My favorite day of the week has arrived – Guest Post Day! Once again we welcome back Okazu Superhero and Friend of Yuricon, Bruce P! It’s always a treat when he writes a review, so let’s curl up somewhere comfy and have a read, shall we?
The year is 1925, and the Oukakai have shown that they can compete with the boys head-to-head at the game of baseball. Their self-confidence has grown through their own efforts in the dust and sweat of the playing field. But now the games are over, and Suzukawa Koume is back to her normal school activities: attending classes; studying English; causing other girl’s hearts to bang like marimbas. All the while inexplicably losing the self-confidence she’s just acquired, as though never having lifted her spikes to break up a double play.
Teito Takoyaki Musume is a manga sequel to Taisho Yakyu Musume. In one sense this is a pleasure, as the members of the Oukakai baseball club are a set of characters worth spending time with. On the other hand, the original Taisho Yakyu Musume is a wonderfully self-contained story, for which a sequel could easily seem a cranked-out franchise extender. In Teito Takoyaki Musume you can hear the gears.
Koume is back to the books, but finds that she is pathetically behind everyone in schoolwork. Kawashima-san is obsessed with Koume, and with keeping her on the path of academic progress. But she is confronted at every turn by Tomoe, whose interest is in keeping Koume happy, progress be damned. These three make the triangle that impels the story. Interestingly, Akiko is relegated to a relatively minor role. Frustrated by Tomoe’s cool competence, Kawashima-san is desperate for any advantage, so she contacts her stylish, look-alike Kansai cousin Momiji for assistance. Bad idea. Momiji’s a handful, and unexpectedly appears in the Chancellor’s office to make cutting remarks about, of all pertinent things, Tokyo cuisine, and the poor comportment of Tokyo schoolgirls, whom she has observed acting most unbecomingly – she had encountered Koume and Tomoe sharing dango (you know… ‘Say aaaan’) on a rendezvous in Shinjuku. Well, the crisis is now truly at hand. Tempers rise. Anna-sensei takes control by proposing that the Tokyo and Osaka schools settle their culinary differences by engaging in a ‘food stall battle’ to determine who’s cuisine reigns, um, tastier.
The remainder of the story involves the Oukakai attempting to develop a recipe that will be a winner, or at least something that doesn’t cause them to gag, which takes a surprising number of pages. They learn about food stalls, and street food – how to eat soba noodles, an uncouth activity, which Anna-sensei demonstrates with immodest pleasure. They eventually hit on a recipe for Tokyo takoyaki, predating the actual development of this Kansai specialty by about ten years. On the big day Koume is paralyzed by yet another attack of self-doubt – and with Prozac so darn far in the future, too. But at last with support from her friends she succeeds in making wonderfully aromatic takoyaki that delight the festival crowd. Though not before Kyouko has had to dash off to find some necessary ingredients… if only she can make it back in time… she does. It’s all very dramatic. But victory still hangs in the balance until Tomoe and Shizuka surprise everyone by doing a Takarazuka thing, arriving in a large box, gotten up as a pair of living dolls (male and female) to attract the customers.
Lyndon Johnson won election to the senate in 1948 by flying around Texas in a helicopter yelling down at the gathering crowds. Nothing beats spectacle to draw the saps, and after the living doll show the game is over. Momiji has no choice but to concede defeat. But only to offer the Okaitai a further challenge – on the baseball field.
There is more Yuri in this volume than in either the anime or the quirky, original Shimpei Itoh manga (the very Shimpei Itoh manga – U-boats and rocket launchers and aluminum bats). Koume is surrounded by adoring fans, enough that at one point even she has to ask why so many of the girls like her so much (akogare). An excellent question. Her quivering lack of confidence in all things is unbecoming and very annoying. Tomoe on the other hand is poised, cold and intelligent. But she melts with happiness when alone with Koume, on a date or when they share a futon. Happy couple #2 – Yuki and Tama-chan – also share a futon during the same overnight. Yuki has orchestrated the entire evening, from the partner selection (which sounds less innocent than it is) to the insufficient supply of futons. Tama-chan doesn’t mind. Throughout, Anna-Sensei and Kawashima-san are drawn to each other; it’s an intellect thing, but if they were a lot closer in age it’s not hard to guess that Anna-sensei’s kiss would have been a little less maternal. And then there’s Momiji’s cross-dressing pal Sakura, looking good in shirtsleeves, suspenders, and knickerbockers, who takes a special interest in Koume at first sight.
In Teito Takoyaki Musume the Yuri is gentle but fun. The story, though, seems artificial and the drama forced. But the real let down is that, rather than striving to accomplish something wildly unprecedented, which no one believes they can do, or even thinks they should attempt, the girls are… cooking. And fretting about it.
Art: 5 Adequate, but only. There are some odd proportions on occasion.
Story: 5 Artificial. Hey everyone, let’s put on a play!!
Characters: 8 A great ensemble.
Yuri: 6 Cheerful and sweet.
I have to admit I like series set in the Taisho era – Sakura Taisen also comes to mind (at least to my mind). It’s not nostalgia, I don’t remember crystal sets and scarlet fever, but the mix of old and new is intriguing.
Thank you again, Bruce. I have only one question, Service – 0? Really? ^_^