chomiji: A chibi cartoon of Hotaru from the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo, with a book. Caption: Manga Joy (Manga joy!)

Partners Shiro Kakei, a mostly closeted and uptight lawyer, and Kenji Yabuki, a genial and talkative hairstylist, live their lives in the pages of this seinen series, interacting with coworkers, neighbors, friends, and relatives as they face a variety of everyday complications and crises. As in Not Love but Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy, Yoshinaga's focus is actually food, but where that good-humored parody of the mangaka's own life emphasized restaurant dining, What Did You Eat focuses on modern Japanese home cooking. After a day at the office, Shiro likes to unwind by preparing dinner for the two of them, narrating his cooking to himself in a way that results in near-complete recipes for the reader. If you are any kind of a cook at all, it's likely you can follow his preparations in your own kitchen (given that you can figure out and obtain some of the convenience ingredients: "noodle sauce," for example, is a common flavor enhancer in his recipes).

Yoshinaga, honored with multiple awards for her beautifully drawn alternate history Ooku: The Inner Chambers, seems to me to be using this series much the way Shiro uses his cooking: a less stressful challenge with which to unwind. The artwork is pretty (although nowhere as elaborate as Ooku's) and the events diverting (although neither as humorous as Not Love nor as poignant as Flower of Life or Antique Bakery), but for me, this series lacks a certain something.

Cut for more, including some spoilers )
chomiji: A cartoon image of chomiji, who is holding a coffee mug and a book and wearing kitty-cat ears (Rivas+Jordan - Project Blue Rose)

... I think you will enjoy this video by Grum:

"Through the Night"

(Too cute!)

chomiji: A chibi cartoon of Hotaru from the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo, with a book. Caption: Manga Joy (Manga joy!)

vol. 1: June Pride / vol. 2: Barefoot Waltz / vol. 3: Tales Out of Season

Takumi Hayama (the book uses the Western name order) is in his second year as a middle-class student at a prestigious, isolated European-style boys' boarding school, formerly attended mainly by boys from elite upper-class families. He's a troubled soul who, in addition to his other difficulties, has a crush on popular, charismatic Giichi Saki, whom everyone calls "Gui." He's lucky in a couple of respects, however: a good number of the boys at the school are in relationships with each other, so no one thinks he's weird, and in addition, Gui returns his affections. The series thus far is a sweet, gently sensual soap opera. In the first volume, the boys begin their romance, and Gui gets to the bottom of Takumi's traumatic past (which is genuinely traumatic, actually). In the second, a musician who is visiting the school turns out to share his past with both Gui and Takumi, and then events at the school festival teach Takumi a few things about relationships. In the third, the boys get to the bottom of a mysterious death that has haunted the school for several years.

It's made clear that Takumi and Gui's relationship is physical as well as romantic, and there's plenty of kissing, clothes coming undone, bare chests, and cuddling under the blankets in bed, but nothing is shown explicitly: the equivalent with a straight couple would be a very soft R rating. There are some faint elements of dubious consent at a couple of points, and Takumi's secret is definitely an issue worthy of the parental advisory on the cover.

With the exception of the emotional resolution of Takumi's problems, it's all been pretty fluffy. That's not to say it isn't enjoyable, if pretty boys kissing is your type of thing. But this isn't the sort of story that inspires deep thought, and it doesn't linger in my mind very long. Takumi is drawn with enormous shoujo-girl eyes, as are any other boys who are (I presume) meant to be in the uke role in a relationship (the boy who's stuck playing the princess in the play in vol. 2, for example, but also the visiting violinist). And you could substitute straight teenaged couples for the boys in just about any of these relationships without changing any element of the plot except the formal dormitory sleeping arrangements.

Read more ... with a couple of spoilers )
chomiji: Crazed Oda Nobunaga from SDK, with the caption Manga saved my sanity! (manga sanity)

This entire volume is a flashback. We get to find out what happened right after Kubota picked up his "stray cat" at the end of volume 1 and learn how they became the odd but close couple we saw in volume 2 and thereafter. The story is told mostly in first person, from the viewpoint of young Iizuka Shouta, Kubota's next door neighbor. I don't recall seeing this viewpoint used much at all in the manga I've read thus far - it's rather interesting.

Shouta is a solitary child who doesn't get along with his classmates, doesn't play sports, and doesn't belong to any clubs. Both parents work, and his afternoons are usually spent alone in the family apartment, playing videogames and writing and drawing manga- and anime-influenced adventure stories . When his neighbor Kubota shows up one afternoon with another young man slung over his shoulder, unconscious, Shouta's life gets a lot more interesting. For one thing, the comatose guy has a hand that looks like an animal's paw, furred and clawed. For another, Kubota needs Shouta's help when the new arrival wakes up: he doesn't trust Kubota, but he's much less on the defensive with a child.

Minekura is good at portraying kids, and when Shouta's going off into his fantasies about what's really going on with his next-door neighbor, the story has a rather Neil Gaiman-esque feel to it. And although Shouta certainly learns a lot from this strange interlude in his life, Kubota and Tokito get a few lessons as well.

Read more ... with spoilers! )

Question for the manga experts: I've been tagging my manga reviews with categories such as shoujo or seinen. But where on that spectrum does Wild Adapter fit in?

• Oyceter's write-up on this (with spoilers)

chomiji: Crazed Oda Nobunaga from SDK, with the caption Manga saved my sanity! (manga sanity)

I guess Wild Adapter is right on schedule for a manga series ... vol. 4 is about when both Saiyuki and Samurai Deeper Kyo really got going.

When Kubota is running an errand for the Chinese herb doctor, Kou, he ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time and is taken into police custody on suspicion of involvement in a grave crime with some peripheral connection to the Wild Adapter drug situation. Meanwhile, Tokito, whom Kubota had warned away from their apartment, is roaming homeless, desperately searching for clues about what happened to his only friend. While Kubota maintains a stubborn silence, Tokito manages to force himself to seek help from Kou and from reporter Takizawa Ryouji, as well as from a mysterious young woman with a long-ago connection to Kubota.

The overall plot of the series isn't any more coherent at this point, but the relationships are starting to gel. Kou and Takizawa both seem to be emerging as proper parts of an ensemble cast, and Kubo and Tokito's partnership is becoming both stronger and more clear. There are some very affecting scenes in this one, especially near the end.

Read more ... with spoilers! )

• Oyceter's writeup of this

chomiji: A chibi cartoon of Hotaru from the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo, with a book. Caption: Manga Joy (Manga joy!)

At the beginning of this police buddy series, handsome young Caucasian-Oriental investigator Randy MacLean has just been assigned to the same New York City precinct as brash, good-looking detective Dee Laytner, who is told that this is his new partner. Dee, who is obnoxiously confident and decisive, forcefully romantic, and pretty completely uninhibited, begins crushing on his new partner almost immediately. Quiet, steady Randy - whom Dee quickly starts calling by his Japanese name, Ryo - is extremely confused by his partner's displays of affection, which rapidly escalate to stolen kisses, but doesn't seem to be able to get mad at him. As they solve crimes (yes ... they - fight - crime!), often risking their lives, Dee's interest in Randy remains fierce and steady, while Randy is gradually forced to confront the truth about his own romantic preferences.

The story is further complicated (or enriched, depending on your point of view) by the two orphans Randy takes under his wing. Bikky, the mixed race son of a drug lord who dies during Dee and Randy's first case together, is ferociously protective of his new not-quite-father and resents Dee's advances. He also has a puppyish crush on Carol, the young blond pickpocket who joins Randy's household a bit later. Far more unlikely is the fact that Carol - at 13 years old to Bikky's 10 - actually takes this quite seriously and seems to return his affection. Bikky and Carol's adventures with their school friends - and sometimes with criminals - often intersect with Dee and Randy's work.

Let's face it - as a crime series, Fake is pretty damn silly. The portrayal of New York City is often so far off that it's utterly hilarious. The way that the other cops tolerate Dee's over-the-top demonstrations of affection for his partner - and the equally showy antics of another young officer who has a crush on Dee - is ridiculous. The Bikky-Carol storylines sometimes have some rather squicky elements, especially when they flash forward to where Carol is 18 and Bikky 15. But the relationship between Dee and Randy has an emotional intensity - and even realism - that completely appeals to me, and by the end of this short series, I was definitely in my happy place.

Potential readers should note that this shounen-ai series becomes yaoi toward the end of the final volume. The rating is "Older Teen - 16+" - but not everyone's parents will be equally calm about what's shown "onscreen" at that point.

Read more ... with spoilers! )
chomiji: A chibi cartoon of Hotaru from the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo, with a book. Caption: Manga Joy (Manga joy!)

For reasons of his own, Keiichiro Tachibana, the 30-ish scion of a wealthy family, decides to quit his boring job and open a French pastry shop. His family gives him start-up money and find him the best pastry chef available: Yusuke Ono, a seemingly mousy gay man whose "demonic charm" has caused male co-workers (gay or straight) at his previous jobs to fall in love with him, resulting in fights, suicide attempts, and divorces. The shop's workforce soon expands to include pastry apprentice Eiji Kanda, a former straw-weight boxer, and waiter/errand-boy Chikage Kobayakawa, a Tachibana family retainer whose height and good looks are exceeded only by his dimwittedness and naivete.

The action of the manga focusses not only on the stories - past and present - of the four men, but also on those of the people who patronize the shop. To me, it most resembles to film Tampopo, which similarly centered on a noodle shop run by a young widow, but also covered a multitude of other little side stories. The interactions among the four shop workers keep things hopping: Tachibana, a would-be bon vivant and ladies' man, never seems to get anywhere with any of the ladies he pursues. He also seems to have a dark secret gnawing at his psyche. Ono, on the other hand, is all too successful at picking up men - yet he's nothing but a fantastic teacher to young Eiji, who in some ways has the most worldly background of the four, and who turns out to have a surprising talent for pastries. Chikage is all but useless at any task he tries to accomplish - yet his extreme sweetness of character and good looks have a definite effect on those who work with him. And all around them are little soap operas and comedies and mysteries, acted out by those who come to the shop.

This is not a series for someone seeking adventures (although there are a couple of fist fights) or huge dramas or even a lot of romance. It's for the most part a gentle little human comedy with a generous dose of food porn (the descriptions of the pastries and other foods served at the shop are amazing). However, it does have some serious adult themes: in addition to Ono's busy sex life (from which we are shown vignettes - nothing pornographic, but it's obvious what's happening), there's an out-of-wedlock pregnancy and the possibility of an abortion as a solution, a single woman who gets pregnant with no strings attached because she wants a child so badly, a frank but heavily "bleeped" discussion of straight sexual practices, a nine-year-old girl who's a very early bloomer physically (but her situation is discussed from the point of view of child-rearing practices rather than sexuality), and ultimately, child abuse and murder. But overall, I found it rather appealing and a nice change of pace. Unfortunately, these four volumes seem to be all there is.

Read more ... with spoilers! )

Thanks to rachelmanija for recommending this!

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