Mixed Vegetables Volume 1 by Ayumi Komura (amazon)
I tend to enjoy manga about food. Japanese cuisine has an element of visual presentation that translates well on the page. I’ve read Yakitate Japan, Iron Wok Jan, and Antique Bakery, but other than Kitchen Princess I’m not aware of another shojo cooking manga currently being released. So I was excited to read Mixed Vegetables, a manga about a girl named Hanayu who is heir to a pastry shop but really wants to become a sushi chef and her romance with a boy named Hyato who is heir to a sushi shop but expresses himself best through baking.
Hanayu Ashitaba is ambitious about following her dream of becoming a top sushi chef, attending a high school that has special cooking classes. She’s decided to fixate on her classmate Hyato Hyuga as the key to achieving her dream. If she marries into a famous sushi family she’ll be able to attain her goal. Unfortunately her ideas of courtship only extend to slicing up fish in the classroom in the hopes that Hyuga will notice her cooking skills and be prompted to propose marriage. Ashitaba doesn’t really have an idea how to snag a guy. Her behavior towards Hyuga is often antagonistic, because while she wants to marry him she’s also jealous of his position as sushi shop royalty.
Hyuga notices Ashitaba constantly staring at him, and he asks her out. While they are boyfriend and girlfriend, Ashitaba starts to feel guilty that she’s using him because he’s actually a really nice guy. The budding romance may be derailed by the struggle between love and ambition. The art is appropriately over the top when demonstrating the characters’ passion for food. Ashitaba talks about all the specialized knives she hopes to own and the background behind her fills with a visual dictionary of cutlery. Hyuga gives advice on how to properly slice cucumbers, saying “You have to feel your rhythm” and a gust of wind ruffles his hair.
I liked the contrast between Ashitaba’s enthusiastic nature and Hyuga’s more self-contained personality. This is exactly what I’d expect from a Shojo Beat title – a fun, fluffy high school romance. The author notes included in this volume were very funny, as Komura confesses to being a gourmet connoisseur of cup noodles. There’s also a glossary in the back with notes about the ingredients and dishes prepared in Mixed Vegetables.
Review Copy Provided by Viz