I've been flirting with the idea of turning into a foodie lately, so when a manga entitled Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy! came down the pipeline, I was interested enough to do a review of it. The titled implied that it might tell the story of a foodie as they obsess about different delicacies and how people around him or her dealt with their obsession.
Not surprisingly, I was pretty much right on the mark. Yet somehow, the manga still ended up being a disappointment. For a manga about food, it's ironic that there isn't much meat on these bones.
Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy!
Not Love But Delicious Foods (title shortened because it's way too long) by Fumi Yoshinaga, a mangaka known for yaoi, follows the "adventures" of the totally unrelated F-mi Y-naga, a mangaka known for yaoi, as she obsesses over tasty food and talks with other people about tasty food. She lives with her assistant S-hara, who plays the straight man to her crazy. Throughout the volume, you'll meet her various other friends, all of whom like food and have names like F-yama and O-ta.
I realize that the reason the names are so strange is so the artist can write about her experiences with friends while giving them a weak veil of anonymity, and apparently this is a common practice in Japan, but a much better idea would have been giving them actual aliases instead of this weird codename nonsense that makes already flat characters seem even more like cardboard cut-outs. Each character's personality is represented by two traits: one slightly unique quirk and their eating preferences. Yoshinaga doesn't expand on these characters enough, making supposedly real people come across as incredibly fake.
The structure of each chapter becomes incredibly predictable as well. Y-naga will have a conversation with a newly introduced friend, trying to establish their character for a few pages, then they will go out to eat. Once there, the discussion centers almost completely on the food, which is always of the highest quality, after which she'll devote maybe one page to wrapping up whatever conversation the characters had before dinner. The dinner scenes are the one point where the book might begin to shine; the discussion shows an extensive knowledge of food, highlighting just what is so amazing about the dishes. The restaurants are all real places in Tokyo, and with the amount of passion Yoshinaga pours into writing about their offerings, I'll be sure to visit some of them whenever I get to visit again.
So in this regard, Not Love But Delicious Foods succeeds in highlighting some of the finer restaurants in Tokyo and is useful as a light guidebook. (Plus, reading it before dinner will get you surprisingly hungry.) But this "story" structure offers no variety; not once do Y-naga and her friends even go to a bad restaurant and describe how the meals are inadequate. It's just page after page of "Oh, this is really delicious and this is the reason why!" It may whet your appetite, but after a few chapters of Y-naga gushing about various dishes, it's easy to start glazing over further descriptions of food. In a way, this is a slice of life manga of the worst kind: the kind where nothing much happens in their life to begin with. I know I can't expect an overarching plot for manga like this, but it barely approaches a plot for each chapter.
These faults might be somewhat forgivable if Not Love But Delicious Foods was dressed up in some pretty visuals, but Yoshinaga puts minimum effort forth in her art for this volume, coming nowhere close to the decent art of Antique Bakery, her other food-related manga. It feels more like enhanced sketches than a finished work. And the eyes, dear God, the eyes -- never before have I seen eyes drawn so unbalanced and strange-looking. Pretty much the only thing drawn well is, as you might guess, the food, which does make me want to try my hand at some of the dishes.
My hopes weren't exactly sky-high for Not Love But Delicious Foods, so I wasn't expecting great things, but even still, I didn't think I'd dislike the book quite as much as I did. I suppose it might have succeeded in its simple goal of making me understand why the author likes these meals so much, but the tiny main course didn't have to be accompanied by such a large side of mediocrity. It might be worth it if you're planning a trip to Tokyo and need a few restaurant suggestions, but even then, I'm sure there are much more comprehensive guidebooks for these things.
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