By Nozomi Yanahara. Released in Japan by Media Factory, serialization ongoing in the magazine Comic Flapper. Released in North America by Digital Manga Publishing.
I must admit, as I got further and further into this series, it kept reminding me of a Hakusensha shoujo. The art style and tendency towards tinny textual comments in particular, not to mention that one of the characters is a straight up Expy of Shinobu from Teru Teru x Shonen. And sure enough, the author worked for Hakusensha for years doing one-volume short series for LaLa and LaLa DX before starting this series, her longest, for Comic Flapper. Flapper is sort of a seinen title, but in practice tends to be ‘shoujo for adult males’ a lot of the time. And for this title, the adult male is also the star of the show, as the titular Takasugi takes in his 12-year-old cousin after her mother dies.
(The cover art has been slightly changed for the print edition, but this is the only image I could find.)
It’s honestly really hard not to compare this to Bunny Drop. Takasugi-san’s Obento has an awkward single male, around 31, who ends up being the relative who takes in a quiet and closed-off child still grieving for the death of her parent. Things are awkward but they slowly begin to bond and forge a life together, with the help of his workplace friends, one of whom begins to have a major crush on him. Takasugi seems to be somewhat bad at reading people’s hearts, despite having a Ph.D in Geography (I agree with Anna from Manga Report, by the way, clearly Cultural Anthropology is what’s implied here). Luckily, he improves over the course of the volume to a certain extent.
The interesting thing here is that he and Kururi, his cousin, end up bonding over their shared love of bentos, which his aunt made for him when he was growing up and then continued to make for Kururi when she was growing up. Kururi really comes alive when she’s comparison shopping and stressing over food prices, which are really important to her (to an extent her obsession with food almost reads like a function of her grief, but I think a lot of it was there to begin with). This is not a foodie manga by any means – you get no recipes, and will have to google to see what Kimpira Burdock is, as there are no translation notes – but the food seems to help tie everything together, both with Takasugi’s new family and with his friends and colleagues.
The series is seven volumes and still going in Japan. It’s also, unlike Bunny Drop, not scanlated and spoilered to hell and back. Which makes it all the more awkward that the first volume ends by showing us that 12-year-old Kururi has a giant crush on her 31-year-old cousin, and is drawing charts to see if they can get legally married. I’m hoping the series backs away from this pairing eventually – there is a running gag of everyone thinking Takasugi is a horribly creepy pervert that I had thought was there to show people the title wouldn’t go that way, and Kosaka (the colleague who has a crush on him) is adorable and I really want to see that relationship develop instead. But I can’t deny that this is Japan, and it’s possible that the manga might go down that road eventually. So if Bunny Drop burned you, consider yourself warned.
Overall, though, this was cute and adorable, and I managed to like all the characters quite a bit. I want to see Kururi grow and open up to others, and of course I want to see them eat more food. I will be checking out the next volume of this series (Due out in May, theoretically).