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Welcome to the latest Manga in Minutes column! Before we just into the news and review I have a small programming note. This weekend I’ll be attending and covering Anime Boston, which means next Wednesday the usual news/review will be pre-empted for a con report instead. Speaking of Anime Boston, here’s a little info graphic showing the conventions growth over the past decade, along with a little information regarding their attendee demographics.
It’s been a slow news week, manga wise, so only two items this week.
On to this week’s review!
Nozomi Yanahara’s Takasugi-San’s Obenton, Vol. 1 the tale of an unemployed graduate student, Harumi. Unfortunately for Harumi, things are about to become even more difficult! After the death of his aunt Miya, Harumi finds himself as the sole guardian of Miya’s 12 year old daughter, Kururi. Now, as Harumi struggles to become a fully functional member of society, he now also finds himself attempting to raise and connect with the taciturn and introverted Kururi!
This is a surprisingly touching tale of the two estranged family members slowly bonding over a common love of food. In this case it’s bento boxes. Much of the volume is spent detailing the creation of the boxes based upon old recipes that Miya used when she was alive. It brings the duo closer together, and Harumi finds himself rediscovering forgotten memories of his beloved aunt as well. Unfortunately for him not everything is emotionally driven drama and bonding. Apparently being a 31 year old underachiever who’s suddenly hanging around a 12 year old girl in Japan can lead to some rather unfortunate misunderstandings. That’s where much of the humor comes from, as random people on the street assume the worst of him, and even his co-workers and friends tease him about maintaining his decorum with Kururi. It’s funny at times, but by the end of the volume it starts to take an uncomfortable air of foreshadowing as small hints are dropped that Kururi, at least, might be developing feeling towards him of the non-familial nature. Up until this point though, the book’s a light, enjoyable and surprisingly touching read at times. Harumi’s an interesting figure, clearly intelligent but a little bit of an underachiever, and someone’s who’s been so wrapped up in their work that they’re a little awkward when it comes to interaction with the young Kururi.
The artwork’s generally pretty clean and expressive and works pretty well given the material. Yanahara does a good job at emphasizing the importance of the bento box lunches, making them some of the most detailed images in the volume. The humor tends to be light and cute, with some comedic reactions that blend in nicely with the overall tone of the story. Yanahara also pulls out some other visual gags, such as the spontaneous appearance of ornate shojo-esque flower patterns during day dreaming sequences. The backgrounds aren’t terribly detailed but they do their job and ensure that the series feels like a contemporary slice of life story. The visuals are solid and suit the material nicely.
With light humor, and an emotionally engaging hook, Takasugi-San’s Obento, Vol. 1 is an enjoyable and touching read. I just hope that the hints about a possible romantic relationship between the Harumi and Kururi are snuffed out quickly and handled in a way that doesn’t pander to fans of those kinds of pairings.
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