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License This! Kinou Nani Tabeta? by Yoshinaga Fumi

Hello again and welcome to another installment of This Is Why I Can’t Be Trusted To Write a Weekly Column…I mean License This! Because, yeah, wow, a month passed! That snuck up on me quickly.

So although I really want to be writing about some older series (and will eventually, I promise!), this time I will once again go with something current that doesn’t require me to do a lot of rereading to remember why I liked it so much. ^_^;;

Kinou Nani Tabeta? 5 Kinou Nani Tabeta? (What Did You Eat Yesterday?) by Yoshinaga Fumi is the story of Kakei Shiro, a forty-something gay lawyer who loves to cook, especially for Kenji, his live-in boyfriend. It’s a slice-of-life manga, with about half of each chapter given to preparing and eating a meal. And as you might expect from a known foodie like Yoshinaga, the cooking segments are really detailed. I mean really, really detailed. She is essentially writing a recipe book here in manga form, as Kakei thinks about each step of the meal during preparation (and actual recipes are generally included at the end of each chapter as well). But it’s not just about cooking. The meals are always well-integrated into the story, and with each chapter we learn more about Shiro and Kenji, as well as their friends, relatives, neighbors, and co-workers.

This is one I’m actually surprised is not licensed yet. Not only is Yoshinaga very popular with English-speaking audiences, but even her random book about eating food in Tokyo was published in English, so publishers are clearly willing to publish anything she writes. And yet this series is already at seven volumes in Japan (at a rate of about one per year, like most seinen manga) and no one’s picked it up? That kind of makes it seem hopeless, and yet I do hope that eventually it will be picked up, because it’s awesome.

With such a long gap between volumes, I often forget just how much I like it, but then a new one comes out and I’m utterly charmed once again. Maybe it’s the lack of clear genres that is stopping this from getting published. It’s a foodie manga (complete with the above-mentioned lovingly-rendered step-by-step instructions for everything Shiro cooks), but the protagonist is a gay man living with his boyfriend. And it runs in a seinen magazine, so while the protagonist and many supporting characters are gay, it’s not a romance and doesn’t feature the sort of BL tropes that so many love.

That’s a feature for me, though, not a bug! When I was younger and desperate for any stories about queer people, I read a whole lot of BL. Much of it I even enjoyed, simply because there was nothing else out there. But those tropes do bother me, and I am always thrilled to find manga with queer characters that isn’t BL (or the rare BL story that isn’t quite so tropey). And omg this really delivers. I enjoyed Antique Bakery quite a lot for similar reasons, but this is far and away the better manga, IMO, at least in that regard.

One of my favorite plotlines so far, which I think is a good example of just how dedicated Yoshinaga is to giving us a realistic view of what it’s like to be gay in Japan, is when a gay couple who are friends with Shiro and Kenji come to Shiro for legal advice.

I’ve taken the liberty of translating the page where Tetsu brings up why they’ve come to dinner:

Kinou Nani Tabeta? vol. 4 pg. 36

Not only do I love the way Yoshinaga tackles the topic (something I doubt would ever come up in a typical BL manga), but I love the expression on the guy’s face in the second-to-last panel. He doesn’t say why he wouldn’t want any money going to his parents, but he doesn’t have to. It’s clear to everyone present (as well as the readers) that they must have rejected him.

There’s just so much stuff like that. It’s not heavy-handed and it’s not like all the plots are About Being Gay. It’s just that these things are part of their lives and are incorporated as such. And I love it so much, but at the same time it makes me sad and angry that one reason I love it so much is because there is literally nothing else like it, and that sucks. I really hope that some publisher gives it a chance in English.

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About Travis Anderson

Travis Anderson has been reading manga for almost twenty years, starting with the tragically small selection available in English in the early '90s (Ranma 1/2! Oh My Goddess!) before discovering the wider world of Japanese-language manga and never looking back. Despite not reading manga in English himself, he wishes all his favorites would be released in English so more people could enjoy them.

Comments

  1. I’m really grateful you translated that page, because on top of all the other reasons you mention (which are also reasons I’m anxious to see this licensed), I’m also pretty thrilled that the characters don’t all look like the guys you’d see in BL manga either—which I wouldn’t have necessarily known if you hadn’t shared a little bit of artwork here. So thank you! You’ve made me want this even more!

    • Travis Anderson says:

      Yeah, I love that, too! And even with Shiro and Kenji, while they’re good looking guys, you can see just by the cover picture that they’re not drawn in the typical BL style with exaggerated size/age differences.

      (And actually they have a couple of friends… Well, first off the way they become friends is hilarious and pointed commentary as well, as Shiro and this guy get introduced to each other and expected to hit it off by their straight friends because they’re both gay. Which is totally something that happens IRL (to non-white people as well, and other minorities). And Shiro and this guy are just like “…” but they do end up talking and becoming friends. Anyway, the guy is a muscular butch dude and he just won’t stop going on about his boyfriend, whom he describes in a way that makes Shiro totally picture a stereotypical uke bishonen, but the guy turns out to be his slobby average guy when they actually meet him. XD)

  2. Thank you so much for featuring this! After 7SEEDS, Kinou Nani Tabeta? is the title I most want to see published in English! I think you’re right that it’s the lack of a clear genre holding things up, because otherwise, I don’t see why this should be the one—seriously, I think everything else of hers has made it over here—left behind.

    • Travis Anderson says:

      Its not-easily-pigeonholed nature is exactly what I love about it, but that’s the only thing I can think of that could be holding it back. :(

      7 Seeds is just so awesome, definitely one of my favorite, if not my very favorite, currently running series. I loved Basara, but this is just miles beyond that for me. And action adventure shoujo is such an underserved genre (even in Japan)! :( But it’s so long, already close to as long as Basara, but with no signs of wrapping up anytime soon.

  3. I’m also rather surprised that this hasn’t already been licensed. Even with the unclear genre problem you mentioned, it looks like it would appeal to a much broader audience than Not Love But Delicious Foods, which was really targeted toward foodies who have already read a ton of Yoshinaga’s work.

    One question: Does this mean that Dave Welsh has already made it clear that he won’t be returning to Manga Bookshelf? I quite enjoyed his reviews and license requests. He did say that he was hoping to return to his own personal blog in 2012, but never did, but I guess I was still holding on to some hope that he was just taking a break.

    • Hi, Olivia, just to respond to your question about David… Like you, I hope he’ll return to blogging at some point and I miss him very much. But he has let me know that we should consider his blog an archive for the foreseeable future, so if he returns it probably will not be soon.

    • Travis Anderson says:

      Yeah, and while I get that Not Love But Delicious Foods is just a one-shot, so there’s less risk, but it’s not like this one’s really long, and even if it ends up running for a long time, its one-a-year release schedule means it’s not hard to tackle.

      I hope David comes back eventually as I always enjoyed his posts. I think there’s room for both of us if he does. :)

      • Thanks to both you and Melinda for replying. I’m glad to hear that there’s still a chance he’ll return, slim as it may be. And I’m sure the Manga Bookshelf can handle as many fantastic bloggers as it wants. :)

  4. I think I had heard of this series in passing, but reading about it now I totally want it licenced too. I think the biggest selling point was the inclusion of recipes, as I am a bit of a foodie myself and I like it when cooking/food-centric material includes recipes so the reader can become that much more engaged with the material and experience what the characters do and taste (which is why while I found Kitchen Princess to be rather cliched fluff, I loved that Kodansha/Del-Ray included kid-friendly recipes in the back). Well, that and I’m pretty much a sucker for all things Yoshinaga, because her name is pretty much a stamp guaranteeing quality manga.

    • Travis Anderson says:

      You could totally cook everything he does. Even without the recipes written out in the back of each chapter, she draws him going through each step and thinking about what he’s doing. And although I have not actually made any of the recipes, Shiro’s meals have inspired me. While he doesn’t always do traditional Japanese food, he often does, and even when he doesn’t, he includes a lot of side-dishes, so it gave me ideas for making more veggie sides.

  5. This is one of the series that I bug publishers about whenever they say their licensing window is open. The only excuse I’ve heard for why it hasn’t been licensed yet came from Vertical and they said that they probably wouldn’t pick it up until Ooku stopped running over here. Which could be a while at the rate that Ooku is released…

    • Travis Anderson says:

      Yeah, who knows when that could be! And Ooku is another once-a-year series, so honestly it’s not like it would take a whole lot of work to do both of them at once. :-/



Trackbacks

  1. [...] a new episode of her video series My Week in Manga, and Travis Anderson has a license request, Fumi Yoshinaga’s Kinou Nani Tabeta? Also: Matt Blind compiles his list of the manga best-sellers for the week ending December [...]

  2. [...] I'd like to see get an official English release. My first two posts have been about Aozora Yell and Kinou Nani Tabeta? but I also plan to write about older series in the future as well. If you're interested in hearing [...]

  3. […] obviously not just me! This title has inspired heartfelt pleas from both Manga Bookshelf columnist Travis Anderson and the Battle Robot’s much-missed left leg, David Welsh. I’ve waxed eloquent many […]



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