Manga Village

It’s where Mom and Dad were supposed to go…

Art by Natsumi Ando; Story by Miyuki Kobayashi
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Genre: Shoujo
Age: T (13+)
Price: 10.99 USD

Ask anyone who has spent any time in Japan what they miss the most, and without a doubt the food will be in their top three choices. Naturally, native Japanese cuisine won’t be better anywhere else, but many are surprised to hear how many delicious breads and desserts can be found in Japanese bakeries invariably found on any shopping street or decent grocery store. I believe the reason for this is triple-fold: 1) throughout history Japan has scoured the world for the the most delicious recipes and adapted them to Japanese tastes, 2) Japanese cooks know less is more, and a sprinkle of dark chocolate has a more subtle and palatable finish then cup after cup of sugar, and 3) bakers take so much pride in their work (and there is no shortage of competition) that every bite a customer eats should be nothing short of perfection.

Though the results may not be perfection, Manga writer Natsumi Ando brings these sensibilities to her best abilities in Kitchen Princess‘s ninth volume. Shoujo is not my normal cup of tea, but I think it is important to step away from my usual seinen comfort food and try other flavors. Sometimes shoujo for me is like country music: it’s hard for me to tell the different from one to the other. I found that Kitchen Princess falls into the trap a bit with the plotline. A “searching for her savior” orphan, Najika splits her attention between two boys, Daichi and Seiya until the discovery of her savior, the Flan Prince is revealed. This part of the story didn’t grab me as much as some other reveals that were made later in the book.

What made Kitchen Princess palatable, however, was not the story as much as the culinary theme that ran through the book. Najika cooks several dishes throughout the book, and the way Ando draws and describes these scenes make the reader almost able to smell the good eats oming right off the page. The artwork is busy in places, but special care is taken for the drawings of food which allowed me to understand why Kitchen Princess is as popular as it is in both Japan and the US. Some might think reading about food is as meaningful as talking about music, but I bet Kitchen Princess might change some minds. The story is followed by illustrated recipes of all the treats Najika made, so dedicated fans and budding chefs can give a try at her delights.

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John Thomas

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