*Kodoku no Gourmet (The Solitary Gourmet) — Recommended

Review by Ed Sizmore

Goro Inogashira is an importer whose work has him traveling throughout Japan. Food is important to Inogashira, and he enjoys visiting local restaurants during business trips. However, he’s not a food snob. He enjoys bar food as much as a good steak. Kodoku no Gourmet gives us a first-person account of his culinary adventures.

This book could have also been called The Walking Man Eats. Goro spends as much time wandering around various locales trying to find a place to eat as he does eating. Not that I’m complaining. Jiro Taniguchi’s detailed backgrounds allow us to do some sightseeing.

Kodoku no Gourmet cover

This is an odd sort of foodie manga. You won’t hear Goro wax poetic about how an entree taste, as Fumi Yoshinaga does in Not Love But Delicious Foods… Nor does he offer us a detailed explanation of a particular dish’s ingredients and the way they compliment each other like Tetsu Kariya in Oishinbo. Instead, Goro talks about the overall meal being a satisfying experience and trying to find a balance of flavors when ordering. It’s more relatable to the common person, like myself, despite the title.

The atmosphere of the restaurant is just as important to Goro as the food it serves. He makes observations about the clientele and the furnishing for most of the places he goes. This is a surprisingly effective way to give the reader a sense of place. You feel like you’re sitting right next to Goro. There’s a chapter where Goro chastises an owner for his brutish treatment of his assistant. He tells the owner the place has such a negative atmosphere it made him lose his appetite. And that is no mean feat!

Speaking of appetites, the amount of food Goro can pack away is very impressive. I feel bloated just watching him eat. He comes across as someone who doesn’t eat regular meals and so really chows down when he does sit down to eat. He often complains that he’s eaten too much. However, that doesn’t stop him from sampling everything that appeals to him the next time he eats. Even a trip to the convenience store for a late-night snack becomes a major shopping expedition for him. It’s amazing Goro’s not as big as a house.

Taniguchi’s artwork is gorgeous as always. In volume 3 of Kingyo Used Books, the characters talk about the food being so realistically drawn it makes them hunger for it. I certainly agree. Taniguchi’s art puts you right there at the table with Goro. Taniguchi’s realistic style makes his work very accessible to Western readers.

The problem is getting access to the book. It’s only available through JManga.com. This means having to go through a lot of hoops if you just want to read this single work. It’s really a shame, too. Kodoku no Gourmet is perfect for attracting people who normally don’t read manga. This highlights how JManga’s lack of a simple purchase system like Viz, Dark Horse, or Comixology does only harm. To add insult to injury, JManga claims to offer a preview of the book, but it’s just the cover, title page, and table of contents. It would be nice if you got to actually see some of the pages of the story before buying.

Kodoku no Gourmet is another wonderful slice-of-life book from Taniguchi. Fans of The Walking Man and A Zoo in Winter will find this just as enjoyable. Just like those books, Kodoku no Gourmet is a terrific one-volume character study. I heartily recommend this book to all comic/manga/bande dessinee/etc. readers.

2 Comments

  1. [...] I expressed my love of Taniguchi’s food manga Kodoku no Gourmet (The Solitary Gourmet). [...]

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