I’d promised myself that I’d drop novels for a while, so that I could catch up on games and manga in 2018 and diversify my reading again, but I read hardly any manga at all. It was nice to catch up with some newer series though (although I’m still slightly behind).
CITY – Keiichi Arawi
CITY continues to be a riot. Despite the robust cast of quirky characters, it doesn’t feel too chaotic. The writing is top-notch, the art is fun and even playful creative little touches applied to the framing of text adds to the comedy. Definitely one to keep up with in 2019. For those that can’t read Japanese, I believe you can check out a sample of the English version here.
舞子さんちのまかないさん – Aiko Koyama
My absolute favourite series last year though was 舞子さんちのまかないさん. It was a nice comforting series to sink into after A Place Further than the Universe broke my heart (in all the best ways).
It tells the heart-warming story of two teenage friends from Aomori that move to Kyoto to train as maiko (apprentice geiko). Graceful Su-chan quickly adjusts to life in the training house and works hard to rise through the ranks. On the other hand, Kiyo is a bit of a clutz and soon discovers that she doesn’t quite have what it takes to make it as a maiko. Just as she’s about to be sent back home to Aomori, the resident chef has an accident and Kiyo steps in to whip up dinner for the maiko. It turns out that she knows a thing or two about cooking and she’s sworn in as the new chef after her first meal blows the girls away.
The manga follows Kiyo’s daily life supporting the maiko, and also Su-chan’s rigorous training and outings with clients. The themes of enduring friendship and perseverance form the backbone of the manga, and it’s delightful watching the cast prop each other up in their own special ways. It also provides a window into the unique world of maiko and geiko in Kyoto. I can’t really vouch for how accurate it all is though.
The art is great all-round. The level of attention given to the food and the cooking process is just phenomenal, with some regional and classic dishes depicted in great mouthwatering detail. The artist could probably make one mean recipe book with these illustrations. I guess we might see one if the manga gains enough popularity here someday.
I’m looking forward to catching up on the next few volumes and keeping up with the new releases as they come out. I don’t think there’s currently any sign of this one being picked up in the West, but it really deserves some attention. If you like Japanese food, Kyoto or are curious about the lives of maiko then be sure to check it out. There’s an official sample of the first chapter here in Japanese if you want to get a feel for it.