What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 1

What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 1Creator: Fumi Yoshinaga
U.S. publisher: Vertical
ISBN: 9781939130389
Released: March 2014
Original release: 2007

I have been a fan of Fumi Yoshinaga and her work for quite some time now. English-language readers have been fortunate in that so many of her manga have been translated. I and many others were very excited when Vertical announced the license of her series What Did You Eat Yesterday?, a series that I have been hoping would be picked up for years. The first volume was one of the manga releases that I was most looking forward to seeing in 2014. What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 1 was originally published in Japan in 2007; I am thrilled that it is now available in English. There were several reasons why I was particularly interested in reading What Did You Eat Yesterday?. It’s by Yoshinaga, from whom I’ve come to expect great stories and complex characters. The series is also a food manga, a niche that I am known to enjoy. (Actually, food often plays an important role in Yoshinaga’s manga.) And I was especially interested in the incorporation of contemporary Japanese gay life in What Did You Eat Yesterday?—the two main characters are boyfriends in their forties who live together.

Shiro Kakei is a successful lawyer at a small firm, but his real passion is food. He’s a great cook, and an extremely frugal one, too. Kakei simply enjoys a good meal. The palate of his boyfriend Kenji Yabuki, a flamboyant hairstylist, isn’t nearly as refined as Shiro’s but he certainly appreciates his partner’s creativity in the kitchen. The two of them have been dating for three years, so their relationship is well established, but they still face some challenges. Although both of their families know that they are gay, Shiro prefers to be much more discreet about his homosexuality when dealing with his coworkers and strangers. Kenji, on the other hand, is happy to have a chance to brag about his boyfriend. And just because they’ve been together for so long doesn’t mean that they don’t have to deal with old flames and jealousy. But at least they can always depend on delicious cuisine to help smooth over the bumps in their relationship.

The food in What Did You Eat Yesterday?, both the description of the meals and the care that Yoshinaga has put into drawing them, can be mouth-watering. Even the most simple dishes are beautifully portrayed, in part because food is so important to Shiro and he puts time and effort into its preparation, but also because Yoshinaga shares that same passion. There is enough instruction in What Did You Eat Yesterday? that adventurous readers could easily duplicate the featured recipes. However, the food in What Did You Eat Yesterday? works best when it is directly tied into the manga’s plot and story. Occasionally that ideal balance is missing in the first volume. The meals, while lovely, can from time to time feel tangential, almost as if there are two different manga sharing the same series—one focusing on food and one focusing on people.

I do enjoy the food and the important role that it plays in What Did You Eat Yesterday?, but in the end I’m even more interested in the characters, their relationships, and their lives. Shiro and Kenji make an intriguing couple. Out of the two of them, Shiro is the least secure with who he is and is very concerned with keeping up appearances. He comes across as very brusque and some find him unlikeable as a result, but it’s a defense mechanism. Kenji seems to be much more comfortable with himself. The two of them aren’t frequently affectionate, at least not overtly so, but they do care about each other. It can be seen in the little things that they do—such as simply offering to carry a heavy bag—and in their more subtle interactions. Shiro often tries to smooth over arguments and hurt feelings the best way he can: through cooking. And that’s one of the things What Did You Eat Yesterday? does best—showing how people connect and communicate through food.

My Week in Manga: January 7-January 13, 2013

My News and Reviews

Last week I posted the most recent edition of Library Love, a recurring feature in which I take a quick look at the manga that I’ve been reading from my local library. I also reviewed Frederik L. Schodt’s newest work Professor Risley and the Imperial Japanese Troupe. It’s a fantastic book and very easy to recommend, especially if you’re interested in Japanese history and/or 19th-century popular culture. And speaking of Frederik L. Schodt, The Japan Times Online recently posted a great interview with him—Frederik Schodt: Japan’s pop culture ambassador to the world.

This week I’ll be gearing up for the Moyoco Anno Manga Moveable Feast which will be hosted here at Experiments in Manga. The Feast will begin on Sunday, January 20. If you haven’t seen the Call for Participation, please do check it out. I’d love to see as many people as possible contribute to the Feast. I hosted the Usamaru Furuya Manga Moveable Feast last year which I think was fairly successful. I hope that I can manage to pull it off again! I really appreciate everyone who has helped to get the word out about the upcoming Feast.

Quick Takes

Danza by Natsume Ono. I’m a fan of Ono and so was very excited to see Danza licensed. Danza is a collection of six of her short manga, originally serialized in Morning Two. I quite enjoyed the volume. Thematically, all of the stories in Danza feature male-bonding and relationships of one sort or another (fathers and sons, coworkers, brothers, and so on.) I didn’t find Danza to be particularly stunning, profound, or life-changing, but it was a very satisfying collection overall. The stories range from the delightfully charming to the melancholic and bittersweet. Ono also tries her hand at science fiction (specifically time travel), a genre I haven’t seen her work in before, which was interesting to see.

Garden Dreams by Fumi Yoshinaga. Garden Dreams was the only work by Yoshinaga currently available in English that I hadn’t read yet. It’s a collection of four closely connected stories (although they might not appear to be related at first) surrounding the life and tragic loves of Baron Victor Bianni as well as the young man who becomes his personal bard. The artwork in Garden Dreams is fairly sparse, with very little use of backgrounds. This was a little disappointing since the manga takes place in a historical setting which I would have loved to have actually seen. But her characters are all attractive and their designs are all easily distinguished. Garden Dreams isn’t Yoshinaga’s strongest work, but it was still enjoyable. I particularly liked the manga’s trick ending.

Rurouni Kenshin, Omnibus 5 (equivalent to Volumes 13-15) by Nobuhiro Watsuki. A continuation of the long Kyoto story arc, the fifth omnibus of Rurouni Kenshin begins a sequence of duels as Kenshin and his allies begin to face Shishio and his underlings head on. These volumes are fairly action-packed and battle heavy, which I enjoyed. Granted, some of the fights can be rather ridiculous and over the top, but they’re exciting, too. Occasionally Watsuki’s action sequences can be difficult to follow, but many of the duels feature some very cool moves and techniques. I was very pleased to see Okinawan kobudō (which I study) show up. There’s also a fight in a library and even a cross-dresser in this omnibus for good measure.

Umineko: When They Cry, Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch, Volume 1 written by Ryukishi07, illustrated by Kei Natsumi. The first volume of Yen Press’ edition of Umineko collects the first two volumes of the original Japanese release. The manga is based on a series of visual novels (none of which I have played). Perhaps I would have a better opinion of the manga if I was more familiar with the franchise, but Umineko just isn’t working for me. Eighteen characters stuck on an island bickering over inheritance issues and I don’t care about or like a single one of them. Nearly 400 pages pass before anything even remotely interesting happens in the manga. Granted, the big revel is suitably and effectively shocking, but I’m not sure that the buildup was worth it.

My Week in Manga: November 5-November 11, 2012

My News and Reviews

Last week I announced the winner of the Nausicaä giveaway. In addition to naming the winner, the post excerpts some of the entrants’ thoughts on the various formats in which manga is released in English. I also managed to post two reviews last week. The first was for the new edition of Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt’s Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide. I had read and reviewed (and thoroughly enjoyed) the original edition in the past, but the revised edition is even better. I also reviewed The Immortal: Demon in the Blood, the comic adaptation of Fumi Nakamura’s novel Enma the Immortal. I absolutely love Enma the Immortal; unfortunately, The Immortal: Demon in the Blood didn’t quite live up to my hopes.

Probably the biggest news in the manga blogging community last week is that Kate Dacey’s The Manga Critic will be shutting down. Kate has been a huge inspiration to me, so I’m sad to see The Manga Critic go. Fortunately, she will continue to write for The Manga Bookshelf from time to time. In happier news, I’ve found two great blogs to add to the Resource page: Shojo Corner and The Manga Test Drive.

Quick Takes

Arisa, Volume 1 by Natsumi Ando. I originally picked up Arisa after hearing the story described as something that Naoki Urasawa might come up with if he wrote shōjo. And for the most part, I think that’s a pretty apt description. The mystery is ominous and there is an impressive number of plot twists in just the first volume. Arisa and Tsubasa are twin sisters who have been separated due to their parents’ divorce. Tsubasa adores her sister who she thinks leads the perfect life. But Arisa is hiding a terrible secret. I really want to know what’s going on, so I guess I’ll just have to read more of Arisa to find out. Also, if the artwork in Arisa looks familiar, it’s because Ando was the illustrator for the series Kitchen Princess.

Baoh, Volumes 1-2 by Hirohiko Araki. I’ve been going through a JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure withdrawal and so I decided to give Araki’s short series Baoh a try. Baoh is certainly no JoJo. In fact, the series was largely a failure in the American market. However, it was interesting to see some of Araki’s earlier work. After being kidnapped and experimented upon by the Judas Laboratory, Ikuro has been turned into deadly bioweapon. But with the aid of a young psychic, he is able to escape his captors who desperately want to find him again. The story itself felt fairly generic to me but I am rather fond of Ikuro as a character. The art in Baoh isn’t as refined as it is in Araki’s later series but there’s plenty of the strangeness and gore that I’ve come to expect.

Dorohedoro, Volumes 4-7 by Q Hayashida. Sure, the story can be all over the place and doesn’t always make a lot of sense, but I still find Dorohedoro to be a tremendous amount of graphic, gory fun. I love its dark humor and quirky characters (who seem to be eating constantly). Hayashida’s artwork perfectly captures the dirt and the grime of the series’ setting. More about the world of Dorohedoro is slowly being revealed and many of the characters’ back stories are explored in these volumes. The plot is beginning to be a bit more coherent, too. Dorohedoro is such an incredibly weird series, but it does make me happy. I’m really looking forward to future volumes, so here’s hoping Viz continues to release them!

Empowered: Deluxe Edition, Volume 1 (equivalent to Volumes 1-3) by Adam Warren. I love Empowered. It’s smart, sexy, and genuinely funny. Empowered is an associate member of a superhero group known as the Superhomeys. Unfortunately, her teammates are jerks and Emp is often caught in compromising situations (her supersuit is less than reliable). Fortunately, she has a great guy for a boyfriend (even if he did work as minion for a string of supervillians) and a runaway ninja princess for a best friend. Empowered exists in this strange place between manga and superhero comics; although for the most part it’s accessible on its own, Empowered probably works best for readers who have at least some rudimentary knowledge of both.

Lovers in the Night by Fumi Yoshinaga. There are quite a few parallels between Yoshinaga’s Lovers in the Night and her later series Gerard & Jacques (which I happened to read first). Both are historical romances taking place in France around the time of the French Revolution. Each manga also features a couple with significant age and class differences, although the dynamics of their respective relationships are significantly different. Lovers in the Night is a one-shot collection of related stories featuring the aristocratic Antoine and his extraordinarily competent butler Claude. The characters made their first appearance in Yoshinaga’s anthology Truly Kindly in the story “A Butler’s Proper Place.”

Ristorante Paradiso directed by Mitsuko Kase. I missed the Ristorante Paradiso anime when it was first streamed. It’s been unavailable for a while now, which is one of the reasons I was so excited when the series was licensed for a DVD release. The Ristorante Paradiso anime uses both Natsume Ono’s one-shot manga Ristorante Paradiso and its companion series Gente as its source material. It’s nice too see so many of the stories pulled together into one series. The anime captures the elegance and sensuality (and dare I say sexiness) of the Casetta dell’Orso’s staff quite nicely. Claudio in particular is beautifully portrayed. Ristorante Paradiso is a slow and quiet anime; it’s about the characters and setting more than anything else, but there’s human drama, too.

My Week in Manga: October 29-November 4, 2012

My News and Reviews

Over the past weekend, I posted the first in-depth manga review for November—Yaya Sakuragi’s Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love, Volume 1 published by Viz Media’s new boys’ love imprint Sublime. I’m a fan of Sakuragi’s work and so was very happy to have more of it published in English. Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love isn’t my favorite manga by her, but I still enjoyed it. Last week I also posted October’s Bookshelf Overload. I had a little too much fun on ebay last month, so I’ll be trying to curb my impulse buys for at least the rest of the year. Finally, the most recent manga giveaway is going on. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still time to enter for a chance to win the first seven issues of the original English-language release of Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. I didn’t realize it until now, but as can be seen by the quick takes below, I spent last week reading a bunch of out of print manga. Most, except for a few of the Cyborg 009 volumes, are still fairly easy to find, though. (Fortunately, Comixology plans on releasing all of Cyborg 009 and the rest of Shotaro Ishinomori’s works digitally.)

Quick Takes

Angel Nest by Erica Sakurazawa. Apparently, Angel Nest is the second book in a loosely related three-volume series. I haven’t read the other two, but Angel Nest stands on its own, so it doesn’t really matter. The four-story collection takes its name from the first and longest story, which I actually found it to be the least interesting one out of the bunch. (Although, I did get a kick out of the angel’s preference for gin.) In “God Only Knows,” a gay man tries to hook up his straight best friend with a girl. “Tea Time” follows a woman who finds comfort in a tour guide when her boyfriend seems to have abandoned her. And in “A Gift from the Heavens,” a young man finds unexpected companionship after stealing a car on a whim.

Broken Blade, Volumes 1-3 by Yunosuke Yoshinaga. It took a little while to grow on me, but I ended up quite liking the first three volumes of Broken Blade. Unfortunately, the rest of the series is unlikely to ever be licensed in English. (But at least we have the anime adaptation.) Rygart Arrow is one of the very few people born without the ability to control magic, making him somewhat of an outcast, but he may also be the key to his country’s survival as the continent becomes embroiled in war. I did have some difficulty telling the different golem designs apart, which didn’t help during the fairly frequent mecha battles, but the worldbuilding and multi-faceted characters in Broken Blade are great. I particularly liked the intrigue surrounding the leadership of the various factions.

Cyborg 009, Volumes 1-6 by Shotaro Ishinomori. I’m not sure why it took me this long to get around to reading Cyborg 009, but I’m glad that I finally did. (Now I just need to track down the rest of the English volumes.) A group of misfits from all over the world are kidnapped and coerced into serving as human guinea pigs for the Black Ghost organization’s experimental cybernetic enhancements. After escaping, the zero-zero series is constantly being pursued by increasingly more advanced cyborgs. However, it’s the prototypes’ remaining humanity that allows them to prevail. Cyborg 009 is almost all non-stop action; the confrontations occur everywhere from deep sea trenches to outer space.

Eagle: The Making of an Asian-American President, Volume 1 by Kaiji Kawaguchi. As election day approaches in the United States, I thought it would be appropriate to give Eagle a try. The manga takes place during the 2000 American presidential election. Takashi Jo, a Japanese reporter, is personally selected by presidential candidate Senator Kenneth Yamaoka to serve as his foreign correspondent. Jo eventually comes to realize that Yamaoka may very well be his father. Having a bastard son is the type of scandal that could ruin Yamaoka’s chance of being elected. Even though I have very little interest in politics and therefore found portions of Eagle to be rather tedious, the manga is well-written and I’m curious to see where Kawaguchi might go with the story.

Truly Kindly by Fumi Yoshinaga. Truly Kindly is an enjoyable but somewhat peculiar collection of boys’ love stories from Yoshinaga. I’m not sure how these seven stories ended up being collected together since there doesn’t appear to be an overarching theme. Some are very serious in tone, others are romantic, and some tend towards the goofier side of things. The first three stories are modern tales (two take place in Japan and one in the United States) while the rest are period and historical pieces. Truly Kindly also includes the story “A Butler’s Proper Place” which takes place during the French Revolution (a time period favored by Yoshinaga) and is the basis for another of her works, Lovers in the Night.

My Week in Manga: May 28-June 3, 2012

My News and Reviews

The most recent manga giveaway is underway here at Experiments in Manga. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still some time to enter. Plus, there aren’t many entries yet, so the odds are really good! Stop by the Read or Die Giveaway and tell me about your favorite bibliophile for a chance to win. I know that at least a couple of people enjoy my Bookshelf Overload posts, which is one of the reasons I keep writing them. If you’re one of those people, May’s Bookshelf Overload is now available for viewing. Over the weekend I posted my review of Matthew Meyer’s book The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons: A Field Guide to Japanese Yokai. It’s a fantastic volume with great artwork that any yokai lover should enjoy. Be sure to check out his website for examples of his art, too. I haven’t been this excited about a book in a very long time; I absolutely loved it.

Quick Takes

Basilisk, Volumes 1-5 by Masaki Segawa. This manga series is an adaptation of Fūtaro Yamada’s semi-historical novel The Kouga Ninja Scrolls. I had previously read and enjoyed the novel, which is probably one of the reasons I didn’t appreciate the manga as much in the beginning—I missed having a lot of the background information the novel included. However, by the end of the series I was completely engaged. I’ve often heard the basic premise of the story described as “Romeo & Juliet…with ninja,” which is accurate up to a point. The large cast of ninja, each with their own special abilities, provide plenty of opportunities for intense battles and underhanded assassination attempts.

Brody’s Ghost, Books 2-3 by Mark Crilley. I believe Brody’s Ghost is planned to be a six volume series, so this brings us to the halfway point. Volumes two and three follow Brody as he gets his life back together while he undergoes training to gain control over his emerging supernatural powers. He’s also given some real motivation to pursue the Penny Murderer, something that was previously lacking. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen of the series so far, but I have no idea when the next book is due to come out! I’ll definitely be picking it up once it does, though. One thing I really like about Brody’s Ghost is the extra material that Crilley includes at the end of each volume which explores his creative processes and decisions.

Gerard & Jacques, Volumes 1-2 by Fumi Yoshinaga. After a very uncomfortable beginning, Gerard & Jacques eventually turns into an great historical drama. Despite the title being Gerard & Jacques, the focus is really on Gerard. He is certainly the most thoroughly developed character in this short series, but Yoshinaga doesn’t slack off when it comes to writing the other characters, either. Even the secondary characters have their defining moments. The story itself ranges from the heavy and dark to the light and comedic which can be jarring, but enjoyable. I’m not particularly interested in the French Revolution but it serves as a good backdrop for the series and ultimately becomes very important to the plot as well.

Twin Spica, Volumes 9-10 by Kou Yaginuma. For such a gentle seeming series Twin Spica can also be incredibly heart-wrenching. The manga has always had a melancholic air to it as the characters struggle to accept their pasts while striving to achieve their dreams. Even years after the Lion disaster people are still having to deal with the consequences of the shuttle’s crash. As graduation draws closer for Asumi and her friends at the space school they’ve all come to realize how important they are to one another. They also know that soon the time will come when they have to say goodbye. I’m really looking forward to reading the final two volumes in Vertical’s release of the series.

Welcome to the N.H.K. directed by Yūsuke Yamamoto. I loved Tatsuhiko Takimoto’s original Welcome to the N.H.K. novel and I must say, the anime adaptation is excellent. Although the humor is still there, I didn’t find the anime to be as outrageously funny as the novel. But even with the anime’s more serious tone there are moments of hilarity which are needed to keep the series from becoming too depressing. The anime stays true to the novel while expanding parts of the storyline and characterizations. The plot arc dealing with the pyramid scheme was a little tedious, but for the most part the changes made for the anime worked very well. The characters may sometimes be extreme, but they’re very human, too.