Takasugi-San’s Obento Vol. 1 by Nozomi Yanahara
This title is available on emanga.com, and the print volume is available for pre-order.
I’ve always been a bit interested in bento, even though I haven’t made it yet. I like the idea of all the cute bento boxes and accessories you can buy, and it certainly seems like a healthy way to prepare lunch. Takasugi-San’s Obento will appeal to foodie manga fans and those who enjoy slice of life stories. Takasugi is a hapless newly minted professor who hasn’t been able to get a regular faculty position since getting his doctorate. While the manga says his subject area is geography, his research methods look a lot more like cultural anthropology to me. While Takasugi is in his early thirties, he gets blindsided with adult responsibilities very quickly when he gets word that his long-lost aunt has died and left him her 12 year old daughter Kururi.
Kururi ends up being a tiny, doll-like girl who mainly presents herself as a blank slate. She does however get extremely excited about grocery store bargains, as she and Takasugi mainly attempt to bond with each other through the process of making lunch for the next day. Along the way they explore favorite meals and how the preparation of a bento can take on a deeper meaning. Kururi shops around to find the ingredients for a lunch her mother used to prepare for Takasugi after he makes an offhand comment about remembering his Aunt’s lunches. When Takasugi observes the differences between Kururi and her classmates at school he concludes that the way to fix things is to put more ingredients in her bento.
Different dishes and geographic variation with food are addressed as Takasugi and Kururu slowly get used to living with each other. They communicate mainly through food preparation. There’s a bit of a humorous element to this slice of life manga, as Takasugi’s eagerness to prove that he isn’t creepy for being the guardian of a 12 year old girl comes across as somewhat creepy, and his colleagues are constantly talking about Takasugi’s lack of job direction. There are some glimmerings of romance, but the focus of the manga is on food preparation, and I hope it stays this way for the next volume. It was interesting to read about the various ways of making bento in the context of this slice of life story.