Saturday, February 8, 2014

Mixed Vegetables (manga, vol. 1) by Ayumi Komura

Mixed Vegetables is a romantic comedy series. It's published by VIZ Media, as part of their Shojo Beat imprint. I found it in a used bookstore.

Although Hanayu and Hayato referred to each other by their family names in this volume, I opted to use their given names in this post.

Synopsis:

Hanayu is the daughter of a pastry chef, and it seems guaranteed that she'll one day inherit her parents' bakery. The problem: Hanayu wants nothing more than to become a sushi chef. She's obsessed with fish and making sushi. She decides that the only way to achieve her dream without disappointing her parents is to marry the son of a sushi chef. Then she meets Hayato, the only son of a sushi chef. Hanayu works to improve her skills in the kitchen in the hopes of catching Hayato's eye, but when he finally does ask her out, she feels confused and guilty. Is he really interested in her? And, if he is, how does she feel about that? Do her ulterior motives for dating him mean she's a bad person?

Review:

Okay, first off, I should mention that the description of the back of the volume contains a spoiler. While this annoys me, I can sort of understand why VIZ did it. Komura's plotting is not the best, and so this volume doesn't even cover the series' full premise.

While volume 1 wasn't bad, it wasn't terribly exciting. Hanayu basically only did two things, aside from her Culinary Arts Program assignments: obsess over ways to convince Hayato to want to marry her, and feel guilty for lying to Hayato about her feelings for him. Neither Hanayu nor Hayato were very interesting characters, and Hanayu's deep obsession with sushi was sometimes a bit much.

Hanayu deciding that marrying the son of a sushi chef was the best and only way of achieving her dream was kind of bizarre. If Hanayu had tried to tell her parents about her dream and had been shot down, it would've been one thing, but, as far as I could tell, she'd never even done that much. I couldn't help but wonder if the manga's entire premise would go down the drain if she just took a deep breath and actually talked to her parents.

For a food manga, there isn't much in the way of food porn so far. The Culinary Arts Program's first big assignment is to cut a cucumber into 80 transparent slices. Their second big assignment (or, more accurately, make-up exam) is to bake a sponge cake and decorate it. The second assignment had great potential for lovely food images, but the cakes don't actually get baked until the next volume. The first assignment resulted in a thank-you cake topped with cucumber jelly, but, other than that, this volume was woefully lacking in good-looking food drawings. There are a few interesting cooking-related details here and there, though – I liked the little bit about chefs' knives becoming shorter over time as they get used and sharpened.

All in all, this was a “meh” first volume. Not bad, not good, just “meh.”

Additional Comments:

Is it just me, or does it look like Hayato is missing his right arm on the cover?

Extras:

There are full-page comic-style author's notes after each chapter, short author's notes at the beginning of most of the chapters, a couple pages of translator's notes, and a 3-page bonus comic.

The author's notes weren't terribly interesting, but I'd like to go into a bit more detail about the bonus comic and the translator's notes. The bonus comic deals with Matsuzaka-sensei (the Culinary Arts Program director). A fan in Osaka wanted to know what Matsuzaka-sensei's gender was. When I first started reading the volume, I assumed he was a she, but then revised my opinion after a male pronoun was used to refer to him. The gender confusion bonus comic came as something of a surprise to me, because the translator's notes didn't bother to mention that the pronoun was the translator's choice. The translator's notes are almost entirely devoted to covering food-related terminology.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Yakitate!! Japan (manga) by Takashi Hashiguchi - There is zero romance in this series - it's completely focused on crazy, over-the-top bread-baking competitions. Those who were disappointed by the lack of actual food in Mixed Vegetable's first volume may want to give this a try. I've written about volumes 11-12.
  • Beauty Pop (manga) by Kiyoko Arai - This is another romantic comedy, but the focus isn't on food. The main characters are three boys who give random girls makeovers, thereby making them feel better about themselves, and Kiri, a girl who happens to be a master hairstylist. Those who like main characters who are obsessively focused on being the best at one particular thing may want to give this a try.
  • Kare Kano (manga) by Masami Tsuda; His and Her Circumstances (anime TV series) - Those who'd like another romantic comedy in which the main characters are lying about who they are and what they want may want to try this. Just be warned, there's also a good bit of drama as the series progresses. Miyazawa is vain and likes to be praised by others, so she works hard to look like a model student and perfect girl. Her greatest rival is Arima, who seems to be the real deal, an actual model student who's good at everything. Then one day Miyazawa and Arima find out the truth about each other.
  • S.A (manga) by Maki Minami; S.A (anime TV series) - This is another romantic comedy starring a girl who's insanely jealous of a guy because he seems to naturally have the one thing she really wants. In this case, Hikari has always been number 2 to Kei's number 1. He's better than her at everything, and all she wants is to beat him in just one thing. What she doesn't realize is that he secretly has an enormous crush on her. I've written about the anime.
  • Antique Bakery (manga) by Fumi Yoshinaga; Antique Bakery (anime TV series) - Okay, so this series is nothing like Mixed Vegetables. It stars adults who all end up working in the same Western-style pastry shop, and there is at least as much drama as there is comedy. I added it to this list mostly because it's an excellent food-related series. The pastries are lovely. I want them. I've written about the anime and all four volumes of the manga. Beware: my posts are filled with spoilers.

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