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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Manga Review: Not Love But Delicious Foods

Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy!
Author: Fumi Yoshinaga
Yen Press
160 pages
The protagonist is a BL mangaka whose sole passion is food. Besides sleeping and working, the rest of her time is devoted to food. In each chapter, she or her friends visit a different restaurant. Various dishes are recommended each time, e.g., Hong Kong dim sum, French cuisine. Read this as an authentic guide to several restaurants which really do exist (at least at the time of publication). (Source: Manga-Updates)
Not Love But . . . is about two things: people and food, and how they crossover. It's also apparently a well drawn sales plan by multiple Japanese restaurants to boost sales - or it could be, since Yoshinaga's characters go into constant sumptuous detail about each and every dish to the point that you're left salivating on the page. I mean, she made hot fried gizzards sound absolutely delicious. That is a skill if not a gift all together. 
If ever there was a perfect manga for Japan-orientated foodies, Not Love But. . . is that manga (well, tied with Yakitake Japan, naturally).

First of all, don't worry if boys' love is not your cup of tea. The main character, Y-naga, is a BL manga-ka but her job does not dominate the narrative. No, that job belongs to the food: the delicious food, drawn in extreme detail, representing a wide variety of cuisines found in the restaurants of Y-naga's favorite haunts. She is often joined by her friends, some more foodie than others, as they sample Japan's finest (seemingly without a care expense-wise - I guess Y-naga's company foots the expense when she's on the job?).
If Yoshinaga's manga sounds like an overblown food guide, do not despair. It is through food that Yoshinaga exposes and explores her characters: Y-Naga; her long-suffering friend/assistant S-Hara; forever skinny Ame-Sha; "plump and glossy" F-Yama. Each meal is a look into how they live and interact as well as why they are exactly friends with Y-Naga, who is not exactly an easy person to live with. We also get the occasional look into how Y-Naga works - the high-tension deadline-controlled world of boys' love manga. I can definitely feel Y-Naga and S-Hara on those: deadlines suck!
Personally, I love Y-Naga as a character. She's complex and strange and has faults but is utterly fascinating. Good on Yoshinaga for revolving an entire manga around someone who is magnetic but isn't one hundred percent likeable. Although I'm not sure I could handle being her room mate! I kinda want to see some sample pages of Y-Naga's BL manga. I bet she incorporates her food studies into her work, somehow.
I loved reading Not Love But Delicious Foods. It was a tasty, entertaining read that balanced foodie sensibilities with genuine human interactions. The manga gets double points for having reference sheets for each restaurant Y-Naga visits during the book - every one of them a real place in Japan! Coupled with Yoshinaga's typical sense of humor and art style, it's highly recommended for any manga fan with a big appetite.