What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 4

What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 4Creator: Fumi Yoshinaga
U.S. publisher: Vertical
ISBN: 9781939130792
Released: September 2014
Original release: 2010

With each new volume of Fumi Yoshinaga’s series What Did You Eat Yesterday? that is released in English, I seem to fall in love with the manga just a little more. What Did You Eat Yesterday? probably isn’t my favorite series by Yoshinaga, but I still enjoy the series immensely. Granted, What Did You Eat Yesterday? has a few things going for it that particularly appeal to me. First of all, I’m already a well-established fan of Yoshinaga’s work in general. I also happen to be a fan of food and food manga which What Did You Eat Yesterday? most definitely is. But perhaps most importantly, I appreciate the series’ realistic portrayal of a devoted gay couple and some of the issues that queer people face in contemporary Japan. Food and gay men are frequently found in Yoshinaga’s manga—often together for that matter—so it’s not a terribly surprising combination to see in What Did You Eat Yesterday?. I’m certainly not going to complain about it, though. The fourth volume of the What Did You Eat Yesterday? was published in Japan in 2010 before being released by Vertical in English in 2014.

Although he is a successful and respected lawyer, Shiro much prefers his time spent in the kitchen over his time spent at the office. Cooking has its challenges too though, like when Shiro’s boyfriend Kenji decides that they should have friends over for a dinner party rather than eating out. This solves the problem of Shiro’s constant worrying over being outed as gay while in public, but now he is left to fret over what to serve two men with very discerning palates. (Fortunately, Kenji is more than happy to eat whatever it is Shiro cooks up.) Every once in a while it’s actually Kenji who is set loose in the kitchen. Shiro is more particular when it comes to cooking and preparing meals so he’d much rather be the one in charge, but occasionally that’s just not possible. Kenji might not have the same confidence or natural flair that Shiro has for food, but he can still make a pretty good dish when he needs or wants to. From time to time even Shiro is faced with a technique that he hasn’t quite mastered yet. And so while cooking is often a way for Shiro to unwind, it can sometimes cause a bit of stress, too.

As always, food, it’s preparation, and the resulting recipes are all a major part of What Did You Eat Yesterday?. Some readers will find the minute details tedious, especially if they have no inclination or ability to actually try making any of the dishes, but those sections can easily be skimmed over or simply appreciated for Yoshinaga’s artwork. Her illustrations of food and cooking techniques are beautifully drawn and nearly photorealistic in many instances. Yoshinaga is able to convey a wide variety of textures which is especially important, and impressive, as she is working in black and white without the aid of color. But what particularly struck me about the cooking scenes in the fourth volume of What Did You Eat Yesterday? is how Yoshinaga skillfully captures the different moods pervading the kitchen through Shiro and Kenji’s body language and facial expressions: Shiro’s intense preoccupation when trying to put together the perfect meal, his gloom and frustration when something doesn’t turn out quite right, Kenji’s frenetic happiness when he gets a chance to take care of Shiro for a change, and so on.

Even though a fair amount of What Did You Eat Yesterday? is spent in the kitchen, Yoshinaga’s focus on the characters is a particularly important component of the manga. The series tends to be episodic from chapter to chapter, but growth and change can still be seen as Kenji and especially Shiro are further developed. The fourth volume of What Did You Eat Yesterday? shows Shiro struggling with his anxieties about still being partially in the closet, admiring and perhaps even envying how open, easygoing, and carefree Kenji is able to be about his sexuality. Kenji and their friends are exceptionally considerate and accommodating of Shiro’s fears, but those fears still understandably cause some tension in his relationships. Another interesting developement in this volume of the series is that both Shiro and Kenji at least temporarily become the confidants of their respective bosses who have a few family issues of their own to work out. While the food in What Did You Eat Yesterday? is appealing, it’s really these sorts of connections and moments between characters that make the series so engaging.

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