by Natsumi Ando; story by Miyuki Kobayashi; adaptation by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir
published by Del Rey Manga; $10.95 US
An orphan girl is a great cook with an amazing sense of taste. As a young child, her life was saved by a boy who left behind only a silver spoon with the crest of a prestigious school. Now, she’s worked hard to get into the school to try to find him.
I was expecting fun things from this series, because I love cooking. Sadly, I found the first two chapters shallow. Everything happened too quickly, with no room for emotional impact or reflection. I thought the presentation was flat.
Since I felt uninvolved, I started getting distracted by small things. Like why, on her first day at an important school, Najika was wearing black lace petticoats, fishnet tights, and fishnet elbow-length gloves. It looked more like a retro Madonna costume than a reasonable outfit for a new student.
Anyway, she encounters the student body president and his brother, who provide romance potential. Her school is for those with exceptional skills and includes a painter, musicians, those talented at sports, and a model (the jealous rival, of course). She’s hazed, but her outstanding cooking and patience and love when it comes to food begin winning the students over. She’s got the ability to remember anything she’s ever tasted and to recreate it, if necessary. Soon enough she’s making over a local dive so she has somewhere to cook.
After she begins cooking, I enjoyed the book more. The illustrated kitchen sequences are key to the story, and recipes for everything she makes are included at the end of the book. The love of food is something I appreciate reading about, and the heroine is correct in insisting that the right dish can work magic and shared meals are special.
The standard shojo plot elements — school rival, potential romance — are generic, and the attention paid to food didn’t quite make up for it, but I’m willing to try another volume to see if things improve. Overall, it reminded me of the forgotten Sarah Michelle Gellar film Simply Irresistible, another story of a young chef whose love of food has near-magical effects on those who taste it. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)