Matcha Made in Heaven, Volumes 1-4 by Umebachi Yamanaka
I need to get over my tendencies of forgetting to keep up with digital only releases, I am bad enough about unread manga when I have piles of it to remind me of my backlog, but I’m even worse when it comes to digital releases. However, sometimes a series is so charming that it sizes my attention, I overcome my usual inertia, and I end up absolutely delighted. This was the case with Matcha Made in Heaven!
Chako is a fairly typical big-city dweller, making her way through life, engaged to be married until she starts having reactions to being surrounded by sexism. When she sees her future Mother-in-Law wiping off her fiance’s feet her immediate feelings of revulsion (and the fact that her fiance is seriously creepy) has her fleeing to the countryside to her family’s traditional tea farm. Chako has been out of touch with her family for some time, so she’s a bit startled when she runs across a little girl named Futaba and a giant stern man named Isshin who demands to know what she’s doing in the house. It turns out that Isshin has taken over the family tea business while Chako’s brother works as a writer on the side to earn extra income. Being a writer apparently means abandoning all household duties, as Isshin is basically acting as Futuba’s guardian as well as working in the fields. He makes a comment about how Chako’s not going to be suited to working on her family’s farm and her instinct to rage against sexism and prove him wrong is awakened
Chako’s mysterious yet terrible ex-fiancee shows up at the farm, and in attempt to dodge him, she leaps onto Isshin as he drives a tractor in the fields with Futaba, claiming that he’s her husband. Futuba is absolutely delighted by this development and obviously not over the death of her mother and her absentee father, so Isshin and Chako agree to go through the motions of having a fake marriage. This also has the benefit of all of the neighbors backing off a little bit from trying to set Isshin up. A fake marriage of convenience isn’t a terribly surprising story to structure a multi-volume manga around, but Yamanaka’s execution is top notch. Futuba is an amusing combination of needy 4 year-old and an old soul who is filled with delight about Chako and Isshin’s slowly developing relationship. Isshin is passionate and expressive only about tea, but Chako finds herself more and more charmed by him as she gets to know him.
A fake marriage is nothing without additional obstacles to overcome, and they appear in Chako’s old friend Jin and Isshin’s ex-girlfriend who happens to be the heir to a tea conglomerate. The art is expressive and delicate, with Isshin’s normally stoic expressions only shifting when he’s enraptured by tea or utterly perplexed at how to react to Chako’s presence in his life. I enjoyed the slice-of-life aspect to Match Made in Heaven combined with all the details of tea farming, blending tea, going to markets and trying to salvage a struggling family business. I recommended this series for those who like uncomplicated josei romance.