in the Night, when Antoine is sick Claude brings him food. Food is an important life sustaining activity, so for Yoshinaga to use it in many of her works, shows that food is as the title of Not Love But Delicious Foods (Make Me So Happy) is for her.
The Moon and the Sandals and Antique Bakery are published by Digital Manga Publishing.
Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy! is published by Yen Press.