As we get closer to Christmas, why not read a manga that's all about enjoying good food and drink? Luckily, this year we got one from Media-Do that I had been craving for years.
WAKAKOZAKE, by Chie Shinkyu. First published in 2011 and first published in North America in 2018.
Wakako Murasake is a 26-year-old office lady who enjoys nothing more than a good meal. To her, nothing is more relaxing and enjoyable than a good izakaya dish paired with the perfect drink. It's the best way to celebrate the small joys of life, get away from the world's frustrations, or just fill yourself until all you can say is "~pshuuuu."
If you've been following this blog for any amount of time, then you'll know of my deep and abiding fondness for food manga. It goes almost without saying that I enjoyed this manga, but I suspect there would be plenty of you wondering why. Why would I like such a bare-bones food manga, with no real plot to speak of and a very formulaic format.
I would respond that those who think that Wakakozake has no character are not simply looking closely enough. We learn plenty about Wakako, but that information is mostly in the margins of her everyday life. We see the occasional glimpse of her office or her life outside of it, we hear references to a boyfriend and to old college friends. It's just that this information isn't important to her in these moments. In each chapter, the important part is isn't Wakako's story or even necessarily the food itself, but the feelings of enjoyment and peace that comes with a great meal. It's like the izakaya version of zen.
I also appreciate the wide variety of food we do see. A lot of food manga plays it safe and features a lot of the same, safe, Japanese dishes. As much as I love curry rice and katsudon, I do enjoy variety in a food manga, and Wakakozake more than delivers on this. There's a good variety of Japanese and Western-style dishes on display here, and there are definitely some culinary deep cuts. Honestly, some of these sound so good that I want to try them. The animated version of this series inspired me to try hokke and kani miso myself while in Japan, and reading this now makes me want to try things like sazae-no-tsubo-yaki (grilled turban shell) and zaru-dofu (cottage tofu). That's a feeling that only good food manga can inspire, and I'm glad I can now experience it at the source.
Wakakozake's art is pretty sedate for the most part. The restaurants she frequents all look fairly normal, as do the people around Wakako. Yet Wakako herself is drawn like some sort of mascot, with her wide, unblinking eyes, tiny triangular mouth, and the little soft-serve curl of her side ponytail. It certainly makes her stand out from the crowd, but maybe that was done so that she wasn't outdone by the food itself. Each dish is lovingly drawn, and looks just as delicious as Wakako's descriptions sound, and in the end that's what matters most in a food manga.
Yeah, this was pretty much a given. I love Wakakozake because it's comparatively chill for its genre. It's just about being in the moment with a great dish, free from worldly concerns, and reading it makes me feel the same way.
This series is published by Media-Do. This series is ongoing in Japan with 9 volumes available. 1 volume has been published and is currently available from most digital manga sites.
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