By Naru Narumi. Released in Japan as “Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san” by Takeshobo, serialization ongoing in the magazine Manga Life Storia. Released in North America by Dark Horse Comics. Translated by Ayumi Kato Blystone.
We have had so many food-related manga coming out over the past few years that it’s become somewhat hard to break away from the pack, especially given that there’s dungeon crawl foodie manga, isekai foodie manga, Fate/Stay Foodie, etc. When I picked up the first volume of this, I was uncertain what we would get besides a lot of loving descriptions of ramen. And we certainly do get those. The title is no lie, and Koizumi will happily ramble on and on about broth, sauces, ingredients, soft or hard noodles, etc. But the series actually does a good job balancing out the ramen with a real cast of characters. Koizumi is a recent transfer student, and another student, the hyperactive, overly affectionate Yu, wants to be friends with Koizumi. (And possibly more, yes, but if there’s yuri in this it’s really tiny.) The difficulty is that Koizumi loves ramen noodles but not much else. And also Yu pushes way too hard.
The plot, such as it is, involves various ramen places and Koizumi eating in them, while Yu attempts to get to be her friend and mostly fails miserably. There are two other girls in the cast, the popular but fragile Misa and the “class president”-esque Jun, both of whom amusingly seem to bond with Koizumi much better than Yu, who is simply trying too hard. The series is light-hearted so this isn’t too much of an issue, with Koizumi mostly being very cold about it. And it does throw Yu a bone towards the end, when Koizumi collapses due to a personal tragedy (the ramen shop is closed today), and Yu makes her special (and weird) homemade ramen. The chapter with Misa, where she eats spicy ramen with Koizumi to get over a breakup, is excellent (I was expecting her to fold when she first tasted the ramen, but no…) and Jun’s chapter will resonate with anyone who has terrible eyesight.
The other star of the manga is, of course, the ramen. I’m not a ramen student, so mostly just smiled and nodded when Koizumi went off on her long tangents explaining ramen’s styles and variations, but they do seem very informative. I was especially amused by the chapter where she managed to find ramen in a McDonald’s (it was in Hawaii), and by contrast once ate a burger and fries in a ramen shop. She’s not Chie-sensei, she can eat other things. The ramen and eating of such are also drawn nicely, giving the reader a healthy appetite, which is the goal. Given that the series is seven-plus volumes in Japan, I’m sure we haven’t even begun to get into all the ramen discussion we could be having, though I hope that it continues to balance things out with stories of the four lead girls.
Food manga enthusiasts, or those who like manga starring a bunch of cute high-school girls, should like this. Just… take it down a notch, Yu.