When I reviewed Volume 1 of What Did You Eat Yesterday, I found myself mildly disappointed. I like Yoshinaga Fumi-sensei’s obsession with food, and the idea that she had done a realistic story of a gay couple who was together and then the story happened, thrilled me no end. But as I read Volume 1, I found myself feeling intense dislike for the lead character, Kakei Shiro, who came off as vain, self-absorbed and pretty sour. When I commented to other people that he and his boyfriend never just talk, they show no affection for one another and might as well be roommates, they’d all stare at me like they’ve read some completely other book. It was, to say the least, disconcerting.
Thankfully, many of these issues go away in Volume 2. (I like to fantasize that a bunch of gay readers wrote in and complained that Shiro was kind of a jerk. ^_^)
In Volume 1, Kenji and Shiro are a couple because we’re told they are. In Volume 2, we get a look at how he and Kenji met and moved in together, although nothing about their actual relationship. Watching the two of them is like being a teen over a friend’s house. You know their parents are “married” but they don’t seem like anything other than Mr. and Mrs. Smith, if you know what I mean. ^_^;
More importantly, this time we get author asides assuring us that, although he’s stone-faced or sour-looking, Shiro has hidden emotions of joy, triumph and satisfaction and his parsimony is not a lack of funds or him being cheap, but a genuine enjoyment of the challenge of buying and using cheap, good ingredients to make economical, delicious food. Okay, I can buy that.
The final part of the volume is rather serious, as Shiro learns that his father has cancer. This chapter hit me hard for the conversation about his reaction to the news. That struck me strongly.
The bulk of the “story” is still the making of menus, cooking and eating of meals and enjoying the heck out of them. Anything plot-like is secondary. But with these little almost side-stories, we’re learning about the people who populate Shiro and Kenji’s world…a thing that still lacks in many of the schooliest of Yuri. Characters in those stories are rarely allowed the luxury of classmates or family. Shiro and Kenji have friends, not always mutual, separates casts of coworkers, customers and people they speak to.
I love Yoshinaga-sensei’s clean art style and the detail with which the food is presented. So detailed that I was able to recognize slices of bitter melon. That‘s detail.
At first, I wondered if the translator was not a cook, but then I decided they were, they just had an ever so slightly prissy style – and to give them credit, they have to balance the idea that not everyone has a market where they can buy miso or dashi, with the idea of making a readable book. It’s a tough balance to strike and they did it pretty well.
Art – 9
Story – 8 Shiro’s fleshed out and I found myself liking him a lot more
Characters – 6 Everyone was less wound up this volume
LGBTQ – 7 Kenji and Shiro act in ways that indicate they care for each other.
Service –9 Food, food, food
Overall – 8
I’d still like to see Shiro smile a bit more. But even without, it’s a readable series, and has some nice touches. Volume 2 warmed my cool feelings for this series like a bowl of Shiro’s simple soup. (Terrible line, I know, I had to do it. ^_^)