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What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 2 by…
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What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Volume 2

by Fumi Yoshinaga

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Fumi Yoshinaga's series What Did You Eat Yesterday? is a manga which I have been hoping would be released in English for years. Happily, Vertical stepped up and recently began publishing the series. In addition to featuring a fairly realistic portrayal of a gay couple in contemporary Japan (two forty-something men who are living together), What Did You Eat Yesterday? also includes plenty of delicious food. I read and enjoyed the first volume a great deal and so was looking forward to reading the second as soon as I could get it into my hands. What Did You Eat Yesterday, Volume 2 was originally released in Japan in 2008 while Vertical's English-language edition was published in 2014. The series is currently eight volumes long and is still being serialized, so I'm hoping and expecting to be able to enjoy the manga for some time yet. It makes me extraordinarily pleased to know that Vertical is releasing What Did You Eat Yesterday?. So far, the publisher has done a fine job with it.

Shiro Kakei and Kenji Yabuki have been living together for the last three years or so and have known each other for a little while longer than that. It's an arrangement that works well for them. Shiro happily cooks the meals for the household while Kenji, unlike some of Shiro's past flames, is more than willing to help out with the chores. Kenji also happens to be an appreciative audience for Shiro's culinary creations. Shiro has a passion for food and derives great pleasure in preparing delicious meals as frugally as possible. Entire menus can be inspired by a single ingredient that just happens to be on sale at the time and he is very careful not to let anything go to waste. Granted, there seems to be only so many different ways for a person to use celery. But with a little help from his coworkers and friends, not to mention his natural creative talent in the kitchen, Shiro is usually able to figure something out. And generally Kenji doesn't take too much convincing to happily eat whatever it is Shiro comes up with.

There are two major aspects to What Did You Eat Yesterday?: the characters and their lives, and the food itself. I feel the series does best when these two things are working in tangent to tell the stories, but quite frequently the meals and their preparation seem to be separate elements entirely. Shiro has the habit of narrating every step as he is cooking. This means that each chapter includes at least one recipe detailed enough that it could be replicated, but people who more interested in the manga' stories will likely find it to be tedious. However, those sections can easily be skimmed by readers who don't care for the cooking minutia without too much being lost from the narrative or plot of What Did You Eat Yesterday?. In general, Yoshinaga's beautiful illustrations of the food and Shiro's techniques are more than enough to follow along with what is happening in the kitchen. In some cases, the time spent and the complexities of the recipes are actually used make a point: the extra effort put into a meal imbues it with additional value and meaning for those preparing and eating it.

I do love the food in What Did You Eat Yesterday?, but I love the characters and the stories that Yoshinaga is telling even more. In this volume I was particularly delighted to learn how Shiro and Kenji first met and started living together. (One of my favorite moments is Shiro recognizing that Kenji's not even his "type," but that he is still incredibly lucky to have him.) I also appreciate how the two of them have important relationships outside of each other. Their friends, families, and coworkers all have their roles to play in the series. A major theme that becomes apparent in the second volume of What Did You Eat Yesterday? is communication. Usually it's Kenji that needs to be verbally heard; Shiro tends to be more reserved, expressing himself more through his cooking than through words, but he knows when he needs it Kenji will be there to listen to him, too. I'm looking forward to learning more about the series' characters and their relationships in the next volume of What Did You Eat Yesterday? immensely.

Experiments in Manga ( )
  PhoenixTerran | Jun 6, 2014 |
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Shiro continues to experiment with his culinary creativity while dealing with his well-intentioned mother, who comes to rely on him when his father is diagnosed with cancer.

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