by Natsumi Ando; story by Miyuki Kobayashi; adapted by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir
published by Del Rey Manga; $10.95 US
It feels like forever’s gone by since the previous book, but it came out in May and this one was published last month, August. Three months just seems a good while to wait when it comes to major events in shojo manga.
Najika has just met a younger boy who looks like her departed love. The boy, Seiya, is a new student, a rich kid, and a genius pastry chef. He has replaced Najika at cooking school, and he wants to cement his position by showing off his skills and his high-tech kitchen at a welcome party, where he brags about how good cooking is about the best, most expensive ingredients and tools.
Najika disagrees. She thinks delicious food takes into account the particular tastes of the eater, injecting an element of heart. Given the conflict, the only thing to do is… hold a cooking contest! The bake-off features the simple but elegant madeleine.
At first, the judges are the student body officials, but when Seiya doesn’t like their answers, he enlists a famous food critic who happens to have wandered by that day. She explains the benefits of Najika’s approach… and that idea, that food shows caring, is the comforting theme underlying the whole series. (I like the critic as hero, putting Seiya in his place.)
The spice is the interpersonal conflict. Seiya begins meddling in that, too. Daichi likes Najika but she doesn’t know. Najika’s friend Akane, the model, likes Daichi, but he doesn’t know. And Seiya just wants to rile up feelings to get what he wants.
The cherry on this tasty cake of reading are the recipes in the back. I have yet to try any of them, but they seem simple enough to be doable while still being yummy. And each ties into one of the story chapters.
This isn’t a manga for the ages, but its blend of food, young love, and cooking craft makes it a delicious read.
(A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)