As an avid reader of manga scans, I click through the fan-translated manga pretty quick. Many times, I don’t recall the name of the manga once I click on a new page. Or the characters’ names. Or the plot.
Other times, though, there is a series that captures my attention that I keep going back to.
A Delicious Relationship by Makimura Satoru presents Fujiwara Momoe’s journey from incompetence to brilliance as a chef. Naive and unworldly Momoe must push forward into her newfound cooking dreams or get married per her relatives’ expectations.
The story doesn’t shy away from the male-dominated dynamics of the chef world when a woman tries to enter. The reader even gets a two-point perspective on different ways women may act to get into the professional cooking world. Momoe loves being a woman, even if it sets her at a disadvantage in the eyes of her colleagues–stereotyped as not as smart or capable to be a chef, while a female rival, Miki, acts like a man to blend in and gain attention and respect. These two women are going towards the same goal, but rub each other the wrong way in their individual paths to professional chef. Their differences, though, help them each grow into their dreams more completely.
Opposite Momoe’s rival in the kitchen is her rival in love. Kanako is a beautiful and smart woman who naturally moves into a relationship with Momoe’s teacher, Oda-san. Their relationship progresses through most of the series while Momoe takes on different challenges at another restaurant (in an attempt to stay on her dream because her heart couldn’t stand being near Oda and Kanako, poor girl). Even with her looks and her smarts, though, Kanako is not left with perfection. She struggles with insecurities inside herself that affect her relationships.
The theme of romantic love is soft and natural throughout the story, not being the focus. Always the story revolves around the challenges Momoe faces inside and outside herself.
This post cannot go on without acknowledging the incomparable Chiyo-baa. This granny is the curator of many successful men who were under her cooking tutelage after her husband died. She has spunk, a sharp tongue, and doesn’t miss a grain of rice. Her observation of other people is always spot on, though she is proven wrong on Momoe’s account. Anything she says is acted upon immediately. All her students are struck with fear upon any time she comes into their restaurant. This amazing woman is a glue to the characters in many ways–bringing other people in to challenge her students and being a rock for Momoe to return to.
Some harder themes that show up in the story are depression (one of Momoe’s most intriguing arcs), other mental illnesses, suicide, and familial deaths. These are handled with truth, without illusion. In a shorter story, these themes couldn’t have been tackled with such respect and humanity.
The story is wonderfully long and allows for the pacing of the growth of the characters to be natural. Including the love arcs. Every chapter is entertaining and includes food. Food food food! The reader learns along with Momoe the ins and outs of a restaurant and feels the love she has for the entire process. By the end of the series, the reader feels like they know all about restaurants, just like Momoe-chan.
Now if only a publisher would pick this up in America! It’s an older series, from 1993, and has never been printed in English. I love this series, though, and would totally buy it if it was ever produced here!!