by Fumi Yoshinaga; translation by William Flanagan
published by Yen Press; $10.99 US
It’s the perfect manga for me! Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy! combines the foodie love of Oishinbo with the josei-style work focus of Suppli, only the career is making manga, a subject artist Fumi Yoshinaga previously covered in Flower of Life.
Yoshinaga herself stars as the thinly relabeled Y-naga, a slobby creator of yaoi manga. She adores good food, though, and dresses up for it (making for amusing visual contrast). Her roommate S-hara is one of her art assistants, although he’s not very good at his job, but he will put up with her rhapsodizing about what they’re eating. He also knows how to manage her, getting her to finish work before going out to eat.
Each chapter of this volume features Y-naga and someone else dining out, recommending particular dishes from a specific restaurant in glowing terms. (Unfamiliar terms and dishes, if not explained in the text, are defined in the translation notes.) The last page gives directions on how to get there and a final note on prices and specifics, since the establishments are all real (and fabulous, according to the comics). They eat widely and varied: Korean, Italian, French, dim sum, sushi, desserts, and bakery creations.
The art has the usual gorgeous Yoshinaga faces and all her expressiveness, which helps in conveying the subtleties of her relationships with her dining partners. I love her style; it’s one of the very few manga approaches where I can recognize the artist in the work. In addition to the complex interactions with her assistant, there’s another foodie, a friend Y-naga finds attractive due to his pillowy squishiness, and a former classmate who’s just recently come out to her. She and a teacher are dating, but he doesn’t see food in as much detail as she does, which is a problem. As she and her friends get older, they become pickier in their selections.
Underlying all this are the expectations placed on a 30-year-old working woman, “rules” Y-naga’s very bad at following. Her friends say she acts like “middle-aged old man”, and she gets so carried away with food that she spills on her dresses. If she was obsessive only about sweets, she’d be considered cute, but because she enjoys more substantial food, she’s thought of as weird. Her knowledge of food and desire for exquisite tastes make her an aberration, with some potential dates even repulsed by the depth of her appetites.
I’m glad to see more one-shots being translated in the U.S. — Yoshinaga’s All My Darling Daughters was one of my favorite manga this year. She’s tackled food before in the dessert-centered Antique Bakery, and her Ooku: The Inner Chambers shows off her gorgeous men in one of the best manga of 2009.
Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy! is of limited use to anyone in the U.S., who will never get a chance to try all these restaurants or even some of the more unusual dishes, but for a food-lover, it’s great fun to read and dream about these amazing-sounding meals. Plus, there’s the sympathy I felt for Y-naga, indulging her appetites as a diversion from work that takes up so much of her life. (The publisher provided a review copy.)